A case has developed in Virginia over whether a woman whose property is zoned agricultural is allowed to have chickens there.
The county says no.
But Stewart Goodwin, a member of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which defends the rights of farmers and consumers to engage in direct commerce, is putting up a fight.
In a commentary on the Farm-to-Consumer website, Goodwin describes how Henrico County officials first told her to get rid of the couple dozen chickens she has on her land.
“Because one unknown neighbor was offended by a sign I put in my yard, Henrico County has strongly suggested, under the threat of legal action, for me to remove my chickens from land zoned agricultural. They are citing local zoning ordinances; first saying I’m zoned residential, then saying I don’t meet setbacks for horses (which I’m still looking for) and then setbacks to dwellings, then changing that to lot lines and now they are saying my poultry operation of 36 chickens is a threat to the general health, safety and welfare of the community.”
County officials did not respond to WND’s request for comment.
But land across the United States started out as “agricultural” because settlers had to raise their own food. The move eventually was influenced by corporate farms, where crops and livestock are prohibited.
But Goodwin said the trend is reversing, with jurisdictions in Virginia and nationwide “re-writing their local ordinances to accommodate the public’s demand to know where their food comes from and the right to raise their own fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs.”
She said, however, her county is behind the curve, citing its opposition despite multiple state laws relating to agricultural operations that protect the activities.
“They continue to ignore the state laws and attempt to enforce county ordinances even though they have acknowledged that my property is zoned agricultural and I am an agricultural operation,” she wrote.
She noted the U.S. Supreme Court “has ruled that the application of land-use regulations to a particular piece of property is a taking when it denies the land’s owner reasonable, viable use of it, or ‘if the ordinance does not substantially advance legitimate state interests.'”
“To what end this will come is unclear to me at this time,” she explained. “But, I will continue to fight to raise my chickens, to provide fresh, pesticide-free products to my customers and to protect the right of farmers and consumers to know where their foods originate without the fear of being poisoned by e.coli, listeria, salmonella or cancer-causing chemicals injected … to preserve and extend the shelf life.”