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Small Family Farmer Fights Back against Over-Reaching Government Forcing Her off Her Land

For related articles and information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource page and our Politics and Democracy page.

Martha Boneta, operator of a small family farm in Paris, Virginia, achieved success not only for her business but also for small farmers and property owners across the state when the "Boneta Bill" finally became law on July 2.

Despite efforts from local and state government officials, including Fauquier Zoning Administrator Kimberley Johnson, who accused Boneta of violating zoning ordinances, HB-268 passed, which protects traditional farming and agricultural practices against over-regulation on the county level.

Liberty Farm is a small, working 64-acre farm located about an hour outside of Washington D.C. that offers fresh seasonal organic vegetables, fresh and dried herbs, honey and honeybee products, eggs, chicken, duck, turkey, emu, hand-made soaps and sheep wool crafts.

The controversy began in 2012 after a neighbor reported Boneta's farm and its on-farm store as a "nuisance" following a birthday party that she held for eight 10-year old girls, which led to Fauquier County putting her out of business.

Johnson, the county zoning board administrator, accused Boneta of selling fresh fruit, vegetables, beverages and homemade handicrafts out of her on-site farm store, an action he says violated "modified zoning rules."

The Star Exponent reports that, under the state's Right to Farm law, agricultural operations are supposed to be protected against "nuisance law suits, and prevent local governments from using zoning laws to restrict standard farming practices, even if these practices bother adjacent property owners."     

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