Virginia Farmer Holds Party for Little Girls, Sells Tomatoes and Yarn, Gets Slammed With $15,000 in Fines

Martha Boneta owns a small farm in Fauquier County, Virginia, where she recently hosted a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls. They wore hats, picked veggies, and made goat's milk soap. The county says she should have obtain a license before hosting such an event and hit her with a $5,000 fine. 

Boneta also got slammed with two more fines for $5,000 each, one for advertising a pumpkin carving and another for violations in the small shop on her property. Boneta sells produce from her farm, as well as eggs, yarn, birdhouses, and local crafts. She sought and received a license for the shop in 2011, but the county now says she can't sell handiwork or produce from her neighbors under that license. 

On August 2, about 100 of those neighbors and other concerned citizens gathered at the Board of Zoning Appeals with the tools of their trade in hand: pitchforks. The zoning board says permits are available for many of the types of events Boneta wants to hold, but in an interview with Reason this afternoon she questions why anyone would need a permit for a small gathering on their own property in the first place.

We’re seasonal producers. We’re only open from June to December. We’re only open 7 hours a week. This is customary for seasonal producers. If somebody wants to carve a pumpkin, why do I need a permit for them to do that?...

I don’t know why this is happening, but I do know that part of being a farmer means selling to the community what you produce on your farm. 

Boneta is appealing the decision, but in the meantime she has 2,000 tomato plants, 1,000 eggplants, and crop rows of kale and other vegetables ready to pop, and she's not sure how she's going to sell them.

Boneta isn't the only victim of Fauquier County's newfound zeal for agricultural regs: The Board of Supervisors recently passed an ordinance dramatically limiting what area wineries can do on their grounds. Events after 6 p.m. are no longer permitted. Sales of food by wineries are prohibited, as are extra attractions such as farmers markets, mini-golf, or whatever else officials deem "to be similar in nature or in impact to" the listed activities. 

Perhaps the most offensive provision of the ordinance authorizes "private personal gatherings" at wineries. Someone obviously forgot to tell Fauquier officials that in America, we don't need government permission for private personal gatherings on our own property.

Yet even in their contempt for the freedom of assembly and private property rights, Fauquier officials limited the definition of "private personal gathering" to owners who reside at or adjacent to their wineries, and who do not market their wine at such gatherings. This means no winery signs -- no bottle labels, even, when owners hold private personal gatherings on their property, because that's marketing.

Paging the Institute for Justice!

Also, paging Virginia "Christian-conservative-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic" famer activist Joel Salatin!

UPDATE: See the pitchfork protest here:

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • The Hammer||

    They sure are making it easy to identify which budgets can be cut.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I don't know what you're talking about. What with all the austerity, there isn't an inch of fat left to trim on any level of government.

  • Bill||

    I snickered out loud.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Good little statists. Way to go. And fuck you very much.

  • ||

    Perhaps the most offensive provision of the ordinance authorizes "private personal gatherings" at wineries. Someone obviously forgot to tell Fauquier officials that in America, we don't need government permission for private personal gatherings on our own property.

    Come on, this is a Police State 101: that which is not expressly permitted is forbidden.

  • Voros McCracken||

    "Martha Boneta owns a small farm in Fauquier County, Virginia"

    She didn't build that

  • R C Dean||

    Doesn't sound like she's going to own it for long, either.

  • Spoonman.||

    You have some serious typos in here.

    I'd love to hear somebody justify how this will improve the economy of Fauquier County.

  • kinnath||

    in far far away .....

  • Raston Bot||

    The winery must grow at county-approved specs to prevent the raping of the environment. Duh. C'mon, man. Everyone knows this. It's like how a woman can't get pregnant if she's on top. This is first day stuff!

  • Alexander||

    It turns out, you can get a woman pregnant if she's on top.

  • ||

    Oh, it will improve the economy, in the same way that Kelo improved the economy of New London.

    They are forcing small private farmers out so that developers can move in and build shopping malls and condos.

    Aside: I live in Northern Virginia, and this is apparent to anyone who drives around the area a little. It is suburban development hell impinging on rural horse and wine country and the developers are winning.

  • Drake||

    But we shouldn't drill on a hundred acres in Awar - to conserve the environment.

  • ||

    You are forgetting that Fauquier Country is Republican. Republicans of the style that are in bed with developers.

  • Drake||

    That wasn't the experience here in NJ when they tried to preserve some open space. Lib groups like the Sierra Club couldn't bring themselves to oppose a development as long as the developer promised a few units of "low-income housing" (whatever the hell that is). Liberal guilt is the easiest thing in the world to exploit. Shell should promise to build a couple of cheap igloos in Alaska.

    Once big money started getting paid to farmers to give up their development rights, the McGreevey machine went full corruption on it.

  • ||

    You know what the most awful thing about it is ... that farming a cheap piece of land and seeing it rise in value due to development is probably the easiest way for a poor person to get rich. Five acres of land with a house on itin the suburbs is a multi-million dollar piece of property.

