The Hunter Family Farm would like to thank you all so much for your support. It has been a long road, but we are finally able to live our lives the way we have always dreamed of doing. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Hunter Family to Keep Farm
For Immediate Release
October 27, 2014
The Hunter Family farm located in Antwerp Township is a very happy place to be today after confirmation from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) that practices at the farm are following the Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPS).
After a lengthy wait of more than a year and a half and two requests to MDARD for proactive determinations of Right to Farm protection, David Hunter and Kelly Vander Kley finally have the news they have been waiting for. The farm has also been Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) verified.
"This is a reassurance to us that we are living this lifestyle in a way that is as friendly to the environment as possible which was our intent all along," Vander Kley said.
"The MAEAP inspectors and technicians are a wealth of knowledge about soil, water and air qualities. They took the good practices we were already doing and offered suggestions that have made our farm management even better and more aligned with our goals. Some of their suggestions have even saved us money." Vander Kley said. "I highly encourage farms, both large and small, to go through the program. It is very beneficial."
At a more local level, Antwerp Township has taken a great deal of initiative to revamp their "Keeping of Animals" ordinances to make them more clear since the farm first came into question in early 2013.
Vander Kley says her family or a representative of the farm has been to every township planning commission meeting and township board meeting since May of 2013.
"I have seen firsthand the great deal of time and effort put into creating potential new ordinances that would guide this community in a positive manner. I am very appreciative of the thoughtfulness put into this project," she said.
Vander Kley is most of all thankful to the many people who have stopped over, called and reached out to the family in acts of support. "So many people came to shake my hand and offer advice it was amazing. From all of this, our family has gained many new friends that we will forever cherish."
"Our children will now be able to continue growing with strong work ethics and small business skills along with a knowledge of sustainable living that we hope one day they can use to help others," Vander Kley said.
Hunter Family Farm update: If you would like to be part of revising the ordinance that is the basis for the neighbor's harassment of the Hunter Family Farm, the next workshop is this Thursday, October 19th at 7:00 at the Antwerp Twp Hall. The township will be unveiling a draft revised ordinance composed of input from the last community ordinance workshop and then hashing that out in greater detail. This would be the ideal time for people with animals or bees to come out and help hone this redesigned ordinance into something workable. After this second revision, it will move on to the planning commission meeting in October.
Heads up, supporters of Hunter Family Farm. This is Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at the Antwerp Township Hall. From David Hunter:
There is a township planning meeting this Wednesday at 7pm. Last week, at the planning workshop, both neighbors who have been complaining showed up. If you have animals in the township, this affects you. They are discussing limits on all zoning areas R-3 to Ag. We are only one voice - more are needed. Farmers from other areas have come in support and we really need the voice of Antwerp township people too. We are fighting for this and know we have so much support and we thank everyone for that. If you can't come then please send someone for you.
The Hunters report that last night's ordinance workshop at the Antwerp Twp. Hall was very encouraging. Of course, the two complaining neighbors were there, but it appears that the board was focused on common sense solutions to the matter at hand and putting a lot of good thought into revamping the current ordinance. I want to publicly thank them for putting together the workshop to solicit public input on how a revamped ordinance would look. It is a positive step forward in reconciling the situation.
I see that I neglected to post the writeup to the Antwerp Township board meeting held August 13. Here is that writeup, along with my apologies.
Tonight's Antwerp Township Board meeting had a very different tone than last Wednesday's Planning Commission meeting, thanks to township supervisor Dan Ruzick outlining the ground rules at the outset of public comments: five minutes, no interrupting, unruly folk will be bounced by the waiting Sheriff deputy. He went on to say that all would be heard, but he would have order. People were far less emotional tonight, which precluded the raised voices and pointed fingers we saw on Wednesday.
To begin, the board handed out a press release which restated the facts to date as they saw them. They suggested that they may waive any appeal fee, and also suggested that they were steadily working with the Hunters to resolve this issue. There was a suggestion that a solution could be found that would allow the Hunters to keep "most or all of their animals and livestock."
