Family expands farm; grassroots group fights against it

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (WANE) – A lot of chickens will be coming to Whitley County soon. The Lopez family is adding four barns to their land at Adlock Farms, LLC. Their zoning request to have a farm this big was approved Tuesday.

However, not everyone is celebrating.

Whitley County commissioners approved putting their land into AGP zoning, or agricultural production zoning. That’ something the county doesn’t have right now. People like John O’Connell with Whitley Water Matters don’t support it. “This is precedence-setting. Because an AGP zone means that large scale farming; these people are going to farm 160,000 head of confined chickens. That’s huge.”

The grass roots group also advocates for water and land quality and worry about the location of all of this. “It’s .6 miles from Goose Lake. It has residents who live around that were not notified because they’re not required to be notified beyond a quarter of a mile but the people half a mile don’t want to live next to four barns with 160,000 head of chicken in them.”

O’Connell wants more discussion and community input. “The unanimous vote happened within less than five minutes on one of the most significant changes in land use in Whitley County.”

Josh and Jeremy Lopez said they’re also advocates for soil and water conservation and it’s in their backyard. “We live right there. We’re not going to do anything that would potentially hurt where we live.”

For those against it, this may not be the end of discussion. The Lopez family is moving on. “Our main goal is to further the community. It’s not to set anyone back. We would like to provide jobs down the road when we get larger. We’re just trying to help everyone out. We don’t want to be the small guy anymore; we want to be a main contributor,” Jeremy Lopez said.

“We don’t have any hard feelings towards them. I know they feel pretty strongly towards us. We live there. They don’t. A lot of these people that are opposing it don’t even live in Whitley County or grew up here,” Josh Lopez said.

Depending on quickly the process moves, development could happen this fall but it’s likely it’ll be after winter. The Lopez family still has one last step through IDEM.