There has been a disturbing trend in the past couple years of local officials outright attacking, through legal channels, people's gardens, homesteads, and other efforts to provide their families with food. Julie Bass, of Oak Park Hates Veggies
, has been the center of such attack (her story can be found here
) and has published this open letter to officials regarding these attacks and has requested I repost it here:
In the past year or so, I have seen a growing assault on a specific
type of individual freedom. A seemingly innocuous activity has drawn the
ire of local officials, and when I tell you what it is, you will think
it is so silly you just might laugh. You might even think that paying
attention to this issue is a waste of your limited time, but I can
assure you from my own personal experience that it absolutely is not.
In June of 2011 I faced a 93 day jail sentence for growing vegetables
in my front yard. Yes, you read that correctly. There was no other
issue, no hidden criminal mischief, no homeowner’s association, no
history of any other violations. There was nothing in the municipal code
that prohibited growing vegetables in the front yard, nor was there
anything, unsightly or even vaguely menacing. Yet I was charged with a
misdemeanor. If my case was an isolated incident, we could just
attribute it to an overzealous city planner and that would be the end of
But in September of 2011, Memphis high school teacher Adam Guerrero
was ordered to dismantle a similar garden. In his case, he used the
garden to educate students from the local high school about growing
food, making soap and biodiesel, harvesting honey, and giving youth
productive and constructive ways to use their time. For this he was
dragged into court and labelled a troublemaker.
In June of 2012 Karl Tricamo of Ferguson, Missouri was ordered to
tear up his front yard garden in spite of the fact that it clearly
violated no zoning ordinance. He chose to stand his ground rather than
capitulate to bullying by his city, but it was a difficult fight, and
one that a law-abiding citizen should not have to wage. Karl won his
fight too, but the city is planning to retaliate by drafting new and
stricter gardening ordinances that will prevent him from continuing to
plant in the future.
Perhaps most egregious, though, is the case of Denise Morrison in
Tulsa, Oklahoma. Denise grew a varied garden of herbs, flowers, fruits,
nuts, and vegetables. She was cited by her city for violating their
zoning ordinances. And while her case was pending, before she had her
hearing, city workers came and razed her garden. That’s right. No due
process. no fair trial. All because some local bureaucrats wouldn’t
tolerate one woman growing some of her own food.
So what can you do? I am asking you to be courageous enough to
sponsor a bill that will protect a citizen’s right to grow food. I am
asking you to pass into law something that should already be obvious to
thinking people: that a free citizen should have the right (barring
legitimate concerns over safety and welfare of others, of course) to
grow food on their own property. Protect individuals from the petty
tyranny of local governments.
Yes, I know we can vote in local elections, and we do. But wouldn’t
it be wonderful if you took a stand on this issue? I’ll tell you who
would support you, because they supported me during my fight with the
city (which i won, by the way): people who care about: food safety, food
rights, water conservation, energy conservation, organics, local
politics, human rights, keeping government in check, farming, slow food,
eating local, land use issues, environmentalists, water quality, peak
oil concerns, saving money, healthy diets, teaching and learning,
improvising in a tough economy, self-sufficiency, therapeutic benefits
of gardening, creating strong neighborhoods and regaining a sense of
community, taking pride in what you work for (a most American value),
as well as many other things.
It used to be that Americans were encouraged to plant Victory
Gardens. Average people felt they were helping their country and their
families by putting their hands in their soil and growing some of what
they ate. They took pride in the fact that they were able to see the
results of their effort on their very own dinner table. Today many
people struggle from paycheck to paycheck. Slogans are thrown around
about how best to help people who are just trying to “make it”. Here you
have case after case of people who are willing to do what it takes to
plant what some have termed the new “Survival Gardens”. How wonderful it
would be for them to be able to flourish in peace!
At the heyday of our battle, we had several hundred thousand visitors
following my story on my blog. I’m sure there were at least that many
following our story on other websites and through other media.
Undoubtedly you would have more than that supporting you in this issue.
I will eagerly await a response from you.
Thank you and best wishes,