New Law Protects Farms Running Small Businesses
Danville, VA - A new law will clear the way for farmers across Virginia to run small businesses on their property without interference from local governments. The news comes after a woman in Fauquier County faced thousands of dollars in fines for selling her produce and other local goods without a county permit. There are several farmers across Southside who operate retail stores and hold public events on their farms. While a special permit is usually not required, the law will protect those small businesses from being shuttered by local government in the future. "Not as many people garden as they used to and they say they let us do the gardening for them, and they appreciate it," said Reese's Farms Co-owner Don Reese. Reese and his family operate the store adjacent to their hundreds of acres of land where they grow all sorts of crops, including their locally famous cantaloupes. Inside, you'll find a selection of fruits and vegetables, as well as meats, cheeses, and pre-packaged goods. "Those are products that we don't make here or can't make here," Reese said. When Northern Virginia farmer Martha Boneta sold produce she grew as well as other local goods, she was almost shut down. Officials also threatened Boneta with potential jail time for simply hosting a child's birthday party on her farm without a proper permit. Legislators said enough was enough. "It was a real pleasure to stand with her and other small farmers so we could protect what they do and also encourage farm business and agri-business," said Senator Bill Stanley. Stanley co-sponsored Boneta's Bill which says a locality cannot restrict a farmer from selling certain goods and holding events as a means of additional income. Reese says he's never faced any red tape in Halifax County, but he is glad to know he and his fellow farmers are protected. "The ability to continue to operate in the foreseeable future, I appreciate their willingness to step up and clear that path for us," Reese said. The bill was actually defeated when it was first proposed last year, but Tuesday it became official. In Pittsylvania and Halifax Counties, farmers have to have to be located in the appropriate zone to operate a small farming business, but additional permits are usually not required.