I found this release interesting in what it did and did not commit to saying. A citizen asked if the Hunter farm was an "actual farm" or not. There are things going on in the background at the State of Michigan level that the township and the Hunters know about, and neither party is publicly commenting at this time as to the possibilities that may arise from those things. The township's attorney said that there will be a time to discuss the question of their farm status, but now is not that time. Some may dismiss the statement as a protective move, but I saw it as a conciliatory statement asking for patience.
Compromise and patience were the two main themes tonight. There was a full house, complete with two media outlets and what I believe was a documentary filming crew that has been speaking with Kelly and Dave about this situation. (Amy's note: this was the ReasonTV short posted below.) Public comment was again overwhelmingly in favor of the Hunters.
Kelly spoke eloquently about the farm, giving a similar statement to the one she gave on Wednesday at the planning commission. She was applauded long enough that Dan finally gaveled the meeting back to order.
Gary Stock, chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, stated that he advised the board weeks ago to not let it get to the point of crowded public comment. He cautioned the assembled present to be patient and let the board work out a solution before getting out of hand. He explained that there needed to be time for a give and take to happen before a solution can be reached.
Another citizen spoke of similar case law enacted in Waverly Township and the precedent set within Van Buren County. Many citizens, including neighbors of the Hunter Family Farm, stood up to comment in support of the extensive rehabilitation of the property, as compared to the derelict foreclosure that the property was prior to the Hunters purchasing the property. A couple who own a hobby farm in Texas Township spoke in favor of the Hunter Farm, as they are watching the outcome of this situation. An elderly man behind me spoke very eloquently about the demise of the honeybee population, emphasizing his points by pounding his cane on the floor.
Tonight's surprise speaker was Sandy Schaser, she of the regular no-comment to the three media outlets who approached her for comment. It was reported to me that she is angry at Jennifer Dowling of Fox 17 for acquiring her written complaints against the Hunters via the Freedom of Information Act and posting it publicly on the Fox 17 website. Of course, when you sign your name to a complaint in a public forum, you may expect that it will be available to interested parties.
She gave a statement covering of her side of the story. We heard about how she and her husband bought the property in 1998 to build their dream home, and halfway through the building her husband took ill and died from renal failure. She described how the building company she hired misappropriated funds and went bankrupt, and she had to hire another builder. She spoke of raising her three kids as a single parent. Then she got to the point at hand, and restated her untrue complaints against the Hunters, which I will list and defend:
She accused them of spreading manure repeatedly to the property line. The truth is that they did it once during the winter months, and after soil testing revealed they did not need to do this, they did not do it again.
She accused Kelly of yelling angrily at her. The truth is that Kelly saw a woman who had been less than friendly feeding her donkeys, the same donkeys that are on a monitored diet. She called out Stop, please from a great distance, and if that's yelling angrily at someone, then Kelly stands rightfully accused.
She accused their chickens of ranging freely onto her property. The truth is the poultry is penned up in a coop or in a fenced area. The chickens, turkeys and ducks are all unable to get onto Sandy's property.
She accused the bees of swarming her yard and her above ground pool, making it impossible for her to enjoy her backyard. The truth is that honeybees are not aggressive. This has been proven repeatedly by my photos and videos of time spent helping my sister with her hives. I have worn protective gear one time. The other times I've been in there without a hood or gloves.
After her comments, many others stood up and made similar points regarding living in a rural area. One commenter stated the case brilliantly: "when you move into a place next to a big red barn, you gotta expect something." Others were less diplomatic, but the upshot was that Mattawan has always been a rural community, and if one does not like rural sights and sounds, one might wish to stay in the city.
Others made comments about the amount of land that the Hunters have. It was suggested that additional land be leased to meet the current requirements. That is an option that is currently being explored, and I will report more as I am free to do so.
