by Anna Hunt
With urban farming becoming more popular and more common, people are starting to consider their front and back yards as a potential space for growing healthy, organic produce. Yet, front yards may actually be off limits if you’re thinking of starting a food garden. Various city ordinances and, in some neighborhoods, your Home Owner’s Association (HOA) may threaten you with a misdemeanor and hefty fines if you incorporate unusual, tall or non-decorative plants into your front yard.
Is this a benign effort to protect property values and to conform to a certain standard, or is this a sign of a larger conspiracy by mega-food companies to protect their market stronghold by exerting influence over local government?
Growing plants that produce food in tandem with plants that support the ecosystem and attract native bugs and pollinating bees is an effective method of creating an edible landscape, and an important part of bringing about an equitable food system. Vegetables and flowers mixed together in geometrically-positioned raised beds, planters and containers, or in-ground lots can make for a very productive and attractive front yard garden.
In the following short interview, Ian Lindsay, a professor at Purdue University, offers some helpful hints about front yard food gardening and discusses some of the political issues that have led him to take control over what food his family eats.
Is growing a vegetable garden in your front yard really such a horrible act that we must punish people for doing so? It seems like a ridiculous question, but there are, agencies, enforcement officers and authorities that are willing to do just that.
- In 2011, Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan was charged with a misdemeanor and threatened with jail time for planting a vegetable garden in her front yard.
- In British Columbia, Dirk Becker was threatened with six months in jail for converting an acre of his 2.5-acre lot into an organic farm. What’s even more unsettling about the charges in this case is that the lot was literally stripped bare down to a gravel pit before this. The owner spent over a decade healing the land and converting it into a self-contained ecosystem that is now home to thriving vegetable crops, fruit trees, bees, butterflies, birds, frogs, dragonflies and more. But because the area is zoned a “residential” lot, the local government is calling on him to “cease all agricultural activity” or pay the consequences.
- Earlier this year, city inspectors bulldozed more than 100 types of plants, including garlic chives, strawberry and apple mint, being grown by Denise Morrison in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The inspectors said her plants were too tall, but city code allows for plants over 12 inches if they’re meant for human consumption, which hers were. Morrison is now suing the city for violating her civil rights.
- Steve Miller was fined $5,200 for growing vegetables in his Clarkston, Georgia backyard, which he not only consumed but also sold at farmers markets and shared with friends. – Dr. Mercola
The Orlando Planning Board voted to recommend that the City Council adopt an ordinance that would force the Helvenstons to uproot approximately 50 percent of their popular city vegetable garden, effectively eliminating a significant portion of their food supply. – Mother Earth News
If politicians are susceptible to corruption at the national level, could it be that local city ordinances criminalizing food gardens are a way for the food industry giants to manipulate the food supply chain, ensuring more customers at the grocery store? Even with such speculation aside, it is no secret that industrial food production and retail chains are represented by powerful and wealthy lobbies.
Our access to food is being monopolized, the quality of our food is being sabotaged, our options are shrinking, and time is running out. If city governments are willing to prosecute people for opting out of a polluted food system, then it reasons that they are at least unwittingly serving the interests of food corporations.
Supporting Food, Not Conformity
Planting a front yard food garden, or any type of home garden, even if it starts with only a few pots and planters of tomatoes and herbs, is a great way to take control over what food you are eating. Growing food makes sense because our conventional supply chain is becoming more unreliable and offers decreasing options for affordable nutritious food.
When living amidst manicured green lawns, a food garden will stand out and might upset some people. Yet, it is perfectly reasonable to exercise the simple right to grow food, especially on your own property. So don’t be afraid of city ordinances and HOA bullies. Instead, embrace your rights and take control over your life, health and liberty.
The Helvenstons, from Orlando, Florida, are a great example. When threatened by the City to remove their edible front yard food garden, this young couple, with the aid of a supportive community and world-wide support, fought city hall, and won! PatriotGardens.Blogspot.com
It is easy to think that growing your own food is difficult, but the hardest part is the first plant. Once you realize what a joy it is to connect with your food, and just how easy and fun gardening is, you’ll thank yourself. Spring is right around the corner, so find a sunny space, purchase some starter plants, and get started.
There are numerous resources that offer information about home food cultivation; some are provided below. Perhaps you’ll be faced with some interesting battles with your local government authorities, but you might also start a trend that transforms your home town into an edible town. And you’ll also be doing your duty to ensure that future generations are able to exercise the basic right to grow nutritious food.
Home Gardening Resources:
Organic Gardening 101
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