<![CDATA[Minibelly's Farm - Blog]]>Thu, 10 Mar 2016 04:56:14 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[The view from my side of the fence...water]]>Mon, 25 May 2015 19:51:49 GMThttp://www.minibellys.com/blog/the-view-from-my-side-of-the-fencewaterWater. 

How much are we using? How does it compare to other uses? Do we have the right to it? All of these questions and more have been directed at us, and I will attempt to answer them here.  

On our 41.3 acre parcel of land, we have been adjudicated a certain amount of water through the State water courts. so we have the rights to use a specific amount of water for agricultural use. We meter our wells and are subject to monitoring and fine, consequently, we are more cognizant of our water consumption than the average Black Forest citizen. 

Some interesting comparisons: 

Our greenhouse uses approximately the same gallons of water per day as: 
40 cows or 
80 horses or
2.5 houses or 
8 ponderosa pine trees

- We use the same amount of water in one week as it takes to water 1 hole of a golf course for 1 day. 

-It takes the same amount of water for us to produce 104 tons of tomatoes as it does to produce 1 ton of alfalfa.   We could either produce enough tomatoes to satisfy the yearly consumption of 9000 americans or enough alfalfa to feed 1 horse for 3 months. 

Currently we anticipate using 200,000 gallons of water per year on our tomatoes. We will be monitoring the water closely as we continue down this path.  Over all we have 3 acre feet allotted to the greenhouse, and we will be well within that mark.  

<![CDATA[The view from my side of the fence...zoning]]>Mon, 25 May 2015 18:34:05 GMThttp://www.minibellys.com/blog/the-view-from-my-side-of-the-fencezoningZoning

The first issue at play, and perhaps the most divisive of them all, is zoning. which is established in the land development code.  I have spent hundreds of hours pouring over the code and as I continue to look into it I learn more and more about it's framework. 

 As most of you know, the zoning laws are established through the code and anyone can see what can or can't be built in their respective neighborhoods via the land use matrix found in Chapter 5 of the LDC.

Certain uses of land are allowed, allowed with special review, or not allowed unless granted a variance by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).  

Our proposed use was for a greenhouse greater than one acre in an RR-5 zone on our 41.3 acre parcel on the outskirts of Black Forest. This is an allowed use subject to special review.  The special review can be administratively handled or...

In certain, but not all, cases the a special use permit request is elevated to a public hearing and voted on by the BOCC.  The BOCC makes their decision is by determining whether a project or proposal meets the criteria established in the LDC.  The BOCC also factors in the intent of the LDC, the suggestions of their planning staff, the suggestions of the planning committee (an all volunteer board), historic trends, future goals, community needs, and the Land Use Policy.  As you can see it is a lot to balance, and an advisory small area plan such as the Black Forest Preservation plan is only a small portion of the decision making process. 

When the BOCC examined the other existing uses of the RR-5 zone district, the allowed uses according to the LDC zone use matrix, and our proposed use, they agreed that we met the criteria. 

Some other existing uses of the RR-5 zone in Black Forest- workshops, salons, alpaca farms, home businesses, apiaries, horse stables, bed and breakfast, schools, churches, and a priory.  

Some of the other allowed uses (not special uses) for our lands: adult care home, dairy, educational institution, public emergency facility, farm, family care home, group home, inert material disposal site, wholesale nursery, public building, public way, public space, religious institution, private stables, and a tree farm.  

As the county looked at all of the possible uses for our land, there wasn't much to argue with when it came to a greenhouse. 

Clearly the RR-5 zone district had been, and will continue to be used, in rural and agricultural ways. 

When any resident purchases a house or property, they would do well to examine the allowed uses of that zone district, and then determine if they would still have a desirable quality of life if the adjacent parcels were developed into any of these allowed uses. ]]>
<![CDATA[The view from my side of the fence pt 1. ]]>Mon, 25 May 2015 00:04:30 GMThttp://www.minibellys.com/blog/the-view-from-my-side-of-the-fence-pt-1This topic is going to be very in-depth and in order to not bore you out of your minds I will break this up into more bite size posts, including a ‘short version’ and the full story.  I will also post a pdf of the topic in its entirety so that you use it as late night reading material when you can't fall asleep.