One citizen spoke up and made a very valid observation: If someone feels strongly enough to complain about their neighbors, then they should be required to put it in writing. He did not approve of acting on complaints from an anonymous complainer who wouldn't stand behind her complaints. Another citizen mentioned some bullying being done regarding the employment and livelihood of a neighbor who supports the Hunter Family Farm by an anonymous complainer. The essence of the citizen comments given was that if someone won't sign their name to it, perhaps they ought to keep their mouths closed.
Dan wrapped up the public comment by stating that LSL Planning made a mistake, and that he was sorry that happened. He urged patience as a compromise was worked out that would address the needs and desires of all parties. At that point there was a recess called. I approached Dan and thanked him for his words and said that I strongly hoped that a solution could be found that would allow the Hunters to continue their hobby farm. He assured me that he was also passionate about finding a compromise that works for all parties.
At the recess the neighbor present and her group of three supporters (her husband Dan, Linda Hazelhoff's husband and an unnamed woman, not Linda) left the meeting. Fox 17 followed them and asked her for a comment. She told their reporter that she did want to tell her story, but not at this time. This would be the fourth opportunity she has had to give her side of the story to the media. It was noted that she is not interested in any compromise whatsoever, and felt betrayed by tonight's theme of compromise and patience.
Tonight was a positive meeting, and I felt good about the comments and the response to those comments. I feel confident that the Hunter's lawyer can work out a compromise with the township that will satisfy their desire to keep their rural lifestyle unbothered.
Tomorrow night at 7 pm is the Antwerp Township Board meeting. Antwerp Township Hall is at 24821 Front Avenue, Mattawan, MI. Go through town and it's around the curve, on the other side of downtown Mattawan.
You don't have to comment if you don't want, but if you do, the time limit is two minutes. Come early and pick up a sign, we will have plenty of small signs like my profile photo. I expect a media presence and it looks great to have so many signs showing.
I will write up tomorrow night's meeting much like I did last Tuesday's, so if you can't make it, stay tuned. Kelly and Dave are so heartened by the support they are getting, and I would like to thank each of you for your kindness!
There was a standing room only crowd at the Antwerp Township Planning Commission meeting tonight. Let me state at the outset that the Planning Commission handles the creation and revision of ordinances for the Township, NOT the enforcement of said ordinances, which is the bailiwick of the Township. Tonight's mission was to ask that the ordinances be clarified. As they are written, they are inconsistent at best.
Many, many folks commented on the lack of consistent enforcement and clearly defined ordinance language. There was a sense of general outrage that the Hunters were told one thing, then another, and then another. Of course, the proper venue for the enforcement complaints is next Tuesday's township board meeting. The unclear ordinance language is indeed the bailiwick of the Planning Commission, and they will be beginning to deconstruct the animal counts language at the next Planning Commission meeting. It was made a priority item "because of the public showing".
I'd like to publicly thank Fox 17 for sending a reporter and cameraman, and Mlive/Kalamazoo Gazette for sending out a reporter. Both did a fantastic job of speaking to a number of the attendees and soliciting their input. LSL was asked for comment, and once again declined to do so.
I would strongly urge anyone who can to attend the township board meeting next Tuesday, August 13, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. If the Township is indeed responsible for enforcement, by all means, let them answer for their inconsistent treatment of the Hunters. Please consider joining me. I am happy to organize a carpool from Kalamazoo.
Update on the Hunter Family Farm: tonight's Antwerp Twp Planning Commission meeting (7:00 pm, 24821 Front Avenue, Mattawan) will be discussing an ordinance regarding beehives. This is a new action, this discussion. No need to speak, just show up to support Kelly and Dave. I will be there, and I'm happy to drive a carpool leaving Kalamazoo around 6:30. Please contact me.
This article got the attention of Jennifer Dowling @ Fox 17 in Grand Rapids. They spent the afternoon at Hunter Family Farm talking with the family and working on this story, which aired at 6 with a live remote from the farm.