    But then the local government comes in with eminent domain or this kind of regulatory harassment, and forces people into bankruptcy to get them out of the house, so the local government can then hand it over to developers.

    Fuck these people. And fuck anyone who doesn't think property rights are fundamental, fucking essential to social mobility.

  • Romulus Augustus||

    One hopes a few more libertarians were created. But considering how the LP's vote totals fall millions short of the number of recreational drug users, I guess not.

  • R C Dean||

    If I own a winery, I'm wondering how I can sit down with my family out there without getting a permit first.

    Apparently, though, it is quite clear that I would have to take donw all the signs first, and hide all the bottles. If we wanted to open a bottle, I would have to take the label off, first.

    I suppose its too late to primary the fuckheads at the County. I could see a write-in campaign doing quite well, though.

  • Mike M.||

    Man, the pinko scum are now even starting to infiltrate the republicans as far out as Fauquier County?

    This is really bad. Sounds like it's time to hold a TEA Party out there and send this Kimberley Johnson bitch back to wherever the fuck it is that she came from.

  • RBS||

    Sounds like it's time to hold a TEA Party out there and send this Kimberley Johnson bitch back to wherever the fuck it is that she came from.

    I hope you're ready for your imminent SWATing.

  • Father Jack||

    Feck SWAT. Got bacon?

  • Zeb||

    The desire for control goes well beyond pinko scum. And local govs are often the worst.

  • some guy||

    They're the most corrupt too. It's just less obvious because no one pays attention to local politics (until local politics screws them over).

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Fauquier is within the DC Universe. Nuff' said. The DC Universe sucks.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I prefer the Ultimate Marvel Universe. Even is Cyclops is dead.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Meanwhile at the Institute for Justice...

    NoZoneMan is preparing his turbo-charged Mercedes wagon for an assault on the Fauquier Planning Board of Doom.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I had a friend who built a fence on his property only to find his fence on the wrong side of the local code enforcement officer. He was worked up to the point that the die hard Democrat was talking about putting up a Gadsden flag. Unfortunately he found the two feet he had to shave off the fence to be acceptable.

    Anyway, I don't think people put two and two together even when statism personally fucks them in the ass. Even if they had forced him to take down the fence altogether, he never would consider voting for anyone who wants to limit government power.

  • WarrenT||

    Price controls in the news! Coming soon to the U.S. I'm sure.

    http://www.mysinchew.com/node/76480

    I just know there will soon be a headline talking about police raids on black marketeers hoarding supplies of scarce goods.

  • Pip||

    Kangaroo escapes zoo with help of fox and boar...in plan hatched by moose and squirrel.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl.....ar-germany

  • ||

    Did they make big trouble?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Pip,

    Kangaroo escapes zoo with help of fox and boar...in plan hatched by moose and squirrel.

    They have the wrong guys. It was those damned penguins, I swear!

  • WarrenT||

    How is this better than my price control story? Seriously people.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Seriously? Because your story was about an economically stupid country doing something economically stupid.

    Pip's story was about a German kangaroo escaping animal prison with help from a fox and boar.

    "Kangaroo + fox + boar = escape" greater than "bureaucrats in India are economically illiterate"

  • WarrenT||

    You're just saying that because you have a valid opinion.

  • The Original Jason||

    Malaysia, not India.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Snitches get stitches, Old Mex.

  • WarrenT||

    Do witches get winches?

  • Brett L||

    Dammit. That was going to be part of a combo afternoon German wildlife update. YOU'RE RUINING IT!

  • Old Mexican||

    she questions why anyone would need a permit for a small gathering on their own property in the first place.
    Because without government telling us what to do, how and when, humanity would quickly fall into disarray and chaos.

    Tony told me so.
  • Drake||

    Just don't invite the daughter of some bureaucratic fuck next time.

  • Old Mexican||

    Boneta isn't the only victim of Fauquier County's newfound zeal for agricultural regs

    Cui bono

    Can anyone spell A-G-R-I-B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S ?

    Or for that matter, R-O-L-A-I-D-S ?

  • ||

    Uh, if you think it is agribusiness that is the problem, you don't know where Fauquier County is located.

  • some guy||

    Astride VA congressional districts 1 and 10. One part rural, one part DC suburb. I wonder if these county ordinances were meant to protect the farmers from the commuters or the commuters from the farmers...

  • ||

    They are meant to reduce the supply of farmers and increase the supply of commuters.

    Nothing fills condos like commuters.

  • T||

    I won't say Texas is the bastion of personal freedom I'd prefer it to be, but most stories out of Virginia I see anymore make me glad I left.

  • Mike M.||

    Virginia certainly isn't what it was 15 or 20 years ago. Too many a-holes from New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are coming down and slowly ruining the state, apparently not satisfied with having fucked up the places they came from.

