ADVERTISEMENT

The Town of Wales’ argument with a couple who want to raise goats for their milk to make organic, handcrafted soap seems shortsighted.

Why not allow Kerry and Eric Beiter to run their business in the rural town?

Eric is a science teacher in West Seneca Central Schools; Kerry was an agriculture inspector at the U.S.-Canadian border before their first child was born in 2004. Both seem like the kind of responsible small business owners any town would want – except Wales, population 3,000, which is requiring a special-use permit for the goats.

According to the state, the town’s special-use permit is unreasonably restrictive for a farm in an approved agricultural district, such as the Beiters live in. One would think that would be enough to end this dispute. It isn’t.

Here’s the back story, as reported by The News’ Barbara O’Brien:

The Beiters acquired three goats several years ago. In 2009 the town required them to get a large animal permit from the town, which allowed no more than six goats. The following year the Beiters received a two-year renewal.

With the goats at work, the Beiters made cheese and soap for the family. Then they bought and leased additional land and acquired more goats and started their soap-making business, Alpine Made.

Now, they have 14 goats, grazing on a certified organic farm. The Beiters have passed state inspections and have approved grazing and nutrient management plans. Everything would be all good if it weren’t for that pesky permit requirement that limits them to six goats.

This year, the town changed the code, making the permit permanent instead of renewable, but allowing it to be revoked if conditions change. The Beiters don’t like this change, and who could blame them? No business would want to work under the possibility of having its permit revoked at any point in the future. And the limit of six goats makes the business, well, not a business but a hobby.

The Beiters have, by all accounts, tried to do the right thing. Even the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, which oversees state-certified agricultural districts, has told the town on several occasions that it has gone too far.

It’s time for town officials to stop butting heads with the Beiters and their goats.