Oyster farmers battle for survival in Yorktown

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(NaturalNews) Yorktown, Virginia, where George Washington's decisive victory won American independence from the British, is the scene of the latest skirmish over property and farming rights. Eighty neighborhoods historically zoned agriculturally are being reviewed for rezoning at the behest of a small group of residents who don't approve of a couple of home-based oyster farms. On Wednesday, May 14, over 100 property rights and local foods activists staged a Pitchfork Protest at the York County Planning Commission.

Greg Garrett and Anthony Bavuso are the two oyster farm owners whose livelihoods are threatened by the controversy. Both are now members of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF), which is working to support the two farms and defend their rights. The FTCLDF's mission is to preserve access to locally produced, nutrient-dense foods.

Both Garrett and Bavuso, and some of their nearest neighbors, claim that their small-scale farms have a minimal impact on the neighborhood. They also contend that the oysters are cleaning the bay and are thus an ecological plus for the community.

Oysters contain powerful nutrition; they are full of vitamins A, B, C and D, protein and zinc. Zinc is an important mineral found most abundantly in oysters. Nutrition scientist Chris Masterjohn said, "Vitamins A, D, and K2 interact synergistically to support immune health, provide for adequate growth, support strong bones and teeth, and protect soft tissues from calcification. ... [V]itamins A and D can only fulfill their functions in the presence of adequate zinc."

Interestingly, the neighbors most interested in having these oysters as a regular part of their diet are strong supporters of Bavuso and Garrett.

At the Planning Commission meeting, 23 people testified in support of the farms and against the county officials' attempt to prohibit them; 16 testified against the farms and in favor of the proposed zoning change. "This is the first of several meetings, and we feel confident that more people who would be negatively affected by rezoning will come out and express their opposition," said Garrett.

As home-based businesses and home churches become more popular, zoning officials are increasingly using the tool of special-use permits to appease the not-in-my-neighborhood crowd. A recent article in USA Today described the use of special-use permits to give neighbors a chance to hold sway over the use of homes in their neighborhood as short-term vacation rentals. And Virginia's most populous county is currently considering rules to restrict gatherings in private homes.

Virginia is a Right-to-Farm state with laws on the books which prevent cities and counties from requiring special-use permits in agricultural districts. The state legislature recently sided by overwhelming margins with the oyster farms of York County by clarifying the law to include aquaculture. The revised law goes into effect January 1, 2015.

That hasn't deterred the county officials. The downzoning of York County to residential use only would mean that the oyster farms would have to go.

To support the oyster farms of York County, please sign this Protect Our Property Rights petition and donate to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

Kimberly Hartke is a publicist for the nutrition education non-profit Weston A. Price Foundation.

Sources for this article:

Interviews with Greg Garrett, Anthony Bavuso and Pete Kennedy, Esq.

About the author:
by Kimberly Hartke, Publicist
Weston A. Price Foundation
Washington, D.C.
a 501c3 nutrition education non profit

Weston A. Price Foundation has over 13,000 members and 550 volunteer led local chapters, worldwide. Our mission is to restore nutrient dense foods to the human diet through education and activism. We promote getting to know your local farmer and supporting him with your food dollars!

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