  • ||

    Maybe you should gaze at Virginia's proximity to the cathedral of statism, Washington, DC, instead of trying to blame its shittiness on outsiders. I took a train to visit a friend down at Newport News. Everything in North Virginia was government. Everything. It was appalling.

  • some guy||

    The Tidewater is pretty much all government too, just the military side of government. Without all those bases the Tidewater region would look like southern Delaware.

  • Mike M.||

    Yes, I know the situation in Virginia very well, thank you. It's precisely the massive growth of the federal government in recent years that has drawn so many government lovers to the region!

    In the past they mostly were content to stay in and around the Beltway, but it sure sounds like they're now starting to spread out even to counties like Fauquier, which culturally is vastly different from Arlington and Alexandria.

  • Raston Bot||

    Yeah, it certainly feels like it's getting worse... or maybe the press is covering it more.

  • Rich||

    If somebody wants to carve a pumpkin, why do I need a permit for them to do that?

    Fauquier, that's why.

  • NoVAHockey||

    i laughed.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Threadwinner

  • some guy||

    I thought the county was just full of people pretending to be gay...

  • sarcasmic||

    This is how government creates jobs and grows the economy - by not allowing people to work or grow the economy.

  • Bill||

    The money spent on establishing these regulations and enforcing them counts as stimulus. Huge multiplier. Silly libertarians.

  • sarcasmic||

    Good point. I'm sure that tens of thousands of dollars were added to GDP while processing these deviant law breakers.

    Go government!

  • ||

    If you have a business, you're lucky we allowed you to build that.

  • ||

    Hmm. I wonder if I would have to apply for a permit to hold a swinger orgy?

  • ||

    Knowing your tastes, JJ, you'd need a permit for the wide load and a biohazard decontamination unit afterward.

    Can I come?

  • R C Dean||

    Can I come?

    *snerk*

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    As long as you make sure that one parking space per two persons of maximum occupancy load plus one spot per employee shall be provided, I think you'll be OK.

  • GILMORE||

    On August 2, about 100 of those neighbors and other concerned citizens gathered at the Board of Zoning Appeals with the tools of their trade in hand: pitchforks

    Oh, the tragedy that the Board was not impaled, burned, and dragged by horses out of the county...

    Again, what never ceases to amaze me is that the citizens of these counties seem *powerless* to get these flunkies kicked out of office and these idiotic restrictions removed... I mean, where is the constituency *rabidly in favor* of restricting people getting together at their winerey? I'd hope that this sort of zoning-board fascism got deconstructed down to its collaborators and enablers... like in Czech Republic, where the names and addresses of secret police 'collaborators/spies' got published many years later

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2868701.stm

  • Zeb||

    Are there any cities in that county? If so, there is your answer.

    The problem isn't so much that there are people rabidly in favor of stupid rules like this. It's that most people either don't care that much or think that their rulers just have everyone's best interest in mind and it is best not to second guess them.

  • some guy||

    There are no cities in Fauquier. It's a county of ~70k and its biggest town (Warrenton) has about 10k.

    The problem is its proximity to DC. It is within (painful) commuting distance and still has decently priced land.

  • ||

    There is an obvious reason why this is happening: Real Estate.

    Northern Virginia is one of the few places immune to the housing bust, and it is dotted with a mixture of subdivisions and older farmland. The land those farmers are sitting on is worth a lot of money to developers. If they can hassle them into selling with zoning regulations they will acquire the land for far less than the farmers would get if they kept it and lived on it.

  • ||

    Incidentally, I'm pissed because I want to (eventually) buy one of those old chunks of farmland and live on it, and I don't want developers snapping up all the good bits.

  • some guy||

    and I don't want developers snapping up all the good bits.

    Too bad. Your property only belongs to you until the rest of us say it doesn't.

  • some guy||

    This is a bit of a sore subject for me. My grandparents have farmed outside Raleigh NC for their whole lives. For the past decade developers have been trying to force them out. First they tried to buy the land. Then they tried to zone the land. Then they tried to buy the surrounding land and build nuisances on it (like schools and parks). So far my grandparents have managed to stave off every advance because they're old, have plenty of free time and know everyone in the community. Eventually though....

  • ||

    Here's what they should do ... build a stone gate, give it a name like "FoxGlenn" or something, and sell it to an extremely rich person as a country estate.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    or whatever else officials deem "to be similar in nature or in impact to" the listed activities.

    UNMUTUAL!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I mean, where is the constituency *rabidly in favor* of restricting people getting together at their winerey?

    Collectivist busybodies are not exactly in short supply.

  • Hexster||

    In an era where raising taxes is political suicide, the next best thing is to require permits for anything municipalities can get away with. Come on! A permit to sell seasonal vegetables? As if the state issued permit guaranteed a better product! It's just another revenue source for the state...

  • Alexander||

    It's only a matter of time before I can no longer sell my sperm to pregnant women as a tool to thin out their cervix.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement