Farmers look to golfers to help in legal fight

Prospect farmer Whitney Miller Caporaso, pictured above, and her husband Chris are hosting a golf benefit to raise money for legal fees to appeal a decision by the town of Prospect in Superior Court. –FILE PHOTO

PROSPECT — The owners of Bodhichitta Farms in Prospect are turning to golf to raise money for a legal battle with the town.

Bodhichitta Farms, which is owned by Whitney Miller Caporaso and her husband Chris and located on Straitsville Road, operated as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for a couple of years until last summer when Land Use Inspector Bill Donovan issued a cease-and-desist order.

At a CSA, members purchase a share of the farm preseason and pick up a box of produce each week during the growing season. The town asserts that the Caporasos violated their special permit issued in 2008, which specified that produce would be taken off site for sale. The cease-and-desist order was upheld by the Zoning Board of Appeals last October.

The cease-and-desist order prompted the Caporasos to apply for a new special permit for a farm stand on the 1.7 acre property and an amendment to their original special permit to allow for retail sales on their farm. In February, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to deny both special permits.

The Caporasos are currently fighting against the Zoning Board of Appeal’s ruling in court, arguing that their CSA does not qualify as retail sales since CSA members assume the risks inherent in the agricultural process.

The legal battle has taken a financially toll on the couple.

Whitney Miller Caporaso said the couple has spent about $8,000 in legal and application fees dealing with town boards and estimates they will have to spend another $10,000 to fight the town in Superior Court.

“We created our farm in 2008 based on our strong belief in the power of locally produced food to bring people together,” said Whitney Miller Caporaso in a news release. “We are not litigious people, but Prospect’s odd rule barring ‘roadside sale of agricultural products’ and its expansion of that practice to include consumer shares leaves us no choice. We must defend our farm and our CSA.”

Currently, the couple travels to farmer’s markets to sell their produce and relies on retail sales to make up for most of the lost revenues from the former CSA-members, according to Whitney Miller Caporaso.

Whitney Miller Caporaso of Bodhichitta Farms in Prospect goes through some vegetables at a recent farmer’s market. –CONTRIBUTED

In the hopes of raising money to help pay for legal costs, the couple is organizing a benefit golf tournament. The tournament is scheduled for Oct. 13, with an 11 a.m. start time, at the Woodhaven Country Club, 275 Miller Road, Bethany. The cost is $150 per golfer or $550 for a foursome and includes nine holes of golf with a cart and a cookout. Tickets to the cookout only are $100 each.

“We want to keep growing healthy, organic food for the community, and this is the only way we can do that,” said Whitney Miller Caporaso in a news release.

For more information on the golf benefit or for tickets, call Whitney Miller Caporaso at (203) 244-4340 or e-mail