How did a small family-farmer transform into a national headline?
Why did she join the 2015 Congressional Property Rights Caucus Roundtable, and become The Property Rights Foundation of America’s “Nation’s Grassroots Property Rights Leader”?
It started with a young girl’s childhood dream.
Martha Boneta grew up in Mount Vernon, Virginia. She attended George Mason University for both her undergraduate and law degree, later studying Alternative Dispute Resolution at the prestigious Strauss Institute of Pepperdine University. After school, Martha worked in government relations at ICS, then became a strategic account executive at Reed Elsevier.
Martha’s childhood dream became a reality when she purchased Liberty Farm.
Unfortunately, her American Dream quickly deteriorated into an American nightmare.
Her farm became the epicenter of attacks from extreme environmental groups. Using agencies ranging from the Virginia Department of Transportation to Animal Control, these groups subjected Martha to many abusive inspections.
This exploitation culminated in zoning violation charges for the farm’s hay rides, birthday parties, on-site sale of farm goods, and pumpkin carving in the pumpkin patch.
The penalty? A $15,000 per day fine if she did not immediately cease all operations.
“The experience was crushing, and I was heartbroken,” Martha said.
Refusing to endure this violation of their property, Martha and her family began to fight back. Agreeing with George Washington, she believed that “freedom rests on the shoulders of property rights.”
Martha proceeded to attend three Leadership Institute (LI) trainings -- the Future Candidate School, the Crisis Communication Training, and the Public Speaking Workshop -- where she learned the valuable grassroots skills to combat overbearing government.
“The Leadership Institute was able to provide significant insight into overcoming obstacles and having the courage and network of resources available to create coalitions and legislation,” Martha said.
The strength of these bipartisan coalitions devastated the liberal opposition.
More than “7,000 Virginians wrote petition letters, made phone calls, and attended rallies and General Assembly hearings in support of legislation to protect family farmers,” Martha said.
This activism led to the passage of the Boneta Bill I and II, which limited government’s ability to overregulate small farmers, allowed farmers to engage in on-farm activity to attract customers, and provided consumers better access to locally produced farm goods.
The new documentary Farming in Fear produced by Sean Malone of Honest Enterprise depicts Martha’s nine-year battle to save her livelihood. The film premiers at the Anthem Film Festival on July 11.
When asked about the film, Martha responded:
The message people walk away with is hope. The idea that even though government and powerful special interests so often seem unbeatable, and that it’s pointless to even try to defend your rights against those kinds of odds, it is actually possible to succeed if you persevere and stand strong for truth, justice, and the American Dream.
Martha also plans to speak at the 44th National Fourth of July Conservative Soiree hosted at Bull Run Park (Centreville, VA) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. All who attend receive free admittance to the food, the fun, and the great company of other conservatives!
Though the fight for her farm ended, Martha knows she must continue to promote freedom, declaring:
My heart will always be on the farm, but I have a great passion for community engagement and grassroots organization. If we are not zealously and passionately protecting our freedom, we will no longer be free. This experience has taught me to never, ever give up on the American Dream. It is my hope and prayer that others will be inspired by my family’s journey to stand strong to keep the flame of liberty burning bright.
The Leadership Institute thanks Martha for her dedication to conservative principles and congratulates her for receiving LI’s Conservative Leader Award.
To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member for the Conservative Leader Award or Conservative Leader-In-Training Award, please contact LI's Director of External Affairs Carol Wehe, at Carol@LeadershipInstitute.org.
The Leadership Institute offers over 44 types of training programs, working with more than 1,581 conservative student groups, and helping employers connect with conservative jobseekers. Since the Institute’s 1979 founding, LI has trained more than 165,050 conservative activists, students, and leaders. Graduates include members of Congress, state legislators, local officials, media personalities, and conservative organization leaders. For more information, please visit: www.LeadershipInstitute.org.