A quick breakdown of the issues we will discuss: 

1. Zoning
2. Water 
3. Commercial vs Agriculture
4. Property Values
5. Property Rights 
6. Scale 
7. The Court Process

The short version-

 - We have all of the water we need adjudicated to us through the State water courts, and that water is a fraction of the amount of water required if our property was developed into 8 residential parcels 

- We are an agricultural business in a zone created to blend agriculture and residential uses.

- The courts have determined that small area plans, including the Black Forest Preservation Plan, are advisory documents meant to help assist the Board of County Commissioners in making zoning decisions.  The plan is not binding or controlling, and therefore is inviolable by a project. 

- The Black Forest Preservation Plan is outdated and doesn’t reflect the areas current demographics.

- We comply with all the zoning requirements and criteria which are necessary in obtaining a special use permit.

- A greenhouse is considered by state and federal definition to be an agricultural structure, unless specifically used for retail sales, educational purposes, or other situations where the public are allowed access on a continual basis.

- We don’t block any individual’s western views, and most people have remarked that they never notice the greenhouse as they drive by. 

The argument of scale is inapplicable, since the county zoning requirements define maximum development scale which we are well under, and there are similar and larger structures in the area already.

We have won in court once, at which point the judge handed down a 60 point treatise on why the Board of County Commissioners was within their jurisdiction to make the approval for our decision and why the courts will uphold that decision

Rumors and Lies: 
-The rumor that we might grow marijuana.  
    We wouldn’t and couldn’t grow marijuana in our greenhouse.  Not only is it unwise and unsafe but there are bigger issues at play.  Marijuana production is illegal in the unincorporated El Paso County, and our permits specifically stipulate that should we or anyone else who might own the property ever desire to grow marijuana (which we don’t), a different permitting process must take place.  The rumor that we might produce marijuana is the most dangerous to my family, and to continue to propagate it puts my family and property in danger. 

- The rumor that we are as big as a Walmart. 
  I don’t want to go into the massive twist this comparison tries to put on our project here, but I will address it later.  For now, read the wikipedia stats on walmart and keep in mind that our greenhouse is 22,464ft2. This type of fact twisting is, to say the least, slightly irritating. 

- The rumor that we are draining the aquifer.
  We are very conscious of our water use, and are able to produce more with the water we are allotted than similar residential, agricultural or commercial ventures are capable of doing.

- The rumor that we are out of state developers.  
  We are residents of Black Forest County who have taken out a personal loan to start a farm.  We did incorporate out of state for personal reasons. There are no laws requiring us to incorporate in state. 

-  The rumor that we are commercial. 
    This again is intended to be divisive, while not providing any truths. We'll talk more on this later.

- The rumor that I said ‘we can’t’ comply with the Black Forest Preservation Plan.’  
  What I specifically said was  “we really do desire to be compliant with the small area plan, but find it impossible due to the outdated nature of the Black Forest Preservation Plan. The plan was last updated in 1987 and greenhouses weren’t introduced into El Paso County land development code until 2007.” It is impossible to comply with a plan that doesn’t specifically address the issue at hand. But keep in mind, compliance isn’t required for an advisory document.

<![CDATA[This is why we need greenhouses in El Paso County...]]>Sun, 10 May 2015 17:04:15 GMThttp://www.minibellys.com/blog/this-is-why-we-need-greenhouses-in-el-paso-county
If El Paso County residents desire to have fresh local produce we must have greenhouses. 

It is May 10th 2015 and El Paso County has just endured a week of rainstorms, flooding, tornados, hail and now a blizzard.  

How is it that residents can expect farmers of this county to survive, much less flourish in this community if we don't have a way of protecting these crops.  

On May 2nd, our greenhouse was able to give away over 700 pounds of local organic produce (for free) to nearly 300 El Paso county residents, Yet,  field tomatoes won't be available until late June (maybe later now that we've had this weather).

Love us or hate us, a greenhouse is your key to year round, pesticide free, organic, local produce. 

Thank you, Board of County Commissioners, for seeing the need, and voting accordingly.  Your insight into the needs of the county have already blessed your constituents. 

On May 13th there is a meeting of a group of Black Forest residents at 6:30 in the Black Forest Community Center to try to raise funds to shut us down.  Show up to the meeting to support us! 

Viva la greenhouse!

More on the meetings.
Meanwhile, in the greenhouse....
<![CDATA[Open House success! ]]>Mon, 04 May 2015 23:29:45 GMThttp://www.minibellys.com/blog/open-house-successTo all of the community who stopped by to share in our open house: Thank you! 

We had a wonderful time getting to know you. There are so many wonderful people in our community, I only wish I had more time to get to know you all better. 

In the past we've seemed to only hear the comments labeling our greenhouse as a 'monstrosity' or as 'a dangerous precedent for Black Forest,' but it was ineffably refreshing to have you around and to hear you express your appreciation of us.  You made us feel welcome in Black Forest. 

We were able to give away over 700 pounds in tomatoes to the community.  It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.   

If you have any lingering questions or any comments, please let us know.  We want to be here for you and we want to hear from you.  

<![CDATA[Rumor has it...]]>Thu, 19 Feb 2015 00:43:45 GMThttp://www.minibellys.com/blog/rumor-has-itPicture
Is the greenhouse going to be used for growing marijuana?  This question, among all others, bothers me.  

When you purchase a car, do people ask if you are going to speed? 
When you purchase a gun, (and Black Forest, I know you guys have them), do people ask if you are going to shoot someone? 
When you build your house, do people ask if you are going to run a brothel? 

So why, may I beg, is it automatically assumed that this greenhouse has to have marijuana in it? 

Can I give you a few practical reasons why growing marijuana isn't all it's cracked up to be, and why we will never do it?  

1.  It's asking for an IRS invasion. The marijuana business is all cash, because banks don't want to mess with it. So the paper trail associated with it is a nightmare. 
2. It's a security nightmare.  Ben and I both have our wives and children on the property and we are not about to expose them to the risks associated with selling drugs. However, these rumors that we will sell pot puts our families at risk, so please stop spreading the lies! 
3.  It's not allowed in the county.  That's right folks.  It's illegal to grow marijuana in unincorporated El Paso County.
4.  We don't want to grow up with federal investigators always on our door step.  "Daddy," my little girlmight ask, "Why do the police officers always need to go through the greenhouse?"  No thank you.  

Tomatoes, dear citizens.  The kinder, gentler fruit is the way to go.  Sure, it's not thousands of dollars a pound.  But it's a clean conscience, a healthy snack, and in the end, the only way to grow.   So when your neighbor remarks on us growing pot, please correct them for the sake of my family and reputation. 

<![CDATA[Alone in the Woods]]>Thu, 19 Feb 2015 00:06:29 GMThttp://www.minibellys.com/blog/alone-in-the-woodsPicture
It's easy to feel this way when the voices that surround us are adamantly, and vehemently opposed to our existence, when those near you shout threats of unending litigation.  

Yet, I am encouraged by the trips down Black Forest road, where I bump into you in the post office or at the feed store and hear of your support for our greenhouse.   I find that in this endeavor, as in many endeavors, the loudest voice isn't the voice of the majority.  It isn't the voice of the common man. It isn't the voice of the community. 

No, your voice is more of a whisper, a quiet tone that can be heard as you help a friend load his truck, or put up his barn, or even build his greenhouse.  

And when I hear your voice I realize we aren't as alone in the woods as it seems.  Thank you Black Forest.