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Muskegon County farm hit with $75,000 nuisance lawsuit

The owners of Hidden Creek Farm in Dalton Township are being sued by their neighbor for disrupting his lifestyle.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — After spending two years becoming state-certified, a Muskegon County farm is being sued by both their neighbor and the township. 

Lee Witte and Crystal Brummans bought their Dalton Twp. home in 2014 with the intention of using it to farm.

"We just wanted to know where our food was coming from, and know that it was good, clean food for us," Witte said Thursday. 

Their farm, Hidden Creek, has grown and developed over the last few years and turned into a community staple. 

"I come weekly to get my raw goat milk share," said customer Angie Dean. 

"I think they are doing such good for the community...their animals are well cared for, it's clean, and if a place like this is going to be shut down, I think other farmers need to be really worried," Dean said. 

Brummans and Witte say the neighbor suing them is the same man who helped them till their land several years ago. 

"So, I'm not a hundred percent sure what changed and made him file the complaint," Brummans said. 

According to the lawsuit filed May 8, the farm has disrupted the neighbors 'peaceful residential lifestyle,' by creating a 'nauseating' smell and attracting large crowds for retail sales. 

Brummans said it started with a complaint filed with the township, on behalf of her neighbor. But several weeks later, she said she received phone calls from the neighbor and township's attorneys about a court hearing that afternoon. 

"I basically had like 10 minutes to get down there and they were filing a temporary restraining order" Brummans said. 

A Muskegon County judge signed off on the restraining order the next day, which meant Hidden Creek had to cancel their Mother's Day event and all events following it.

Hidden Creek Farm sells things like eggs, beef, pork, honey, milk and flowers. The township has sued the farm saying they are violating township residential ordinances. Brummans said they spent several years becoming certified with the state of Michigan, so that they could operate the farm in a residential zone. 

"We go through lots of different processes to be certified through the state," Brummans said. "The Right to Farm Act was created for this specific reason, saying that if you're not zoned agriculture, you have the right to farm on your property." 

"If we had to get rid of this, we wouldn't have anything," Brummans said. 

The next hearing on the two cases has not been set, but community members are banding together to attend a township meeting on June 10. 

T-shirts and decals can be purchased to help pay for legal fees accumulated by small farmers, like Witte and Brummans.

Neither the township nor the neighbor wanted to comment on the pending lawsuits. 

► Emma Nicolas is a multimedia journalist. Have a news tip or question for Emma? Get in touch by email, Facebook or Twitter.

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