A small-time Windsor farmer who was forced to close his egg stand as result of a dispute with a neighboring winery over driveway access said he should be able build a new entryway and reopen for business, thanks to a donation of asphalt and gravel from a Santa Rosa company.
Wise Acre Farms owner Bryan Boyd, who shut down his drive-up egg business when Windsor Oaks Vineyard & Winery insisted he no longer use a small stretch of their road, said the “generous donation” from BoDean Co. will enable him to build a new driveway.
“This will be the key to moving forward with the construction project,” he said Tuesday.
Windsor resident Josh Cleaver, director of sales and volume control for BoDean, said he was very impressed with the local sustainable egg operation and wanted to help out after reading of Boyd’s plight.
“If we can help in any way, I thought let’s do it,” Cleaver said. “It’s an organic, small business. People want to see those things succeed.”
Boyd’s stand-off with the winery was viewed as a David vs. Goliath story, with his sympathizers complaining that Windsor Oaks was being unneighborly, if not a bully, by threatening to take legal action if his relatively small number of customers continued to use their driveway.
For some, it illustrated the difficulty of survival for hard-working, small-time food farmers in the face of growing wine and vineyard operations that gobble up land and resources.
“Goliath hoards more than its fair share of water, agricultural land and road space,” local environmental activist Shepherd Bliss, a critic of “industrial vineyards” wrote in a Press Democrat opinion piece reflecting on the disappointment over the retail egg operation closure last week. “These wine barons run a wine empire.”
The roughly 15-acre parcel Boyd has leased for the past four years for his 1,200 free-roaming hens is surrounded by vineyards. He said the biggest challenge in trying to farm in Windsor is the amount of land taken up by wine grapes.
The dispute over access to his farm stemmed from the sale of the road to the winery more than a decade ago by Boyd’s landlords, Bob and Edna Honsa.
The road off Arata Lane that leads to the winery also has about a 30-foot section that leads into the Honsa property where Boyd lives and where his customers drove.
Boyd said only about eight cars per day pulled up to his egg stand, where they could select a dozen eggs, or more, from a refrigerated case and leave their money in an honor-system transaction.
But the winery threatened him with legal action because after selling the road, the Honsas had agreed that the driveway into their property would be restricted to residential use, which apparently excludes a commercial agricultural operation such as Boyd’s.
A winery official did not respond to a request for comment this week, but previously blamed the predicament on the landlords for allowing their tenant, Boyd, to use the road for a non-residential purpose, and violating the conditions of the easement.
The Honsas say their land has been used for a century to raise sheep, grow apples and grapes and they never expected it would land-lock a farming operation.
Windsor Oaks is in the process of improving the driveway as part of a planned construction of a wine tasting room; more than doubling its production to a maximum of 100,000 cases annually; and adding a number of industry-wide and special events, including weddings.