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VA: Fauquier County threatens farmer with $5K fines for selling food

By   /   August 1, 2012  /   News  /   24 Comments

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

Martha Boneta’s Liberty Farm in Fauquier County is the center of controversy involving land use regulations and bureaucratic overreach.

FREDERICKSBURG — Fauquier County officials are threatening a local farmer with a series of $5,000 fines for selling fruits and vegetables on her farm.

With a Zoning Board hearing scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, pitchforks are coming out at what fellow farmers call an abuse of government power.

The county cited Martha Boneta, who operates the 68-acre Liberty Farm, in April for a series of alleged violations, including selling homegrown food and homemade craft items without a proper license.

But Boneta had obtained a county-approved business license for a “retail farm shop” in June 2011.

A month later, the county Board of Supervisors approved an amendment that restricted “farm sales,” and county staffers, acting on complaints from Boneta’s neighbors, issued a citation.

Zoning Board administrator Kim Johnson told Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau that she could not discuss the case, because “it is a quasi-judicial matter pending before the” Board of Zoning Appeals.

She did not respond to questions about Boneta’s permit or the complaints.

Boneta, however, isn’t submitting quietly. She retained an attorney to appeal the case, and her cause has become a rallying cry for fellow farmers. Neither Boneta nor her attorney, Michelle Rosati of the Holland & Knight law firm, were available for comment.

Rose Lawhorne, treasurer of the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, said the state’s Right to Farm law “precludes the enactment of any ordinance which would require a special exception or special permit.”

“The selling of agricultural produce grown on-site is not a use itself, but is incidental to and associated with agricultural production which is specifically permitted on the property,” said Lawhorne, a Spotsylvania County resident.

The Virginia Right to Farm Act declares: “No county, city or town shall enact zoning ordinances which would unreasonably restrict or regulate farm structures or farming and forestry practices in an agricultural district or classification.”

But the law also allows localities latitude to impose “restrictions” to “protect the health, safety and general welfare of citizens.”

Mark Fitzgibbons, a founder of Fauquier County Citizens for Family Farms, which advocates for protecting the rights of family farms, said the county’s action against Boneta was spawned by a neighbor who complained about “a pumpkin-carving contest and a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls.” He said neither event drew more than 20 people.

VICFA, of which Boneta is a member, supports the Right to Farm Act and says its mission is “to promote and preserve unregulated direct farmer-to-consumer trade that fosters availability of locally grown 
or home-produced food products.”

With the number of small farmers gradually rising in Virginia, VICFA members say local and state authorities are tightening rules.

“Government is getting so intrusive. It’s all about regulation,” VICFA president Wayne Bolton said from his Farmville farm.

Boneta was selling homemade beeswax candles, jars of honey and other homegrown items for $5 or less.

Lawhorne asserted, “If a county-level government zoning administration can pass ordinances on small family farms that supersede state law, we’re all in trouble.”

Rick Buchanan, a Fauquier County Tea Party activist, added, “This is a classic case of bureaucratic overreach.”

“The Virginia Right to Farm Act says it’s a right to sell food off your farm,” he said. The law protects sales activities at Liberty Farm, he said.

Buchanan, who is helping to organize a protest outside the Warren

ton offices where the Zoning Board meets, says Boneta’s case illustrates potentially larger concerns.

“What’s next? Will Fauquier employ the use of drones to verify that your backyard barbecue is legal?”



Kenric Ward was a former San Antonio-based reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • GeorgeWeezie

