Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan was faced with a possible 93 days in jail after being charged with a misdemeanor -- planting a vegetable garden in her own front yard.
The garden consists of 5 raised beds, where she grows squash, corn, tomatoes, flowers, and other vegetables. Bass received a warning from the city telling her to remove the vegetable garden, because they claimed it violates an ordinance stating that only "suitable" plant material is allowed in a front lawn -- although exactly what is suitable is not defined.
According to Treehugger:
"When she refused, she was ticketed and charged with a misdemeanor. Her trial, before a jury, is set to begin on July 26th. If she is found guilty, she can be sentenced to up to 93 days in jail."
Fortunately, the jury trial never took place, as on July 14 Bass wrote on her blog that the city had dropped the charges. However, although the case was dismissed, the charges could be reinstated at any time.
If it sounds ridiculous to you that a city government would spend time and money to prosecute a resident for -- of all things -- planting a vegetable garden, you're not alone. Facebook pages have been created in support of Julie Bass' garden, and local news stations aired the story as well.
Probably as a result of the backlash, the city backed down and quietly dropped the charges on July 14, but prior to this they had ticketed her, charged her with a misdemeanor, and scheduled a jury trial for the end of the month, which could have resulted in 93 days in jail!
Although the charges have been dropped for now, the city ordinance stating that only "suitable" plant material is allowed in a front lawn has not been changed, which means the charges could be reinstated at any time.
Is it a Right to Grow Your Own Food?
This is an important issue, and one that is sadly being challenged by governments on a regular basis. The issue in Oak Park, Michigan was that the garden was planted in a front yard, as opposed to the back … but why should it be illegal for a person to plant food on any area of the land they own and pay taxes on?
Your family has to eat, after all. And if you choose not to rely on the food sold in your supermarket, want to control the conditions in which your food is grown, or even if you can't afford the prices at the supermarket, what other option do you have than to raise your own?
And why should anyone be able to charge you with a crime for doing so?
Unfortunately, this is not a unique case. As TreeHugger reported, in British Columbia a man is being 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, and the owner, Dirk Becker, 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.
When governments start meddling with the issue of food freedom, including the ability to grow your own food on your own land, it is a serious affront, as most people would agree this is an absolute, basic, and unalienable right.
The Federal Government is Also Threatening Your Food Freedom
This issue of threatening people with jail time for planting food has many parallels to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) many attempts to violently clamp down on "illegal interstate commerce" by raw milk farmers. While the Oak Park government threatened Julie Bass in the name of the community, the FDA is doing it under the guise of protecting the public's health…
FDA agents are literally spying on small farms and raiding them at gun point to stop the sale and transport of raw milk. And you can imagine the surprise when a private food club based in Louisville, Kentucky recently got a visit from the county health inspector, who promptly issued a cease and desist order when he saw that raw milk was being sold. He also placed all the milk on the premises under quarantine.
The members of the club have leased cows from a Kentucky dairy farm and have ownership rights in the milk produced. To say they were shocked when they were told they could not pick up their personal property would be an understatement, but once the fear subsided, they turned angry, and then resolve set in -- more than 90 percent of the club members responded to the threat by ignoring the quarantine and picking up their milk.
The war against raw milk rages on, but while the fight currently revolves around your right to obtain and consume raw milk, the FDA claims to have the power to restrict your access to any kind of food it deems harmful, and has actually stated you have no fundamental right to obtain and eat any particular food whatsoever!
This issue has nothing to do with whether or not you want to drink raw milk, and everything to do with whether or not you want the right to choose what you feed your family. If we allow the government to remove our right to raw milk, who knows what's next?
They could decide you don't have the right to obtain or eat fresh vegetables, or no right to buy or drink water. Or, getting back to Julie Bass' front-yard garden, they could rule that private vegetable gardens are dangerous and not allowed, and only mega-corporations are capable of growing your food. So when a private citizen's rights are infringed upon, as they are when you are told you cannot grow food or access any particular food, it's important to fight back immediately so that the line does not continue to be crossed.
Why You Might Want to Grow Your Own Veggies
When the National Gardening Association (NGA) asked a sample of U.S. households their thoughts on maintaining landscapes in an environmentally friendly way, 89 percent said it is important. And I can think of no better way to maintain your landscape in an environmentally friendly way than by planting an organic garden.
With just a little bit of elbow grease, you'll get to reap the reward of phenomenally healthy, delicious vegetables that cost you just pennies on the dollar compared to those at the supermarket. Plus, if you garden organically, you will not risk chemical exposures to yourself, your family or the environment as is typically the case with conventional produce from your supermarket.
When factoring in startup and maintenance costs, a well-maintained food garden yields a $500 average return each year compared to the market price of produce, according to NGA. So there is a definite financial incentive there.
But beyond the financial reasons, starting a garden and seeing it through to harvest is very rewarding. You'll feel a great sense of accomplishment as you sit down to feast, quite literally, on the fruits of your labor. Children, too, benefit immensely from experimenting with gardening, and on top of learning where their food comes from will likely have a better attitude about eating vegetables. Many people also find the act of gardening soothing and use it as a form of stress relief.
If you're not sure where to begin, Better Homes & Gardens has a free All-American Vegetable Garden Plan that can be put into a 6x6 area. It's a great starting point for beginners.
You can also visit a few local plant nurseries around your home, especially those that specialize in organic gardening. The employees are likely to be a great resource for natural planting tips that will help your garden thrive. Even if you only have access to a patio, you can still grow some of your own veggies using containers.
For more information, the following Web sites offer helpful advice and guidelines for the organic gardener:
If, for whatever reason, you are unable to garden or prefer not to then you can still access healthy vegetables grown locally by supporting local farmer's markets
Here are two excellent resources you can use: