Target: Fauquier County Zoning Administrator, Kimberly Johnson
Goal: Repeal massive fine imposed unfairly on local farmer
After throwing a festive birthday bash, local farmer Martha Boneta was sent a cease-and-desist letter from her Zoning Administrator, Kimberly Johnson. It demanded Boneta obtain the required permits to sell her vegetables and crafts, or face hefty fines. However, Boneta had already acquired the appropriate permits in 2011, allowing her to sell various items at her retail farm store in complete accordance with county law. However, that same year, the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors quietly adjusted its regulatory guidelines and “farm sales” classification to require specific permits for activities that were previously included in Boneta’s license. As such, Johnson maintains that “there were a multitude of violations,” and that issuing a warning is standard practice.
Martha Boneta is an independent farmer in the county of Fauquier, Virginia who takes pride in her land and values the closeness among her fellow agrarian friends. Hosting birthday parties and other events that highlight the bounty of the land, like wine-tasting and pumpkin carving, is a yearly tradition that many neighbors look forward to and participate in whole-heartedly. During such occasions, Boneta brings the community together and is able to sell the delicious herbs and vegetables grown on her 70-acre homestead. As she explains, “It’s customary to do these things. It’s done on farms throughout Virginia to help farming and agriculture.” Unfortunately, Fauquier’s Zoning Administrator believes Boneta is way out of line, issuing $5,000 in municipal fines for selling produce and crafts and throwing unlicensed events.
A warning is one thing; fines of nearly $5,000 are another, and Boneta and fellow farmers are outraged at the level of persecution. In fact, fearing they too could face similar fines, local farmers joined Boneta at her hearing on August 2, 2012 and held a pitchfork protest in which they made signs and shook farming tools in support of Boneta and her Liberty Farms.
Unfortunately, the rally was not enough and Boneta ultimately lost her appeal against the zoning board. Though she plans to appeal in the near future, it is time for Kimberly Johnson and the zoning board to give up on their ridiculous accusations against the independent farmer. Rather than administer weighty fines, they should let Boneta go with a written warning and give her the time to obtain the new permits. Even Johnson admits Boneta could continue with her affairs, “She can get an administrative permit for 90 percent of the events being held.”
Please sign the petition below in support of Martha Boneta, and urge Kimberly Johnson to repeal the ridiculous accusation against the adored farmer. Such prosecution is unneeded and over-zealous. As Boneta says, “This affects every farmer. It affects our ability to earn a living to produce and sell on our own land.”
Dear Kimberly Johnson,
The allegations against Martha Boneta regarding the events at her farm are too extreme and should be repealed immediately. Boneta thought she required the necessary permits to hold functions on her property, and should not be punished to the full extent because the Board of Supervisors decided to change its regulatory guidelines and “farm sales” classifications.
True, it is your job to inform and warn local farmers when they breach the county’s zoning requirements; but demanding nearly $5,000 in fines is going overboard. Boneta was simply performing a local custom that helps the farming and agriculture community, and such traditions should not be jeopardized by an over-zealous zoning administrator.
Take action now before you instigate another pitchfork protest. Martha Boneta deserves the time and opportunity to obtain the permits needed to hold community farming events on her property. Rather than demand an extravagant $5,000 in municipal fines, let Boneta go with a written warning. By doing so, you will show respect to the farming community and prevent another superfluous persecution of an adored farmer.
[Your Name Here]