Green group's abuse of animal-rescuing farmer gets a hearing

A green group, the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), complains that a farmer with over 200 rescued animals has hot running water at her farm.

Virginia farmer Martha Boneta is well known for being charged by Fauquier County with violating the law for having a birthday party at her farm for eight 10-year old girls without a permit. The PEC’s complaints directed at Martha, who has over 200 rescued farms animals in a no-kill environment, are perhaps even more absurd and sickening.

Boneta acquired her farm subject to a conservation easement held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) and the PEC. The easement allows her to have commerce at her farm, but not a residence.

The PEC is a well-financed 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts quarterly inspections of Martha’s farm, and with which Boneta has had court skirmishes over their aggressive, bullying and deceitful tactics.

Boneta is also known for being audited by the IRS under rather curious circumstances. Clinton IRS Commissioner Peggy Richardson sits on PEC’s board.  WND’s Joseph Farah, one of her audit victims, writes, “Peggy Richardson got away with murder in the 1990s, abusing U.S. citizens for political reasons with the heavy hand of the IRS. She was never punished. No one ever was! Even though the scandal was as pronounced and real as Barack Obama’s IRS scandal, no heads ever rolled.”

Emails obtained via the Freedom of Information Act show collusion between the PEC and Fauquier County. A Fauquier County official who previously sat on PEC’s board and was instrumental in the county’s harassment of Boneta was aware of the IRS audit before Martha received notice of it.

The IRS audit demands curiously mirrored issues at center of the disputes between Boneta and both the PEC and Fauquier County. Mrs. Richardson told investigative reporter Kevin Mooney, “coincidences do happen.”

Records obtained via FOIA also show that the PEC wanted to install surveillance cameras to watch people going to Martha’s farm. The VOF wisely rejected that offensive idea.

Now Boneta has taken her issues to the VOF for a hearing on November 6. The public may submit comments by November 3 and even attend this hearing in Richmond. VOF is a quasi-state agency formed by the Virginia General Assembly "to promote the preservation of open space lands and to encourage private gifts of money, securities, land or other property to preserve the natural, scenic, historic, open-space and recreational areas of the Commonwealth."  

The rotating pictures at VOF’s homepage even show the area where Boneta’s farm is located in bucolic-looking Ashby Gap. How VOF handles the hearing will have an impact on the future of conservation easements, which are a property concept formed in the 1970s, but provide no remedies for abuses like the PEC’s.

Comments submitted to the VOF by the PEC’s Richmond, Virginia law firm complain that Boneta has last-century conveniences at her farm such as a stove, refrigerator, washer/dryer, bathrooms, a futon, wooden chairs and tables, and a hot water heater. These, they say, are evidence that Boneta is using her farm as a residence even though such items are found at many businesses less muddy than farms, including those of big-city lawyers who sometimes work round the clock like farmers.

The easement clearly contemplates that Martha could operate her tiny farm store where she sells eggs, herbs, organic vegetables, honey, and nifty things such as emu feather necklaces and alpaca wool.

Most of those last-century items about which the PEC objects are amenities for businesses with customers -- you know, the people that the PEC wanted to monitor with spy cameras. But with Martha’s 200 hundred-plus rescued farm animals in a no-kill environment, this is about more than basic farm commerce.

What anyone with animals knows, especially rescues that often were rejected and abandoned by prior owners because of expensive medical issues, is that farming can be a round-the-clock occupation.

Refrigerated medicine, sterilization, blood, mud, and long, long nights where one may need a nap near their animals are part of farm life. It is sad that the green group PEC does not understand or appreciate birthing and other basic farm animal medical care. The fact that Martha could not reside at her farm does not mean she needed to abandon care of her animals.

Peggy Richardson’s husband John, a Washington, DC lawyer like Peggy, sits on VOF’s board, and has wisely recused himself from the November 6 hearing.

The PEC’s objections to Martha having a hot water heater and other basic animal and people amenities indicate that they should not be allowed to hold a conservation easement on a farm ever again. It would be cruelty to animals -- and people.