Woman sues City of Ottawa for right to produce honey

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 6:38 AM CDT

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – Ellen Finnerty’s dream business of selling homegrown produce and home-raised honey at the farmer’s market is banned by the city of Ottawa, Kansas. The Kansas Justice Institute said it’s now helping Finnerty fight back against the town’s home-based business prohibitions.

Finnerty is a 52-year-old single mom who works full-time as a machine operator. To help support her family, Finnerty wants to sell homegrown produce and home-raised honey at the local farmer’s market. But Ottawa outlaws any home-based business not “conducted entirely within a dwelling unit” and all home-based businesses involving “animal care of any type,” where she lives. Since gardens grow outside, and honeybees are animals, Finnerty is prohibited from using her own backyard to garden and raise honey as a home-based business.

“I want to produce honey. I want to produce local honey, and I want to be able to sell it at the local farmer’s market,” Finnerty said. “All of these years of talking and daydreaming and planning, and now I’m told I can’t. It’s very disappointing.”

The KJI is challenging laws that interfere with Kansans’ ability to produce, market, and buy foods of their choosing. The KJI said this case is also part of the organization’s litigation efforts to make it easier for families to “earn honest livings.” In 2019, the 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.