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Why Are Cities Attacking Home Gardeners?

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.

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Image via Thinkstock

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208 comments

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9:55PM PST on Jan 2, 2014

THE CITIES AND STATES OF THIS COUNTRY NEED TO STOP WITH THERE WAYS OF DENYING FRONT GARDENS.
THE LEADERS ARE FORGETTING THE FOOD THAT IS PURCHASED BY THEM AT THE GROCERY STORE OR AT THE RESTAURANT WAS POSSIBLY GROWN OF FARMS THAT ARE USUALLY IN PEOPLES FRONT YARD.
SO MY SUGGESTION TO THE LEADERS WHO ARE ARRESTING PEOPLE FOR PLANTING FOOD THEY CAN EAT, BECAUSE THEY PROBABLY DON'T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY FOR THE FOOD A GROCERY STORES IS TO GO HUNGRY AND DO NOT DRIVE NEAR THE PLACES THAT ARE GROWING FOOD.

6:03PM PST on Jan 2, 2014

Kamia T is correct. It takes only a few to rule the HOV as they like it. There are HOV's where one cannot have fans in windows. Or tell that they don't like your artwork. or the paint job is wrong or anything that pleases them.
The way is to ban together and have stat laws overturn the power of the HOV and require more transparency. Secret voting. Term limits of the ruling group. Remember it is political.

5:57PM PST on Jan 2, 2014

You are the people who allowed HOV's. You are the people who allowed these tyrants to force everybody to be the same. The cure is political out law HOV's. Outlaw restrictive zoning. Stop trying to force everyone to be like you.

2:44PM PST on Jan 2, 2014

If they were the only home growing vegetables, the law is a bill of attainder, and unconstitutional. At the very least, their garden should have been grandfathered, as it existed before the law was passed.
The garden was legal when planted.

2:34PM PST on Jan 2, 2014

It's the same ridiculous garbage I hated when I was managing condos. A few arrogant homeowners would get control of the board and vote into being rules and regulations, such as the colors that places could be painted, what could be showing from inside, etc. that had absolutely no impact on improving value, but made all the homeowner's costs go up and their enjoyment and bank accounts go down. Why you have to be SOOOOOO careful, or incredibly involved in the politics when living in planned communities of any kind.

7:27PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

What country am I living in? The home of the FREE? Does not seem so! With so much hunger going on in America and ALL SNAP, unemployement benefits being either reduced or taken away all together, there should be more vegetable gardens and screw your supposed garden esthetics. Have a friend who has a beautiful "natural" garden behind a 5 foot fence and the condo nazi complains about the plants being seen. I mean REALLY! The scary part is that the gardens are on people's properties where they pay their yearly taxes etc... So why are people's esthetics more important than a persons PRIVATE PROPERTY.

6:49PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

I was involved in the 5th community garden certiied as such, in NYC, in 1978 I believe, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and in the Organic Gardenig Club at Brooklyn College.
these were wonderful endeavors, great places to bond with one's neighbors, and the food was good, to boot!
It would be a great way to get our youngsters out of the cyber world, for a while, as in a "Tech Time Out,"and teach them that tomatoes, for instance, do not grow in cans, or on electronic screens

6:43PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

Homogenization is certainly an issue!
I guess when the entire society cares ONLY about just what the Kardashians do, or do not do, what the clowns on Duck Dynasty say, or do not say, what Mylie Cyrus wears, or does not wear, then we will have achieved the highest level of social functioning.
And George Orwell will be rolling over in his grave!

3:08AM PST on Jan 1, 2014

stupid

12:33AM PST on Jan 1, 2014

If the front yard is reasonably neat, then they should keep their garden. I have fruit trees and pineapples in my front yard, its more sustainable than grass.

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