    Yes, they will use drones to harass and control small farmers. You must understand that this is the implementation of “UN Agenda 21 Sustainable Development” in the US. Their minions sent to do the dirty work are called “regional commission” or “regional development commissions” or “councils of government”. There are also 13 other names for these groups used throughout the US. There are over 500 of these groups spread over 98% of the land mass of the US.
    They are now in control of your local governments. They have gained this control as they are the gatekeepers of ALL fed and state grant monies that flow into your local government. If a county or city does not implement their plans (regional plan, comprehensive plan, etc) they lose “Qualifed Local Government” status and lose their grant funding. Local governments have been living well outside their means for a long time and this is how. Now, they are dependent on these grants to remain solvent. This is a trap, made by design, instituted by stealth, and implemented in order to abolish private property and privacy rights in the US. They are using the “useful idiots” (their words) of the environmental movement to advance their agenda. Environmentalism is merely a smokescreen they use to quietly implement “UN Agenda 21 Sustainable Development” without alarming people.
    Below are a few links that will help clarify their true intent, motivation, and means:
    http://www.nado.org The regional commission system’s D.C. based lobby group. They claim to be the “grass tops” of a grass roots movement. Nothing could be further from the truth. They even lobbied for the FAA bill that now requires the FAA to incorporate 30,000 drones into their US airspace plans over the next 10 years. Drones are being used in the UK to monitor (read control) farm land. Now it is happening here. The UK is a signatory to UN Agenda 21.
    http://www.naturalnews.com/Infographic-Andrew-Wordes-vs-Roswell-GA.html This is what the “green community” of Roswell GA did to a man who dared resist the theft of his property so that the city could have a “carbon sink” called a “green space” or “open space”.
    http://www.rrregion.org/ Here is the regional commission in Fauquier County that is actually pulling the strings. Peter B. Schwartz has his fingerprints all over this group. These are the puppet masters.
    http://www.democratsagainstunagenda21.com A good site by Roas Koire, author of “UN Agenda 21: Behind the Green Mask”. It is a good primer on this scam.
    Give’em hell Martha! May the “pitchfork rebellion” be a wake up call to all of you who cherish individual freedom.

  • Agent Red Pill

    Drones are already in use in Fairfax County! Frank Wolf and Gov McD support them!!

  • Agent Red Pill

    Licensing ANYTHING inVirginia prohibits the RIGHT to citizens to contract. It’s in a Supreme Court case. Look it up.

  • Bull

    The zoning administrator needs to go jump in the lake of the land developer that chopped up the property, creating the now Boneta farm, while stuffing tax credits ($) into his pockets. These groups are hardly real preservationists but enjoy a scheme for the rich o get richer while pointing fingers and harming farmers.

  • Same Rules, Right?

    I wonder if the BZA members and other Fauquier county officials living in Fauquier will be fined for NOT getting a special event permit for the b-day party for their son, daughter, wife, husband, friend? What a joke!

  • pat

    Rules are rules. Why does Boneta farm get a pass on getting an administrative permit? Why can she have 20 person events when others have to get a permit for same activity? Isn’t this the property with the Nazi sign out front stating that it is under constant surveillance, and that anyone entering shall be deemed to give permission to be filmed? Any why does her barn have six (6) bathrooms and a kitchen. What are those llamas cooking in there? My cow barn doesn’t have a bathroom.

  • pat

    The owner was not a developer. He was a conservationist, and carried the farm for years never developing it. It was sold for less than fair market value, part sale, part donation, to a land conservation group,The Piedmont Environmental Council, which in turn, placed covenants against many thousands of acres, and re-sold this portion to Martha Michael Malawer, as the same tract with the same legal description it had for 100 years. It was never “chopped up” as you say. She purchased it relatively inexpensively in comparison to similar properties, because it was heavily burdened with deed restrictions and the conservation easement. From the moment she took title she began a course of breaching these restrictions and covenants, expressing her unhappiness with the rules, and now, we see the zoning regulations as well. My husband was the original owner, and he is hardly rich, but he wanted to protect his family’s farm, and Paris’ landscape, and this is what he is left with, a neighbor who embroils herself in constant controversy and who has rigged up the old barn to look like a gaudy tenement. Boneta runs a 501c3 herself, so perhaps Boneta is “stuffing tax benefits into some pockets”, your words. Pleae see there can always be another side before you harshly criticize preservationists.

  • Objective outsider

    Fauquier County has many farmers who sell/operate road side stands. There is a reason that Ms. Malawer is cited…and it’s not because she’s selling “fruits and vegetables” or farm products from her farm…it’s because she is engaging in activity that went well beyond “agriculture”…get the facts or does that not suit your special interest lobbying?

  • FauquierCitizen

    Idiot! Neither this Paris Farmer nor ANY American citizen needs a permit for a birthday party for 8 ten year old girls. You are a communist. I don’t care how many bathrooms this Paris Farmer or any individual has on their land. This America you communist pig. Obviously you are jealous by your comments. IT is none of your business. For your information, it is common practice to have videos on farms. We have video cameras all over our properties. This is America after all. I think it is not only an issue of safety and protection but it keeps idiots like you in line. I hope this Paris Farmer catches you and your filthy Anti-American, Anti- Virginia pigs engaged in your corruptive acts against the citizens of this county. So, now you want to tell us we can’t protect our properties be in a house or a barn or a farm or an office with alarms and videos – go back to the USSR where you belong.

