CARROT FARM AT ROOT OF DISPUTE OVER ROAD.
LANCASTER - There's a carrot-growing boom in the Antelope Valley, and Diane Lombardo and Brian Villalva find themselves in the middle of it - literally.
They are not farmers but are waging battle with a corporate carrot grower that has turned empty desert into verdant carrot fields on 74 acres that surround their five-acre property in east Lancaster.
Reminiscent of the rangeland fence wars in the 19th century West, the couple erected a chain-link gate and a barbed wire fence and planted trees and shrubs alongside a dirt road that leads to their house, bisecting the carrot field.
The property owners who are leasing the land to the carrot grower, William Bolthouse Farms Inc., filed a lawsuit and obtained a temporary restraining order last month against the pair, claiming that they harassed field workers and damaged irrigation equipment.
The attorney for Lombardo and Villalva, who bought their spread three to four years ago, before the surrounding acreage was leased this year to Bolthouse to farm, denied the allegations.
``Suffice it to say there are two sides to every story, and we deny everything that (William Bolthouse) said in the lawsuit,'' said attorney Tom Ward. ``They were there first. The road that is in question is a road that has served this home for over fifty years. The prior owner built the house, and this was their driveway.''
Ward said the road ``is for egress and ingress and for no other purpose,'' and that Bolthouse workers ``are wrecking the road. Heavy equipment goes back and forth on it, and they allow irrigation water to get on it.''
The carrot operation and the couple's property are located at 45th Street East and Avenue J. The disputed dirt road is about 300 to 400 feet long and bisects the 74 acres.
``(The plaintiffs) are irate that anyone is using that road. They have fenced it off and planted shrubbery on my clients' property,'' said George Kucera, attorney for the plaintiffs. ``Even if they have a right to use the road, they don't have an exclusive right to use the road. They can't keep us from using the road.''
The couple and the landowner are due in court Monday in Palmdale for a hearing on making permanent an order barring Lombardo and Villalva from hindering Bolthouse workers from ``conducting normal carrot-growing operations'' on both sides of the disputed road.
A temporary restraining order was granted Oct. 16 by Palmdale Superior Court Commissioner Eugene Siegel.
The couple were enjoined from trespassing onto the other property for more than 15 feet from the center line of the disputed road, and, pending a hearing Monday for a permanent injunction, were banned from forbidding access to the road, court records show.
Bolthouse employees also were ordered not to cause damage to the disputed road.
The lawsuit was filed Oct. 16 on behalf of Cal-Land Resource I Association Inc., a property owners association, and Land Resource Concepts Inc., the manager for Cal-Land, court records show.
A declaration by Land Resource Concepts President Darren Proulx, filed in support of the temporary restraining order, stated that Bolthouse spent $46,000 leveling and grading the property and has given notice that it intends to cancel its lease unless the situation is rectified,'' court records show.
The amount of land dedicated to farming is on the rise in the Antelope Valley, with carrots and potatoes leading the way.
Officials report a net gain of 3,329 acres of commercial farmland in Los Angeles County last year, primarily because of newly irrigated land in the Antelope Valley. The land is being used to grow carrots and potatoes.
Carrot and potato farming has been established on about 1,550 acres of newly irrigated land in two areas - at Lancaster's east side and in Alpine Butte between Palmdale and Lake Los Angeles.
(color) The disputed road bisects 74 acres of carrot fields that surround a couple's five-acre property in east Lancaster.
Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Nov 4, 2001|
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