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

Even though their hens lay in elevated roosts, Derek and Colleen Warner have walked on eggshells for several months waiting to learn the fate of their family farm.
Marie Havenga
Aug 13, 2014


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.




Barry Soetoro

Well done, Cargo. How about a dollar amount total for GH Township resources wasted on this? Cargo previously stated that there had been no complaints from the neighbors so how did this get on the Township radar in the first place?


Great job Warner's! GH is probably just dissapointed your homestead doesn't attract tourists. Nice to see your sustainability efforts provide for your family.


I am so happy for the Warners. More people should follow in their footsteps.


Im getting sick of the township trying to step on the toes of those who try to live off the grid, or be self-sustaining. This isn't the first time, and wont be the last. Taxpayer money wasted fighting innocent families who try to live by their own means. The stuff from their farm is most likely MUCH healthier and safer than the processed garbage sold in stores anyway. If they are not a danger to their neighbors, then let them live their lives instead of trying to micro-manage them.


That,s why grandpa had a shotgun by that front door, anyone messing around is likely to get a taste of old Betsy !!


Good for the Warners, Cargo should go to Santa Barbara, Ca. where he belongs and take his Overlay District with him.


Congrats to the Warner Family!


Great job to the Warner's. Thank you so much for sticking it out and fighting against the police states of Grand Haven Township and City. We need to get three new board members elected to send Cargo down the road and make him eat humble pie. People should also organize a "Local Police State Defense Fund" much like those home school legal defense fund or NRA and MCRGO. Band together as an organization retain some attorneys and fight the townships/cities in court when they abuse citizens like in this case.


The TWP is always snooping around trying to catch an homeowner is some minor transgression,they have photos of all properties and compare them from time to time. I've had numerous friends plus myself get a call or a visit from the TWP.


The TWP is always snooping around trying to catch an homeowner is some minor transgression,they have photos of all properties and compare them from time to time. I've had numerous friends plus myself get a call or a visit from the TWP.

deuce liti

What a quaint little article peppered with such banality as, "walking on eggshells", "other side of the fence", and "put out to pasture".

I can't wait until I'm 80 and think such writing is cute.

Say no to new taxes

There was a time you lived in the township because you didn't want to be burdened with cumbersome and numerous city regulations. Now it seems the township has become just one big city. Congratulations to this couple for their win!


Good for you Warner Family, Our Family had the Same issue with the Township in the Great Chicken conflict. They Changed the rules but not enough for us to have Four Chickens in the back yard.


It should be every landowners right to grow their own food, but there has to be some limitations to ensure surrounding properties are not negatively impacted. It sounds like the Warner family is doing it right and the Township now understands how the right to farm act affects local ordinances. This was a win for everyone that did not cost the township much to investigate.

Most "food" these days is total crap and the corporations are poisoning us with dyes, chemicals, and other junk. Nothing in our grocery stores is real. Read the ingredients, see where it is from. It all comes from a factory a million miles away with pretty packaging. If you want real food, you have to grow it or hunt it or get it from a local source that you know and trust.


If you are interested in having a say in proposed zoning changes in Grand Haven Township concerning keeping of livestock, you should attend the next planning commission meeting on Monday, August 18 at 7:30. At this meeting the proposed changes will be presented. As of the last planning commission meeting, it sounded like there would be a minimum of 5 acres required, and a special land use permit, with possibly scale-able allowable animal units. On our almost 8 acres, with all that we have going on, we are only farming 1.5 acres. 5 acres seems a bit limiting to me.




check out the proposed changes at the conferences grounds went from four tents to 25 some buildings.were concerned about chickens?


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