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City Forces Couple To Uproot 17-Year-Old Organic Garden

florida couple gardenA city government in Florida has used a zoning ordinance to force a couple to remove their organic vegetable garden – one that they’ve had for 17 years.

Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom Carroll had to tear out the vegetable garden they’ve grown for 17 years in order to avoid a $50-a-day fine.

“We are already feeling the impact of shopping for overpriced organic food,” Ricketts told The Miami Herald. Ricketts said it had been years since she had shopped for vegetables at the supermarket.

Officials with the Miami Shores village government ordered the garden removed because it was in the wrong place — the front yard. The well-maintained and manicured garden, though, had been there for 17 years and was allowed until the city changed the rules in May, making it clear vegetable gardens were banned. That’s also when a village inspector handed Carroll and Ricketts an order to remove the garden by Aug. 31.

Vegetable gardens in front yards are prohibited for “aesthetic reasons” in Miami Shores. The logic behind this code is that the presence of vegetable gardens in plain sight drives down property values. Fruit and flowers in the front yard are permitted.

Suing for the right to use their own property

Ricketts and Carroll have filed a lawsuit designed to overturn the zoning regulation with the help of The Institute for Justice. The lawsuit is part of the Institute’s National Food Freedom Initiative, which is designed to overturn regulations that limit small scale food production.

The couple’s contention is that the Miami Shores zoning regulations violate the Florida state Constitution. The constitution gives state residents the right to “acquire, possess, and protect” property.

They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor so that we could be free!

“The right to grow and harvest your own food on your very own property is certainly part of that right to acquire, possess and protect property,” Ari Bargil, an attorney for the Institute, told The Miami Herald.

Challenging such aesthetic regulations can be an uphill battle. The Herald noted that Florida’s state Courts actually upheld a Coral Gables zoning regulation that banned homeowners from parking pickup trucks in their driveways. Voters later overturned that law.

Fined $500 a day for growing a vegetable garden

Ricketts and Carroll were fortunate compared to Jennifer and Jason Helvenston of Orlando. The Orlando city government tried to fine them $500 a day in an attempt to get them to tear out their front-yard garden and put in a lawn.

Organized public opposition spearheaded by a gardener army eventually forced the city to back down and change the ordinance. Protestors marched on city hall and members of the gardener army planted radishes in their front yards to back the couple.

Even that victory was almost a hollow one. The Orlando city planner’s office presented the Municipal Planning Board with a draft ordinance that would have allowed property owners to use just 25 percent of their front yard as a garden. The ordinance was eventually changed to allow residences to use 60 percent of their front yards as gardens.

“I worry that we’re over-complicating the matter a little bit for a vegetable garden,” Planning Board Member Karen Anderson told The Orlando Sentinel.

Interestingly enough, Orlando’s own city attorneys eventually decided that the zoning ordinances were too vague to be enforceable. The fines against the Helvenstons were dropped because they might not have held up in court.

Protecting your right to garden

It is actually much easier to run afoul of zoning laws than many people think. A big problem is that zoning regulations are often very selectively enforced. In many cities, officials only cite violations when somebody complains. In other communities zoning regulations are only enforced in certain neighborhoods.

So what should you do if city officials try to make you remove a garden? Well there are several steps that you can take. The simplest and cheapest is to simply approach elected officials directly.

Another step you can take is to go local council or board meetings and complain directly. City councils and county boards hold regular meetings and most of them allow time for public comment. Officials will listen because they want your vote.

If that doesn’t work you can contact the media, local gardening groups and organizations like the Institute for Justice. The city government in Orlando eventually backed down because of the public pressure that the Helvenstons brought to bear upon it.

The right to use your property is just like any other right. If you want to keep it, you have to be prepared to fight for it.

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  2. Another option, if only flowers and fruit are allowed would be to put your fruit in front and veggies out back. Besides, most veggies have flowers on them before they turn into veggies, squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, peas, beans,…

  3. This country is screwed! I cannot even fathom what these idiots are thinking. When the SHTF, not if, These idiots will be the first ones looking for a handout from people who grow their own because the Waly marts will be ransacked. I know its not the Christian thing to say but let em starve.

  4. Shame on them!! That is the dumbest thing I ever heard!! everyone should grow their own food!!!! Front yard backyard.. florida should hang their heads in the stupid closet..

