Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gardening Rights

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:

Dear Sir/Madam:
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 the story.
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,
Julie Bass

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

End of July Trailer Park Homestead Update

Between personal issues, some super excited special projects I can't talk about yet (but I promise I'll let you know about as soon as it is a sure thing, if it works out), the crazy weather impeding my gardening efforts (I swear, if we have another winter like last, I'm going to treat February as the new March and get things started a lot sooner!), and just life in general (the laundry pile waits for no one!), I've been severely neglecting this blog and I apologize for that.  Here's the sorry state of my garden as of the end of July.  Hopefully August will be more kind for getting things done, because there is a lot to do out there!

My "secret garden" behind the house is doing pretty well with it's miniature corn field, tomatoes, and watermelons.  As dry as it's been, the only thing that is producing yet is the corn, which I'm actually just growing for seed this year.

Container gardening is especially suffering in this heat.  I'm about to give up on this container and stick my avocado tree in it, since the banana seeds I bought this planter for still haven't germinated.  I think I'm going to see about getting some fresh banana seeds and see if they do any better, too.

This is supposed to just be a pepper garden, but that beautiful tomato plant appeared as a volunteer.  Since it is doing better than any tomatoes I've planted, I'm quite glad for it, but all the tomatoes are still green so far.

See what I'm talking about?  The tomatoes I planted all are sad, although one of these has at least given me some tomatoes we've eaten.

Not being able to get out into the heat has left some things to the weeds.  I need to get these planters replanted with something useful sometime soon!

The front garden bed is a mess as well.  Hopefully, I'll be able to get that cleaned up and replanted in the next day or two as well.

I need to check for cucumbers and such in this mess, but I'm really starting to like my freestyle herb garden because overall it is really low maintenance, especially since many of these plants are very adapted to this climate.

I performed surgery on this zucchini plant a couple weeks ago to remove squash vine borer demons and it seems to have been successful since the plant is still alive and growing!  Yay!