Help Save a Michigan Family Farm

Reader Contribution by Colleen Vanderlinden

MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers understand the importance of locally-grown food, of sustainable, small-scale farming, and the need to support those small-scale food producers. I hope you’ll help me try to save this small family farm in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

The Farm 

Shady Grove Farm is a 6.5-acre homestead in the small town of Forsyth Township, Michigan. The family purchased the land, started growing food, started keeping chickens and goats, and is doing their best to not only live a more sustainable lifestyle, but to share that lifestyle with their community as well. The farm uses natural growing methods, and they sell their eggs and produce to their neighbors and at local farmer’s markets.

The Problem

Unfortunately, the township has cited the Buchler family (the farm’s owners) saying that they cannot keep livestock on their farm, that they have to get rid of the animals to comply with township ordinances. The family (rightly!) disagrees, arguing that Michigan’s Right to Farm law supersedes the township’s zoning ordinances. Their case is going to court, and is being heard on November 20th and 21st. The video below explains the situation, and it is definitely worth a watch: 

How to Help

If you’d like to help the Buchlers, there are several ways to do that:

  1. Spread the word! Share their YouTube video on Facebook, Twitter, G+ … wherever you can. 
  2. Consider contacting the township. Unfortunately, there were no email addresses listed on the township’s website, so anyone who would like to contact them will have to do it the old-fashioned way: by phone, written letter, or fax. You can call the township at (906) 346-9217. A letter or statement of support can be faxed to the township at (906) 346-3267. Mr. Buchler mentions in the video that it is important to be positive in any communications with Forsyth Township, and I just want to reiterate that here.
  3. If you’re in the area, you can show up at court to support them in person.
  4. Consider donating to their legal fund. You can find a link to do this on Shady Grove Farm’s website. The video makes a good point: if we let these types of cases go unchallenged, bit by bit they eat away at our ability to live sustainably. We keep hearing these stories about cities and small towns challenging people’s rights to have a garden, or keep chickens, or compost — these things are worth fighting for.

Thank you for standing up for not only this family’s rights, but the rights for all of us to live sustainably. As Mr. Buchler says in the video, “we are all in this together.”