  5. What is being over looked and not questioned is the fact the President signed an excutive order that makes it illegal for you to grow your own food !!!! The law has yet tobe enforced but its just a matter of time !!!
    Wake up Peaple the Federal Government is not your friend !!
    We Americans talk a lot but question nothing !!! That is way our country is in the condition its in !!!
    We have only our selves to blame !!!
    I must ask you all what are you willing to do to keep your freedom ?? The love of money has made us unwilling to stand up for anything !!! We have given up our true freedom,, What we are living now is only
    an illusion of freedom !!! We have turned in to a nation of Sheeple !!

    • I totally agree with the state our country is in.. when will people stop being distracted with their sports and t.v. shows and materialism etc and face the real issues? It’s ok to like those aforementioned things, but don’t let them blind u into thinking, u r really free in this country.

    • this is so not true! OMG! For crying out loud, Michellle Obama is the one who helped children grow an enormous garden at the White House. Talk about trying to pull our President into this!

  6. You people really need to look at who you put in office, looks like it’s time to change elected officials…

    • choosing a new official won’t change a thing. Uproot a weed, another one will grow to take its place. Let’s change the entire infrastructure of gov’t and kick out everyone in cahoots with globalists and their agendas.

    • Changing officials won’t do a thing..uproot weed, and something worse will take its place. Citizens must unite to work at changing the infrastructure of our gov’t, demolish the FED, and fire everyone in cahoots with the globalists and their agenda. (Obama has always been enforcing G.W Bush’s policies from the start…)

  7. Whoa. Hold on, folks. First, I am an avid (organic) gardener, including both vegetable and ornamentals. Second, to say I have some very significant concerns about the over-reach of government, esp. on the federal level, would be a gross understatement. Those things aside, I believe municipalities have a responsibility to consider such decisions in light of the well-being of all its residents, whether in a neighborhood or community-wide sense. Ricketts and Carroll certainly do have an immaculate garden – one that most anyone would be proud to have on their property. However, how many people do you (we) know who start a garden, small or large, with the grandest of intentions, only to have it fall into a state of . . . “oh no, what am I going to do with all this mess . . . uh, anyone got a match?” Now, think about the possibility of only half the number of well-intentioned novice gardeners attempting such a project in their front yards in your own neighborhood. Even one small-scale unkept garden can become not only an eyesore, but will invariably become home to pests and rodents. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to create a personal ecosystem for pests and rodents in your back yard, it should still be your right – unless the critters in said space begin invading your neighbor’s yards and/or households. Knock yourself out. The point is, my neighbors and I should not have to watch our property values plummit as someone with (even the best of) intentions allows part or all of their front yard to fall into decay. As one commented earlier, fruit trees in front, vegetable gardens in back is almost always the better option.

    • Sometimes the backyard is not the best option. Most people I know who have front yard gardens, including myself, it is because that is where the “sun” is, in their yard. There are plenty of “unkempt” yards that are grass lawns. So, if the issue is being “unkempt”, then make that the resolution – that gardens should be well kept. We don’t ban grass lawns because some people let their lawns succumb to weeds, etc. Along the same lines, you don’t ban front yard vegetable gardens. An organic garden reduces the use of pesticides and chemicals which is better for the neighborhood and city water system. We need more of them. Property values surrounding my house have been going “up and up” since my garden was planted.

    • I absolutely agree! There are zoning laws to follow. If you don’t like them, then go out in the country and live. When you live in a community there are laws. We are avid gardeners and we grow in our BACKYARD like most normal people do. We would never think of growing anything in front knowing it would bother our neighbors. Come on!

  8. James Brandenstein

    What will Liberals do when a Republican is elected President in 2016 ?

  9. Look you bought the land, you pay taxes on the land, it’s yours. You should be able to utilize every square inch as you see fit without government interference or dumb township bylaws. It is not for others to decide what your land should and shouldn’t be used for.

  10. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Sue the town for damages when you win, otherwise it may be time to move to someplace less fascist. It’s getting harder and harder to find such places though :/

  11. Control the oil and you can control entire Continents. Control food and you control people…
    — Henry Kissenger

  12. FYI : private property is defined as that which is absolutely owned by an individual. Whereas estate is defined as that which held with qualified ownership by a person or persons. Only private property is explicitly protected by law (as stated in all constitutions). Real estate is not constitutionally secure.

    If one has registered his property as estate, it may explain the violation of presumed private property rights.

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