Shelby County Environmental Court judge Larry Potter has ruled that math teacher Adam Guerrero can keep his urban garden. Even more, the judge is advocating to help Guerrero find a plot of blighted land in Memphis and turn it into an educational garden:
“I never said you could not have a garden,” said Potter, clearly concerned about the negative attention his court has received of late. “That’s inaccurate. I’ve always encouraged environmental activism, sustainability, going green, and blight reduction.”
Online activism, including a Care2 petition, helped influence the judge’s decision. Guerrero will be allowed to keep the urban ecosystem of bee hives, worm bins, sunflowers and much more that he and his Memphis students have created. He will have to make some accommodations including keeping his front yard garden trimmed, installing a bubbler, introducing mosquito-eating fish into his backyard pond, reducing the number of worm bins and putting mesh covers on rain barrels to keep mosquitoes out.
Jovantae, Jarvis, and Shaquielle, the three students who have worked with Guerrero in his garden, all witnessed the courthouse proceedings with permission from both their schools and parents. They all described their eagerness to get back to work in the garden, with Jovantae saying “We’ll be back at it tomorrow.”
Also present was Guerrero’s neighbor, Levi Dowdy, who had brought the complaint and expressed concerns about the smells from Guerrero’s garden and the rats he says it attracts. “All the people on Facebook saying that it’s okay, yeah it’s okay to them because they probably live in Germantown or in Collierville, and they don’t have to smell it everyday,” said Dowdy, referring to some of Memphis’s fancier neighborhoods.
Guerrero’s garden not only makes a contribution to his community by creating a small oasis of plants and growing things in the city. It has also served as a valuable after-school activity for inner-city students and has taught them practical lessons in mathematics and engineering, not to mention technical skills. Judge Potter’s ruling is a step in the right direction in encouraging cities to review and even revise outdated codes about agriculture in urban settings.
It’s not an understatement to say that Guerrero’s is now a victory garden in the truest sense of the word.
Thank you to all who signed the Care2 petition to keep Guerrero’s garden growing!
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Photo by Orin Zebest