  • GETallisman

    Now listen Kim Johnson. We all know how embarassed you are that you were caught doing favors for the PEC. We can only imagine how embarassing it was for you to hear the chanting demanding that you be fired during the pitchfork protest! Try as you may to muddle the issues, what you did is against the law. You, the county, the BOS and the corruption is going to stop NOW.
    Oh and by the way, your URL is easily traced…to you!

  • FauquierCountyWatchdogs

    Patty Thomas, is this you? Becareful if it is you Patty. You are a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Virginia aren’t you? Your husband is Phillip Thomas, right? Aren’t you the ones that have received many millions of dollars in these funny money tax credits? Doesn’t your husband own Thomas & Talbot realty that pushes these conservation easements? Don’t you have a vested interest in pushing this land scam on Virginia?
    Before I throw up, let me tell you that it is a very small world and bragging about how you have tormented these farmers is not very becoming and I suggest you step back and rethink your behavior.
    The Virginia Bar would not look kindly upon slandering your neighbor farmers in Virginia.

  • FireKimJohnson

    Wow! So the PEC Mafia is at it again with their attempt at “spinning” the truth in the comments below. PEC is an extremist enviro group that is corrupting local government. PEC has just found out that they can’t win this war this time. Calling in the Sherriffs, using Peggy Richardson for tax audits and calling Peter Schwartz and all those favors are not going to help you this time. Too many people know about the corruption and you would be well advised to stop harassing the paris farmers, the wineries and attacking the liberty, freedom and property rights of the citizens of Fauquier County and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
    Get ready to be exposed each and every one of you. So, please do continue your attempts to muddle the issues. You will be held accountable.
    The local county government has OVER STEPPED the law and this is not going to go away. If you haven’t noticed, the PEC, the disgruntled neighbors and the local county government are in a fish bowl now. Trying to discredit a farmer is only digging a deeper grave for your unethical conduct.
    Stay Tuned America – this war has just begun to bring freedom back to the citizens of this county and the Commonwealth of Virginia!

  • bardoftruth

    Wait until the zoning administrator talks to the tax assessor and all the other cronies who will all be supportive and join forces against some lowly, complaining, defiant, trouble maker who refuses to be shit upon by the royal assholes. After all, don’t they make a hell of lot more money and receive huge pension and health benefits at the taxpayer’s expense? And don’t they have power to raise taxes and increase their salaries and benefits? I can just hear them now rallying one another to the cause… “Why, those impertinent lowly farming serfs should all simply pay their damn taxes and obey our imperial decrees and shut the hell up!!! What the point is their in having power unless we get to abuse it! By god…we will teach those powerless little taxpaying farmers a lesson they will not soon forget! We will raise their taxes again and they’ll all have to get permits to take a crap and another one to wipe their butts…and we will delay approvals until they are all blue in the face!!!”

  • AmericaLovesFarmerMartha

    God Bless You Paris Farmer Martha!
    May you hear our prayers from all over the nation.
    We love you Farmer Martha. You are our hero.
    You give us hope for a better America!
    Don’t worry about the haters.
    Don’t be hurt by their hateful words.
    We believe in YOU Paris Farmer.
    Be strong. You have the love of an entire nation.
    Don’t stop believing in your dreams.
    You are our inspiration.
    You give hope to our children.
    America believes in Farmer Martha.
    America Loves Farmer Martha!
    Be strong farm angel.
    Peace be with you.

  • LAMarissaKilianti

    America Loves Paris Farmer Martha!
    You are our hero and give us hope for a better world.
    You go farm girl! Be strong. Don’t let them take away your dreams.
    God bless this farmer and her family.

  • Common Sense

    Well there was a simple way for you to have avoided this whole thing in the first place…. Don’t sell your farm if it is so precious.

    The second you SOLD your farm you lost all rights to that farm!!! Deal with it! This woman purchased the property and has every right to do as she pleases on the farm!

    Get off your high-horse. You made your decision – now shut up and deal with the consequences!!!

  • cvfarmer

    If her pervert neighbors would stop sneaking around the bushes looking in her windows to see if she is violating any rules she wouldn’t need to put such signs outside. Her signs are so small, if you weren’t out there trying to look in how would you know?

  • cvfarmer

    If holding a birthday private birthday party without compensation is activity that goes well beyond “agriculture” or residential uses then the county needs to get busy and cite every parent in the county.

