The assault on personal reliance, self dependency and the activities that made liberty-driven American agriculture the envy of the world in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries continues. On the heels of a an Oregon man being sentenced to jail for 30 days for rainwater collection and harvesting, Martha Boneta of Fauquier County, Virginia becomes the latest victim of a government boot to the throat:
Farmers in Fauquier County are planning to bring their pitchforks to an Aug. 2 hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals to protest the arbitrary treatment of one of their own. On April 30, Zoning Administrator Kimberley Johnson sent Martha Boneta an official cease-and-desist notice for selling farm products and hosting a birthday party for her best friend’s 10-year-old daughter on her 70-acre Paris, Va., farm without a special administrative permit.
Johnson threatened to fine Boneta $5,000 per violation if she did not stop the alleged unlawful activities within 30 days. In doing so, Boneta’s fellow farmers say, Johnson stepped far beyond her authority. They’re supporting her appeal before the BZA because they rightly fear that left unchecked, this infringement on one farmer’s freedom to make a living will spread to other agricultural enterprises like a dangerous pest.
The Virginia Right to Farm Act prohibits local authorities from treating agricultural activity as a “nuisance” — which seems to be what’s happening here, since Johnson was reportedly responding to complaints from nearby residents. Boneta already had a business license the county issued her in June 2011 that allowed her to operate a “retail farm shop” on her property. Her license application specifically noted her intention to sell handspun yarns, birdhouses, soaps and other handicrafts in addition to fresh vegetables, eggs, herbs and honey.