Paris, VA – Pitchfork packing Virginia farmers gathered together to support one of their own against what the group feels is local governmental intrusion into their lives. When one local farmer was threatened with up to $5,000 in fines for hosting a birthday party and selling homemade items on her own land, neighboring Virginia farmers converged on the zoning board office wielding pitchforks and various farm tools in protest.
Virginia farmers participating in the pitchfork protest believe the actions of the zoning board are in violation of the state Right to Farm Act and property rights statutes. Liberty Farms owner Martha Boneta came under fire by Virginia governmental officials for selling produce and crafts and hosting “unlicensed events” on her own property. The final straw in the battle between Liberty Farms and the Paris zoning board which prompted the Virginia pitchfork protest involved a child’s birthday party. Boneta hosted the outdoor birthday gathering for the child of her best friend, Fox News reports. Martha Boneta maintains she was not doing anything that other Virginia farmers have not done for decades without complaint.
“It’s rather odd that I’m the only farmer in the county having these issues. It’s customary to do these things. It’s done on farms throughout Virginia to help farming and agriculture. Why would I need a permit for a pumpkin carving?” Boneta stated during an interview with Fox News.
The seemingly unending list of activities which require permits may be commonplace for folks who live in cities, but those of us who dwell in rural areas can relate to Martha Boneta’s shock at needing a zoning permit to host a craft workshop or wine tasting and to operate a roadside market. To give the Virginia pitchfork protest a bit of perspective, there are regions in rural America where a permit is still not needed to build a home.
Fines threatened by the zoning board in Northern Virginia village include complaints about Liberty Farm operating a shop on the 70-acre farm which sold items not grown on the property. Boneta noted during her Fox News interview that she had secured a retail farm shop license which entitled her to sell handspun yarn and birdhouse crafts in addition to the herbs, vegetables, and eggs grown on the Virginia farm.
“This affects every farmer. It affects our ability to earn a living to produce and sell on our own land,” Liberty Farms owner Martha Boneta stated during the Fox interview.
The Fauquier County Board of Supervisors recently changed the official classification of farm sales to necessitate a special new permit for activities which had always been covered under the retail farm shop license, according to the Washington Examiner. The Liberty Farms owner also maintains no one from the Virginia zoning board came to her farm to inspect her retail market and that the group simply went on information in a complaint from “one angry neighbor.”
The Virginia pitchfork protest during the zoning board hearing did not prevent the governmental entity from backing the fine warning against Liberty Farms. Martha Boneta has since closed the market she operated on her own property and is currently working with other Virginia farmers on her zoning board appeal.