To vegetable or not to vegetable…Citizens revolt!

Front Yard Vegetable Garden
Front Yard Vegetable Garden
image: The Agitator

You can’t have a lifestyle trend such as urban farming or edible frontyards without some controversy. Did you know that there really are many cities and towns with old bylaws or zoning codes that prohibit a person from actually eating any food they grow in their own yard!  While some cities such as San Francisco, New York, Baltimore, Seattle and Detroit have begun to change laws and policy in support of urban agriculture, and as this trend continues to thrive because of food safety and security issues, the growing foodie locavore movement and urban hipster cred, many citizens in other cities and towns have been threatend with jail time or fines for planting a garden or organic farm on their own property.

Yes, it seems that vegetable gardens are just not good for you or the community in these towns. Who knew planting a garden or creating an urban agriculture landscape could be the sign of a budding citizen activist. Let the revolution unfold. Here is a round up of some of the latest news of people who want to live a healthier lifestyle and grow their own food but now are being treated like criminals for doing so.

Julie Bass in Oak Park, Michigan where after her front yard was torn up to replace a sewer line, she decided to plant a vegetable garden instead of the lawn that was originally there. But instead of being praised for her decision, she has been cited by code enforcement as a misdemeanor because they say that the edible garden is not a “suitable” front yard choice. City code says that all unpaved portions of a site shall be planted with grass or groundcover or shrubbery or other suitable live plant material.  According to the Planning Director,  suitable means common and since there are no other vegetable gardens in the city’s  front yards the Bass garden is unsuitable. But, a quick look at Websters will tell you otherwise. You be the judge – does Julia Bass deserve jail time for planting a vegetable garden that even her neighbors might enjoy?  Read more in this excerpt from the source.

Now take the story in Vancouver Island, Dirk Becker may soon be joining the lady in Michigan who was recently threatened with 93 days in jail for growing a garden in her front yard.  Becker, of Lantzville, British Columbia turned his 2.5 acre property which was a gravel pit into a thriving organic farm. The Beckers were cited under the  ”unsightly premises”  bylaw for having piles of manure on their property.  According to the post on  the letter came on the very day 8,000 compost bins were distributed to residents in their community. So gravel pit = okay but beautiful organic farm with real soil = not okay.  Read the rest of the story and decide for yourself.

by April Philips

One thought on “To vegetable or not to vegetable…Citizens revolt!

  1. asla staff July 6, 2012 / 5:09 pm

    Burney Morgan Says:
    July 18, 2011 at 10:40 pm
    The Becker Farm was certainly an improvement because of several reasons such as when you enrich the health of soil you prevent soil erosion, increase productivity of soil, etc etc. Its just a win win situation. So far as the Bass front yard raised boxes seem lined up and not objectionable to me. With the addition of flowering herbs would look quite nice. I will be doing the same as the Bass family but in my rear yard and will add latticework for aesthetics. My wife and I have found that a small raised plot will produce more veggies than you might think and the flavor is outstanding since its organic. I am also a distributor of an outstanding natural soil microbial product that is shipped worldwide and 45 states. It is treating over 250,000 acres in California alone. Its quite enjoyable to grow your own produce with very little fertilizers, only microbes.
    Also, Landscape Architects need to be trained/informed about natural soil microbes, what they do and how they contribute to the health of soil.
    Burney Morgan
    Landscape and Organic Architect


    Thomas Biro Says:
    July 21, 2011 at 1:52 pm
    It is my experience that most zoning laws make for bad design.


    Josey Earp Says:
    July 28, 2011 at 12:46 am
    Just another way the Government is taking away our Freedoms. Stand by your guns Julie, you have the whole country behind you!!! This is a beautiful garden.

    The city is saying, “be like everyone else” how boring. Grass cost alot of money and even more to maintain. Cutting, trimming, feeding and all for what, you can’t eat it, unless you are a goat, cow, or horse. I am real sure Oak Park would frown on any ag animal mowing it down. Total up the cost of the organic veggies from the store and give the bill to the neighbor who called the city. Maybe she would like to help out and pay for this food. Lord knows Julie needs it with six children.

    My raised beds consist of tractor and semi truck tires, this helps keep everything growing long into fall with the cooler nights. Two pepper plants call an old steamer trunk home along with a 40 foot Black Walnut tree growing in the front yard.

    Josey Earp


    Debra Says:
    October 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm
    It is amazing what some will do to upset the comfort of others. I have a suggestion for Julie that maybe she could plant a Rosemary or Lavender hedge that her garden can grow behind. Perhaps then her family would reap the benefit of nutrient rich homegrown food while the neighbor and officials won’t easily see her garden as they troll by and eat their food from the grocery store full of pesticides and who knows what else. Kudos to Julie and anyone else brave enough to challenge stupid, unhealthy ordinances.

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