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Kentucky woman fears legacy farm in jeopardy, sues Governor Andy Beshear over COVID-19 restrictions

AgriTourism farm owner and Kentucky Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles argue Governor’s guidelines do not give business owners a chance to be heard in effort to reopen.

SCOTT COUNTY, Ky. — The Evans family has farmed in Scott County, Kentucky for more than 90 years but they fear their legacy farm is in danger as business limitations continue following COVID-19 concerns.

The family took to an agritourism model in the early 2000’s which included opening up a cider mill, 96,000-square foot play area, and wedding venue. 

Now they struggle to reopen and follow rules they feel are not fair to them or their industry.

“I have a 14-year-old daughter, I want this farm to be here for her to take over,”  Jenny Evans said, explaining her “sole purpose” for the lawsuit.

Evans insists that a lawsuit is not political. It’s challenging Governor Beshear's limitations on how many people can attend events at her farm.

She's frustrated with limitations on reopening her wedding venue and that the 96,000 square foot play center, which they claim is an area big enough to build 20 residential homes, was only allowed ten people at a time until today when that changed to 50.

She says they hired more workers to clean every surface, required face masks and put in place rules to social distance. 

Jenny claims her local health department refused their reopening plan and was confused about what category the business fell under.

The Governor's office, she says, never responded.

“It's often cited that we're all in this together. Let's work together," Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles insisted.

Quarles stood with the Evans family filing the suit he says focuses on process and the rule of law during a pandemic.

We asked the Governor's office for comment. They sent this statement: “At a time when states to our south are reporting over 8,000 new COVID-19 cases each day, the parties bringing this lawsuit want to eliminate the public health guidance and requirements that are keeping Kentuckians safe. All businesses have to follow the same rules and guidance for outdoor weddings and other activities. We are confident in the legality of these rules, and have identified numerous legal issues with the suit, including that it was filed in the wrong place. If the parties here won and the virus spread because the facility was not following proper guidance, it could threaten the reopening of our economy and public schools.”

The Evans family and Commissioner Quarles hopes that any victory in court would prevent a situation like this from happening again we were to see a spike in Coronavirus cases.

“They want to comply, they also want to do it safely and they just want to know what the rules are and have the opportunity to speak up,” said Commissioner Quarles. “There is no “I” in “Team Kentucky”. We have to do this together.”

 “We didn’t want it to come off as political,” Jenny Evans said about the lawsuit, “it's not. It's just what we have to do to try to save our farm and  I can't sit by and just watch it dwindle away.”

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►Contact reporter Chris Williams at cwilliams@whas11.com. Follow him on Twitter (@chriswnews) and Facebook.  

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