Why Are Cities Attacking Home Gardeners?
In today’s installment of news that makes absolutely no sense, a Florida couple was recently forced to rip up their flourishing front yard garden because the city didn’t like the way it looked.
The couple, Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll, live in Miami Shores Village, a neighborhood that was annexed into the city of Miami in 1925. Their back yard is covered in shade, which is great if you’re avoiding the noonday heat, but bad for growing vegetables. So, 17 years ago, the couple decided to plant fruit and vegetables in the sunny front yard instead.
In May of this year, unbeknownst to Rocketts and Carroll, local officials passed an ordinance designed to protect the “distinctive character of the Miami Shores Village.” Among the things that threaten to besmirch this distinctive character? Vegetables in the front yard.
Recently, Ricketts and Carroll were visited by their local code enforcement officer and told the nearly 20 year-old garden had to go, or they would owe the city $50 a day in fines for violating the ordinance.
Shocked, the couple appeared not once but twice before the Miami Shores Code Enforcement Board to ask for an exemption. Both times they were denied. Rather than pay $1500 per month in fines, which pretty much defeats the purpose of growing your own food, the couple eventually caved and tore up their garden.
What happened to Ricketts and Carroll is just another incident in a long line of bizarre and backward laws that deny Americans the right to grow their own food on their own property. In 2011, Care2 reported on a Michigan mother who was facing jail time for planting edibles in her front yard before. The charges were eventually dropped. That same year, a judge deemed a Tennessee teacher’s urban garden, used to provide continuing education for his math and engineering students, a “public nuisance.” Then in 2012, there was the case of a Tulsa woman whose front and back yard gardens were uprooted by the city because a neighbor complained that she was growing edible plants instead of useless turf grass.
These events defy all common sense and show how obsessed we’ve become with homogenization: If it looks, smells or operates differently from the status quo, it must be a threat to society and needs to be destroyed.
Perhaps someone should remind the good people of Miami Shores Village, and all the rest of these cities, that gardening was once considered the highest form of patriotism in this country, and those who didn’t grow as much food as possible were thought to be shirking their responsibility. Rather than worrying about “aesthetics,” Village leaders would be better off informing citizens of just how wasteful it is to dump drinkable water onto a lawn they can’t eat (not to mention all the chemical pesticides and fertilizers).
The good news is, at least in this most recent case, there are efforts underway to challenge these ridiculous ordinances. First off, you can sign our petition demanding that Miami Shores let the couple restore their garden.
The Institute for Justice’s Food Freedom Initiative, which created the video below, has also become involved in Ricketts and Carroll’s case. The nonprofit legal aid group recently filed a lawsuit on the couple’s behalf — not in hopes of collecting damages, but simply for the right to replant their garden.
Image via Thinkstock