Family Farmers Fight Michigan Township For Their Animals

Kelly Vander Kley Hunter and her family have spent the last three years pouring their time and money into building a small hobby farm in Mattawan, MI. Today, they are fighting their local township government in order to keep their farm animals.

“We feel like we’re under a microscope. We feel like everything we do, on our own property, we have to get permission from the township,” says Vander Kley Hunter. 

Roughly a three hour drive from Detroit, Mattawan is a rural community that is home to many small farms with many farm animals.

Yet Vander Kley Hunter had still checked before purchasing the property to make sure that having animals would be all right, and the township confirmed that farm animals were indeed allowed. But earlier this summer, the Hunters received a letter stating that their farm was no longer in compliance with the township zoning ordinance and that they had 90 days to get rid of more than half of their animals.

“It knocked the wind out of my sails,” says Vander Kley Hunter, "I was pretty depressed for awhile over it."

Vander Kley Hunter says that her neighbor complained to the township about the animals, thus prompting the township to reinterpret the ordinance and state that the Hunter farm was out of compliance.

“The local government can change the zoning of any parcel of land on a whim,” says Reason Foundation’s Adrian Moore, “it's being played out basically on crony politics rather than any kind of real, objective standard."

Moore says that property rights have eroded vastly over the last 100 years in America, and that these kinds of issues should be resolved in the courts, not in the political arena that is far more susceptible to abuse.

“The fact that the neighbors are using the political process rather than the court system already says they’ve got a somewhat suspicious complaint.”

Moore says the only way to fight a political battle is with politics, and that the community has to rise up against the township. Luckily for the Hunters, the community has come to their aid and is speaking out against the township at regular town hall meetings.

“The support that we’ve received from all of this has been completely overwhelming, I’ve never experienced anything like it,” says Vander Kley Hunter.

Vander Kley Hunter is hopeful that the community's support combined with her family's persistence will be enough to save her animals.

About 5:30 minutes.

Written and produced by Tracy Oppenheimer; camera by Zach Weissmueller and Oppenheimer.

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  • UnCivilServant||

    Moo?

    Neighbor: "I didn't move into the country to see no animals!"

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  • UnCivilServant||

    Go Away SpamBot.

  • Drake||

    I grew up in a farm town in MA that treated the farmers like shit. When I visit family there, the farms and orchards are all long gone - they said fuck it and sold to developers.

    The assholes like the neighbor complaining about bees and horseshit all got track houses abutting their backyards instead. Fuck I hate Massachusetts.

  • Logical 1||

    I guess that explains the bumper sticks I see in Mass that say "Masshole"

  • Drake||

    Their fuckery has become self-aware.

  • Hollywood||

    Paging Dr. Coase...

  • sarcasmic||

    I live fairly close to an egg farm and on some days the air is rank with the smell of chicken shit. Some neighbors have complained at town meetings, and I respond by saying "That's the smell of low property taxes. Shut the fuck up."

  • Live Free or Diet||

    That's the smell of them finally cleaning the cages. Tell them it's the smell of unsanitary conditions.
    Thankfully out of range, but when I was keeping an eye on a friend's near-by farm I went looking for a body in the ditch.

  • Raston Bot||

    Virginia has a plague of environmental groups influencing zoning regs and running a conservation easement business that complicates small farm operations and appears to be a tax evasion scam.

    the township to reinterpret the ordinance

    How do you reinterpret an ordinance that states you need 2 acres per horse and .25 per bird?

  • Matrix||

    FYTW, of course.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Rather easily.

    Does 2 acres allow you to keep BOTH 1 horse AND 8 birds or does 2 acres allow you either the birds or the horse but not both?

  • UnCivilServant||

    Or does 2 acres allow for 1 horse and 8 flying birds, but not 8 terrestiral birds as they'll compete with the horse for ground space?

  • Andrew S.||

    1 horse-sized bird or 100 bird-sized horses?

  • Raston Bot||

    You're allowed 15 pets which can include non-commercial fowl. And donkeys are included with horses because they are 34" at the withers but what if you had an ostrich? Would you be okay under the pet exemption or would you need an add'l 2 acres?

  • bakedflounder||

    How can one donate to their legal fund?

  • Tracy Oppenheimer||

  • John Galt||

    “We feel like we’re under a microscope. We feel like everything we do, on our own property, we have to get permission from the township,” says Vander Kley Hunter.

    Say hello to the ugly face of oppressive statism, says John Galt.

  • Curtisls87||

    Have we all lost sight of the fact that this is a Tracy Oppenheimer piece, and yet, she did not appear in the video. I feel depraved - er, deprived!

  • Curtisls87||

    On a more serious note, if this town's government doesn't drop this like a hot potato, then there should be consequences in the next election. That usually doesn't happen at the state or federal level, but in a small community like this, it should be possible.

  • Harvard||

    Farmers can often garner sympathy and support, gun clubs are another story. I was lucky enough to shoot at the old Lincoln Park Traps in Chicago, shooting out over the water where TR and Hemmingway once stood. Our local club, along with many others nationwide sent money and support to fight the closure for many years, but the statists had their way. Shooting ranges have become far more susceptible to this treatment than farms, and once folded face innumerable zoning hurdles to relocate. I'd argue this is far more serious than the demise of some hobby farm.

    http://ephemera.typepad.com/ep.....entur.html

  • linda.j||

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  • mgd||

    A yellow one? A fucking yellow one? That's different! Sign me up!

  • LilDebbie||

    Something I feel needs to be pointed out: of the neighbors in question, one is a realtor and the other an occupational therapist aka yet another bullshit "medical" practice that doesn't involve actually going to med school.

    In other words, Golgafrinchins.

    Fuck fast food workers going on strike. The farmers need to go on strike until everyone who can't raise their own food dies of starvation.

  • JustPassinThru||

    What an arse of a neighbor. I would sue over it...a "reinterpretation" of the ordinance?? I would sue them *personally*, not the township...make them pay to defend themselves. I definitely wouldn't let it go...that's for damn sure.

  • NL_||

    I lived in Central California briefly. The locals (mostly Portuguese) were extremely sensitive to the notion that dairies right by the freeways smelled bad. "Hey, that's the smell of ice cream!"

  • VicRattlehead||

    I live in a rural farming community, i just moved in a few months ago and since have received several warnings over my dog supposedly barking, my nearest neighbor lives through 1 acre of woods on the other side of the river from his back yard is a race track that holds races every other night through the entire summer until 11pm, however i was informed by the dog warden that they do not need any evidence of the dog in question barking to proceed with fining me, i informed them that i would start launching complaints against the neighbor for his dog barking, to which she said well that would have to be true to fine him, i said so does it have to be true to fine me then? she was speechless its been 4 months without another incident and my dog spends her days outside enjoying the beautiful summer weather in peace. i'm convinced i fried her logic board and she is currently seeking reprogramming at the center for bureaucracy, the way i figure they will be back and in greater numbers like sand people

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