Your Support Can Keep a Farm Serving Its Community
Hidden Creek Farm LLC, a small diversified farm in Dalton Township, Michigan, providing nutrient-dense food to members of its community, needs your help. Even though it should be protected under the Michigan Right to Farm Act, the farm is under attack.
For over four years Crystal Brummans and her husband, Lee Witte, the owners of the farm, have sold beef, pork, lamb, goat, poultry, eggs, raw milk (through herdshare agreements), produce and flowers to their loyal customers. The farm has also held various community events, including farm-to-table dinners, ox roast and open farm events. Until this last month, nobody has ever complained to Dalton Township about the farm.
On May 8 attorneys for the township and a neighbor filed separate lawsuits against the farm. The township lawsuit alleges the farm operation violates multiple sections of the zoning ordinance and constitutes a public nuisance; the neighbor’s lawsuit alleges that the farm is both a public and private nuisance. The township lawsuit seeks an injunction to permanently bar the farm from conducting “commercial sales operations” on its property, including events. There is currently a preliminary injunction in place preventing the farm from making any on-farm sales of its products and from holding any events.
The neighbor’s lawsuit seeks $75,000 in damages plus attorney fees and other costs against Crystal and Lee and also asks for a court order shutting down the farm’s livestock operation–a move that would result in the farm going out of business.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
Purchase a “Food Freedom” T-shirt, hand-drawn by a local Michigan artist to represent two previous Right-to-Farm cases in Michigan. The T-shirt was designed by a Michigan farmer who also litigated against his township over the right to farm his land. Proceeds from the T-shirt sales will go towards legal fees and farm expenses. To purchase your T-shirt, go to www.loyaltees.clothing/food-freedom.
If you want contribute without getting a T-shirt, please donate to the Michigan Small Farm Council: http://www.michigansmallfarmcouncil.org/
The Michigan Right to Farm Act protects farms from public and private nuisance lawsuits regardless of their local zoning designation, if the farm is a commercial operation and is in compliance with applicable GAAMPs (Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices) established by the Michigan Agriculture Commission. Inspectors went to Hidden Creek Farm multiple times last month and found no violations of the GAAMPs. The farm has since been involved in communications with the Commission, helping them pass a new resolution last month affirming that farmers can sell foods and other products they have produced at their farm, from their farm location, regardless of what any zoning ordinance says.
Crystal and Lee use organic practices in their operation and maintain a clean, well-kept farm. [See for yourself; click here for video tour] Neighbors, other than the one filing the lawsuit, have said that their farm operation–including the events they have held on the farm–bothers no one.
Crystal says, “This farm is our life and we do this for the people in our community who absolutely depend on our farm in order to keep their health.” Hidden Creek Farm is a community treasure and is the only farm in the area.[Click here to read Crystal’s post from May 16] Many of their grateful customers and supporters packed a recent town meeting–wearing their “Food Freedom” T-shirts–to protest the lawsuits against the farm.
Even with the tremendous support that they have received in the community and elsewhere in Michigan, Hidden Creek Farm still needs your help. The cost of defending the farm from both lawsuits could run well into the tens of thousands of dollars. The farm’s attorneys are negotiating with the township on a possible settlement but there is no indication that the neighbor wants to settle his case.
Last month, the neighbor sent Crystal and Lee extensive requests for documents on the farm’s operation, including a request that would require disclosing the names of farm customers. Significant legal expenses are already being incurred. The discovery phase of the case is underway; the neighbor’s attorney is deposing both Crystal and Lee this week. The lawsuit is draining the farmers’ time and resources and is hurting their ability to make a living.
Crystal and Lee run a model operation–doing things the right way. It’s the type of farm that’s important to keep in business; one of their customers called the farm “a moral and economic pillar of the community.”
Every T-shirt sale will help secure funding to help get them through this and help further spread the message of “Food Freedom.”
We hope that you can share this important message and purchase a T-shirt to help Hidden Creek farm at this time.
Small farms matter!
To purchase your T-shirt:
Link to donate without getting a T-shirt:
Crystal’s post from May 16 – https://www.facebook.com/HiddenCreekFarm/posts/2116115835173236?__tn__=K-R
Video (farm tour) –