July 12, 2024

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Ottawa beekeeper wins sweet victory for home-based businesses

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People in Ottawa, Kansas who want home-based businesses to sell honey and produce won a victory recently, thanks to Ellen Finnerty and Kansas Justice Institute.

Finnerty, 52, sued the city of Ottawa, Kansas earlier this year challenging the city’s prohibition on home-based businesses that involve “animal care of any type.”

However, according to a release from the Kansas Justice Institute,  four months after she teamed with Kansas Justice Institute to file a lawsuit challenging Ottawa’s unconstitutional home-based business prohibitions, the City of Ottawa relented and changed their ordinances to allow her the chance to supplement her income.

“Sweet! What a great victory, not only for me, but for everyone who wants to live a natural, healthy life, and earn an honest living from it,” Finnerty said. “After the city told me no, I’m so thankful for Kansas Justice Institute. I could not have done this without them.”

The prohibition was particularly odd, as city code did not prevent Finnerty from keeping bees — she simply wasn’t allowed to sell any honey.

“We’re incredibly pleased the city changed its laws so Ms. Finnerty can start her dream business,” KJI litigation director Sam MacRoberts, himself a beekeeper, said. “The city correctly recognized that it shouldn’t be a crime to use your own backyard to produce homegrown vegetables and home-raised honey.

“People have gardened and safely raised honey for thousands of years, and the city, to its great credit, understood there wasn’t a good reason to prevent Ellen from starting her home-based business. We’re thrilled that Ellen can start her dream business.” 

Finnerty is a single mother who works full-time as a machine operator. To help support her family, Finnerty wanted the opportunity to sell homegrown produce and home-raised honey at the local farmer’s market. Now she can.

“Ellen didn’t sue the city for money,” MacRoberts said. “She was fighting to protect everyone’s rights under the Kansas Constitution — the right to earn an honest living and to be able to use your own backyard for a safe and peaceful purpose.”

However, he said, the problem persists throughout the state with codes which make it difficult to operate a home-based business.

“This is an important victory in Ottawa, but our work isn’t done,” MacRoberts said. “Cities throughout the state continue to improperly, and unconstitutionally, restrict home-based businesses.”

This case is part of KJI’s litigation campaign challenging laws that interfere with Kansans’ ability to produce, market, and buy foods of their choosing. This case is also part of KJI’s litigation efforts to make it easier for families to earn an honest living. In 2019, KJI successfully sued the State of Kansas over its raw milk advertising prohibition, and in 2020, KJI sued the State over its occupational licensing requirement involving eyebrow threading


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