After the city of Oak Park Michigan tore up Julie Bass’ front yard to replace a sewer line, the homeowner and mother saw an opportunity. Rather than replacing the front yard with dirt and a lawn, she decided to put in a vegetable garden. It’s a decision that could land Bass in jail.
That’s right. Despite crippling economic woes and persistent blight, Bass is facing prison for growing basil, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers and more. All in all Bass constructed five large planters where her family’s front yard used to be. And those planters violate city code, which calls for all unpaved portions of a front yard to be covered with grass, ground cover or shrubbery or “other suitable live plant material.”
Apparently home-grown vegetables are not considered suitable.
In a city where there were no fireworks for the Fourth of July and where the work-week has shrunk to four days a week to save money, Bass is facing a jury trial for trying to grow healthy food for her family.
According to Bass the front yard garden has been a hit with neighborhood kids who have even come to help. And Bass has the support of some of her neighbors who see the garden as a wonderful addition to the neighborhood, though one reporter was able to track down a neighbor who thought the garden would be more suitable in the backyard.
Residential zoning disputes are commonplace, but this seems like a particularly foolish fight for the city of Oak Park to take. When politicians insist that middle class families need to show more self-reliance in the face of a stagnant economy what better way than to grow your own vegetables? In addition to providing neighborhood children with a valuable science lesson Bass has created a space, an idea, that food is not something to be separated from our home–indeed food is to part of our home.
If you think the city of Oak Park’s prosecution of Bass is absurd, sign our petition and tell them so. Mothers should not face jail time for growing food for their families.
Photo from purplejavatroll via flickr.