Save the Hunter Family Farm
Kelly & 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, and two 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 acquiring it.
Township 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 on themselves".
How, exactly? By complying with every condition placed upon them? Apparently by not giving in to 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?
I 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 for farm animals, they could complain until they got their way. So it appears to go in Antwerp Township.
My heart breaks for Kelly 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 Township.
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.
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.
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.
Check out the Michigan "Right to Farm" state law. It was made specifically to address these situations.
Have they contacted Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund? I highly recommend it!
Is there a Facebook page where we can follow the goings on and be better able to share and get support for them?
Contacting local media outlets can have a significant impact. It puts a little heat on the townships collar and is a good story of a family building their American dream, only to be unjustly stripped of their rights!
My suggestion is to contact their county Farm Bureau and their local Michigan Farm Bureau Regional Representative. MFB has been very successful helping people with local governmental issues.