Kelly & Dave are totally overwhelmed with incredulous joy at the support being sent their way by so many people, many of them strangers. I think I summarize for them when I say: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Hello, friends! Rosemary Parker at the Kalamazoo Gazette has been out to see Kelly & Dave's farm and talk with them. Her photographer took photos of the gorgeous place, and we're looking forward to seeing the story on Mlive or the Gazette. I'll post here when it goes up.
If you would like to write to the Gazette to support the Hunter Family Farm, you may do so online here:
If you would like to attend a public meeting to voice support for the Hunter Family Farm, there are two coming up: Wednesday, August 7 at 7:00 pm (planning commission) and Tuesday, August 13 at 7:00 pm (township board meeting). The address is:
Township of Antwerp
24821 Front Avenue, Mattawan MI
If you would like to write or fax the township in support of the Hunter Family Farm, that would be welcomed as well. Please direct your correspondence to township supervisor Daniel J. Ruzick (email@example.com). His telephone extension to the number above is 215.
Kelly & Dave are so encouraged by the kind words and generosity of all of you. Thank you, so much, for supporting Hunter Family Farm.
would you do if your life dream was ripped away by nosy neighbors who
decided that your legally zoned lifestyle was an affront to them? This
is what happened recently in Antwerp Township, MI.
Dave have put their heart and soul into their farm in
Antwep Township. They bought a run-down farm
and restored it to glory. The property is zoned R-1, which allows farm
animals, and they have honeybees, some chickens and turkeys, a horse,
donkeys. Two neighbors complained to the Antwerp Township inspectors
about a number of phantom complaints, including one of Kelly's honeybees
stealing water from the neighbor's property. Having been inundated
with such complaints by these two, the township told Kelly and Dave this
week that they must get rid of most of their animal and poultry, except a horse and one donkey, because they have "too many animals". We are not sure how this is possible, since Kelly and David
cleared the acquisition of each animal with the township before
inspectors have been to their farm numerous times and found no
infractions or violations. In fact, during one visit they stood
directly next to a dung pile for some time and did not notice
it by scent or by
insect activity. They only noticed it was a dung pile when Kelly brought it to their
attention. Now, having reversed themselves on their prior
rulings, Antwerp Township is telling my friends that "they brought this
exactly? By complying with every condition placed upon them? Apparently by not giving
the bullying of two nosy neighbors, this is how "they brought this on
themselves". Additionally, not once did either of these neighbors
come talk to Kelly
and David themselves. They were apparently very troubled by the small
hobby farm next door, but not enough to come and talk
to their neighbors about it. They went right to the local government,
which has said all along that Kelly and Dave have been within the law.
Now they suddenly are not. Why?
think it's a shame when two people can bully a township into
closing a farm that has done nothing to detract from the quality of
life enjoyed by their neighbors. No other neighbors, and there are
several, have complained. Perhaps these two thought that if anyone
actually bought the run-down farm and put farm animals where it is zoned
farm animals, they could complain until they got their way.
So it appears to go in Antwerp Township.
My heart breaks for
and Dave and their two young sons. They both work regular jobs, and the
farm is not a significant source of income for them. They simply wish
to live a farming lifestyle, and until their two neighbors decided they
shouldn't, they were doing just that with the blessing of Antwerp
They have been told they can apply for a variance from the township, but that the township doesn't have to approve it. When Kelly asked what the variance would be for, the inspector could not tell her. Why?
I am asking for your help in donating to their legal fees to fight this injustice, so that they may keep their animals.
I just read the story of your plight and although I don't know you, I have several friends that own 'hobby farms' and they put heart and soul into their farms and the animal inhabitants. It would certainly be devastating for any government entity to come in and try to take everything they have worked for away. It is unfair and I hope that's exactly the way the judge will see it! Best of luck in the fight.
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