Fresh & Local
Tyranny and Economic Development
Column #47, Published Aug 10th, 2012
There is currently a food revolution going on. Locally grown food is making permanent inroads into the food we eat, and the way we think about food.
Last week, I wrote about the plight of Martha Boneta and her 70-acre Paris, Va., farm Piedmont Agricultural Academy LLC in northern Fauquier County. Fauquier Zoning Administrator Kimberley Johnson is ignoring Virginia’s Right to Farm law, and is using zoning regulations to curtail PAA’s farming activities, including selling organic produce on-site, hosting a birthday party for her best friend's 10-year-old daughter, and pumpkin carving. These are obviously dangerous activities.
There was a hearing last Thursday, and the Zoning Board of Appeals upheld the Zoning Administrator.
Also, four weeks ago, the Fauquier Board of Supervisors passed a new county ordinance drastically restricting winery tastings. The Washington Examiner reported that Fauquier officials were, “warned by the county attorney and Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore that such restrictions are illegal.” They did it anyway, and the wineries are now preparing a lawsuit.
If you go out to the Fauquier County web site (www.fauquiercounty.gov), there are five buttons across the top of the home page. The button in the center is labeled “Business.” If you click on it, the button takes you to the web site of the Fauquier County Department of Economic Development (FCDED). Really? Fauquier pays people to try to persuade businesses to locate in the county? It seems that there is a job that is even lonelier than being a Maytag repair man.
The FCDED home page has three buttons on the left margin, with the middle one being “Expand Your Business in Fauquier.” If you click on that button, it takes you to a web page that begins, “The top priority of the Fauquier County Department of Economic Development is to retain the businesses that are currently located in the County. Local businesses are a major tax base for Fauquier County, and the FCDED is committed to assisting in their efforts to thrive.”
Someone needs to tell Martha Boneta that all she has to do is click on that middle button. Problem solved.
So, Kim Johnson and the Board of Zoning Appeals are illegally trying to use zoning laws to put Piedmont Agricultural Academy out of business, the Board of Supervisors is illegally trying to restrict winery tastings, while the Department of Economic Development is being paid to try to attract new business to the county. I believe this is called “schizophrenia.”
Back in July, I wrote a three part series on the book, “The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food.” The book is about the northern Vermont town of Hardwick, which has attracted a large number of locally grown food producers and support businesses, and become an important economic hub for local food in that region.
Throughout the book, the author Ben Hewitt wonders why all these businesses located in Hardwick, and why what happened in Hardwick does not happen in other places. One possibility that Ben Hewitt never mentions is government regulation. I thought it was oddly quaint and kind of amusing as I read the book that it would never occur to someone from northern Vermont that government might be the biggest obstacle of all to business growth.
Oregon, for example, just this week put someone in jail for 30 days for collecting rain water on his property. Another dangerous activity.
If I were starting a business, I sure would not locate it in Fauquier County. Or Oregon.
Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County. His column on fresh and locally grown food runs every Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org