Matha Boneta Stages Pitchfork Rebellion To Sell On Her Family Farm

5:24 PM, Aug 20, 2013   |    comments
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PARIS, Va. (WUSA9) -- The battle continues over the rights of a small Virginia farmer to sell what she wants from her property. 

Fox News, some farmers and Tea Party activists have all trumpeted Martha Boneta's farm stand fight.

"I get choked up being here," says Boneta, as she gazes out at the land she bought seven years ago. "It's beautiful. And to think anything would threaten the ability to farm this land is heartbreaking."

Boneta fears the specter that hangs over her peaceful 64 acres in pastoral Fauquier County. She says faceless county bureaucrats are threatening her with big penalties for possible zoning violations. "That would threaten up to $5,000 a day in fines and they even carry criminal penalties."

At issue, Boneta's farm stand. She can sell anything from her own farm here by right. But the county wants to know if she's been selling products from other farms. "Farming has historically included commerce, the ability to sell to our neighbors," says Boneta. "And that's been in place for hundreds of years."

The county also wants to know if the birthday party she held here heralds more bigger events that might block traffic on the narrow lanes around her "Liberty Farm."

"We had cake and ice cream and we played with baby animals," says Boneta of the birthday party for a friend's daughter. "And the next thing I know, the county came and said I'd violated zoning regulations."

But several Fauquier County Supervisors says Boneta is failing to tell the whole story.

"I believe in farmers' rights. I'm a farmer. says County Supervisor Lee Sherbeyn. But he says with no regulations at all, the beautiful views could be marred by junk yards and used car lots.

"We don't have a gestapo just fishing around in trucks looking for violations....She can sell things out of her farm stand if she raises them on her farm. But if she wants to bring in other things or have events where she brings in a lot of people, she needs to have a permit.

Sherbeyn says the permit runs $100-$150.

No way says Boneta. And she's suing the county for $2 million. "If we over-regulate farms to the point that they can't be viable, we will lose them."

So far, there's no settlement in sight.

Boneta and other activists are pushing a "Right to Farm" bill in Richmond. It failed in the last General Assembly session. But they're planning a tweaked version in the next one.

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