Owners of Warner Family Farm win dispute with Grand Haven Twp.

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:57 PM

But all the uncertainty apparently has been put out to pasture with verbal assurance from state officials that the Warners may continue to operate their farm, regardless of what local ordinances say.


On a rainy Tuesday afternoon, Colleen milked the family's two goats, fed fresh-grown greens to the chickens and watched the farm's two nine-week-old pigs dash around their pen.


For all the work of a farm, Derek and Colleen have put perhaps more work into fighting for their way of life over the last year.


Changes in Michigan's Right to Farm Act left some gray areas for small-scale farmers in residential areas.


The Warners thought they were within their rights to live a sustainable lifestyle on their eight-acre homestead at 17082 Buchanan St., among their chickens, goats, turkeys, pigs and rabbits.


But Grand Haven Township officials were on the opposite side of the fence, and told the Warners they violated local laws.


Township Manager Bill Cargo said in June that although the Warners were conscientious and did a good job at their micro-farm, local ordinances require 20 acres for the livestock the Warners had.


Cargo noted at that time that the Warner's property fit into a Category 4 designation, which is primarily residential and doesn't allow livestock or farm operations.


But as the Township Planning Commission explored relaxing that ordinance, the State of Michigan came in with a trump card.


Representatives from the Michigan Department of Agriculture paid a visit to the Warner Family Farm recently and classified it as “Category 3,” which means its operations are not subject to local zoning laws.


Although State guidelines allow many more animals, Colleen said the couple does not want to overburden their land.


“We have no plans to expand,” she said. “We're just happy we can continue at the level we're at. It's such a relief.”


To read more of this story, see today's print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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