By Mark Wilkes
Why would anyone want to undermine a family’s ability to earn an honest living from relationships that have existed since the beginning of time? One of the strengths of our country from the beginning and illuminated throughout our Constitution is the right to freely exchange goods and services between different parties without unreasonable government encroachment. The ability to accomplish this can only exist if property is owned by individuals and that ownership is allowed to freely exist.
My wife and I began our lives together sharing a dream of using our collective personal strengths, hard work, and earned resources to someday start a family business. We raised our nine children with the understanding that they were responsible for the decisions that affected their future. We taught them to stay out of debt, to not be afraid of hard work, and to give of their time and resources to help others. They learned through the trials and struggles of life that our choices have consequences and life is not so much what happens to you but how you respond to it. We held our children responsible for their attitudes and actions. If you speed and get a ticket it is your responsibility. As we worked out our lives together embracing the good and the not -o-good times as all part of the process of maturing, we decided to stay and work together as a family.After a time of research we decided that farming provided the best opportunity for us to live out our dream and accomplish our goals, so we started Honey Brook Farm in Culpeper, Virginia. I told my children that I would be able to underwrite the farm for the first three years and then it had to pay its own way. We borrowed no money, did not accept any government grants or handouts. This was to be our farm. Our beginning officially arrived when my wife’s sister showed up at our door with three laying hens she had brought to us in the back of her car. My children jumped into action. Today, seven years later Honey Brook Farms supports four families.
A large part of our success was due to the private property rights of our nation. These rights gave us confidence and helped us to be willing to invest our time and limited resources into ventures that would allow us to prosper. Our founding fathers knew that prosperity of a nation could only occur if the people had a protected right to property and its use. They knew infringements of that right would lead to insecurity and an unwillingness to risk precious time in ventures or ideas whose success could be undermined by the edict of a government or individual with more personal power. Because of this our nation has thrived to the point that it is a desired haven for a large part of the world. Many of these immigrants come from countries where property rights are not protected. As a young man I was amazed when people from foreign countries immigrated to the U.S., arriving with nothing but the clothes on their back and within a few short years were successful entrepreneurs. Why? Because of protected property rights which allowed them by the sweat of their brow to prosper without fear of their success being undermined by unreasonable government restraints. I was encouraged by these immigrants to do the same thing.
So imagine my shock a few weeks ago to discover that two trusted and elected men in our government had put forth bills to compromise and undermine the private property rights of farmers and those individuals who have contracted with them of their own free will to enjoy the benefits of their shared resources. Virginia House Bill No. 825 and Virginia Senate Bill No. 962 will for all intents and purposes stop the ability of well-informed consumers from freely being able to be in partnership with a local farmer for products and goods derived from their mutual ownership of a dairy herd. The freedom of individuals to invest in a dairy herd and to benefit, as an owner, from their investment is being attacked. One must ask why? Who does this benefit? Who is behind this attack? This attack at present may seem to be only against farmers and those who have chosen to invest in a dairy herd, but I can almost guarantee that if this is allowed to happen it will ultimately spread to affect more of our freedoms. We are not a perfect country, but we do have many things that are worth protecting. I believe property rights are one of them.