  • cvfarmer

    by law in the state of Virginia, agriculture includes any activity needed for the successful operation of a farm in the area to include retail sales, equipment maintenance and storage, etc… it is not just growing crops and raising animals. Much more is involved.

  • cvfarmer

    The conservation easements are meaningless in the long term. They only preserve large tracts of land to make it easier for the Government to come in later and take it through eminent domain, removing the easements, to give to a large box store chain to put up a Walmart or Home Depot. The PEC and the tax cheat scheme your husband touts of donating easements for huge tax breaks on the inflated property values you assess them at has got to stop. You should be made to pay back all the tax credits and deductions you received and other money you made through this criminal activity

  • OpiE

    Fauquier County leads the nation in conservation easements — permanent deed restrictions on land use which are voluntarily established by landowners and the county. Mrs. Boneta purchased her farm from the Piedmont Environmental Council. Because of the easement, she paid a price far below what the land would have been worth if unrestricted.

    It is my strong suspicion, based on past history, that many, if not all, of the violations Mrs. Boneta has been charged with, are related to the restrictions that she voluntarily accepted when she purchased the farm, rather than arbitrary zoning ordinances imposed by the county.

    As the value of my own property is due in part to the surrounding land, including the farm in question, that has been protected from development and certain commercial activities, I resent the fact that Mrs. Boneta is apparently manipulating the local Tea Party and press in an attempt to escape the penalty for flouting these restrictions after benefiting financially from them.

  • cvfarmer

    While I agree that she should never have purchased property with deed restrictions on it I don’t believe she has used it for anything other than agricultural uses, birthday party aside, which are legally permitted under her restrictions. This was a zoning matter with the rules to be applied equally to all farmers in the county. This was not a civil case brought by the PEC. The property is restricted to agricultural uses and is zoned for agriculture and hasn’t been used for any other purpose.

    Agriculture use is defined in State Law and includes limited light production and retail for items grown or produced on the farm including processed goods like wool, candles, jams, canned goods and any auxsiliary items. The farm is also not limited to a single piece of property so the items can come from other properties associated with the farm. The State Supreme Court recently upheld this definition as applying to private deed restrictions in ruling against Fauquier County and a local HOA on a similar case involving a winery. Any further restrictions have to be specifically spelled out in the deed. If you don’t allow farmers to earn a living farming then more will be left with no choice but to subdivide their property to sell to developers and we will not be able to attract new people to the farming life.

    Nothing against conservation easements but I have serious questions about the PEC tax scheme in that the tax credits are based on a stated value with no real basis in reality. The value is what the property sells for and since the land is sold to the PEC, that sales price is its actual value so the gift portion is by definition zero. The rest is just wishful thinking. I do find it hard to believe that the easements both increase and decrease the value of the property as you say. Something seems a little fishy about that.

    The easements are definitely not permanent regardless of what they tell you. The county and the State have the right to remove them at will if they deem it to be in the best interest of the people. Its called the power of emminent domain. They can even take the property to sell or give to a developer or box store.

    From the meeting at the county it was said that she had two antique pieces of furniture in the barn she was using to showcase products and she had price tags on them indicating she was acting as an antique store. It was also stated that she has removed the price tags and no longer has them for sale so she is not in violation, as if selling two pieces of furniture out of your home or farm makes you an antique store. I take issue that a private birthday party, held without compensation, is a usage inconsistent with agricultural or residential useage. If she had been using the property as a paid venue for special events there may be an issue but aside to some proposed language on an unadvertised trial web page she hasn’t done that. There seems to be a lot of misinformation going around about what she did or was cited for and it appears at least that there was some creative descriptons by vengeful neighbors and the county officials simply accepted what was said without evidence. Be lucky she doesn’t turn it into a stinking hog farm which is legal with her deed restrictions. Think of what that will do to your property values.

  • TexasPaul

    Hey Paris Farmer! I will pay you to turn that farm in to a hog CAFO. I will personally deliver 100 hogs to your farm and see how your arrogant elitist NIMBY neighbors like it. According to your easement you can do a lot more than the tomatos and honey you have now. In fact, I would like to buy that farm of yours just so I can make sure I exercise my rights under the law on that land and shut those evil neighbors up of yours for good. I will be making you an offer to buy that farm and they will wish they never opened up this Pandora’s box by trying to drive you out of town. I have more money than all of them. Time to stop bullying and pick on someone my size and see what happens.

  • Phil Cosgrove

    What got the county to go after her this way?