A Maryland farmer is trying to save his small farm after being stuck in a Catch 22 with state highway officials. The dispute comes at a time when the state is promoting local farms.
"The old bus," says Jonathan Sadd. "That was the first vehicle I purchased for the farm market."
That was back in 1998, and for the next eleven years with the help of that old school bus he sold watermelons, heirloom tomatoes and other fresh produce at a roadside stand on River Road near the Kenwood Country Club in Bethesda.
Flash forward to August of 2011. As Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-Md.) urges consumers to support local farmers, Sadd is struggling to save his 10-year-old farm after being evicted from his roadside stand by Maryland's Highway Administration, even though the stand was licensed by Montgomery County.
"Well, it's probably cost me at least a hundred grand over the last season and a half that we haven't been able to sell," he says. "Oh it's major from the schoolteachers who would help me out during the summer. They've lost work and it's my livelihood; it's how I survive."
Sadd says state highway officials have given multiple and sometimes conflicting reasons why his stand had to go. They claimed it was against federal law, and then they said it was against state law.
"We've done everything we were supposed to do," says Sadd. "We got the law changed and the last eighteen months they’ve had us running in circles."
Now officials say its not a safe location for a stand.
"Highway safety must always be the priority and traffic engineers have determined that a market in that location is a traffic hazard," says Jack Cahalan, spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Transportation.
Since Sadd opened his stand, he says there hasn’t been a single incident.
Next week he'll join highway administration staff for a mediation meeting.
Meanwhile, he's launched an online petition campaign asking Gov. O'Malley to support local farmers.