Getting jailed for your veggie garden

In the Local-Regulation-Gone-Way-Stupid department, a women in Oak Park, Michigan is facing 93 days in jail for refusing to remove a vegetable garden in her front lawn.

Her neighbors don’t seem to care about it, when you read the article. Why does anybody? It’s not like she’s got a humanmanure processing plant in her front yard. She has raised beds! They are well-cared for raised beds. They look fine.

It’s also an equity issue. Poor families often plant gardens for food, and plenty of small bungalows do not have backyard space for a garden.

This is the stuff that makes people into libertarians, people. To the City of Oak Park: stop it. When somebody like me agrees with Fox News, it’s time to reconsider your position. You look like idiots, you’re wasting your citizen’s money, and lawns are so over.

10 thoughts on “Getting jailed for your veggie garden

  1. That’s terrible. I’m also not a fan of regulations against drying your clothes in public view. God forbid people do things to use less electricity.

    But then, I don’t like most single-use zoning, so I guess there are a lot of municipal regulations I don’t like.

  2. Poor people generally don’t have the time or money to plant vegetables. It’s generally an elitist thing- “local foods”, “organic”- they’re great, if you can afford them. Growing your own food is generally very expensive, especially if you water, or if it’s chickens or livestock.

  3. I disagree, Jess. There’s a difference between elite gardeners (“I only plant “Tuscan Heirloom Vegetables”) and the people who really do stick plants in the nooks and crannies in their yard to provide some extra food. There’s a big difference between the urban fantasy homesteaders with trust funds and the people who supplement their food supply with dribs and drabs of low-maintainance plants. If it were really all that expensive to garden, you wouldn’t see the little beds of corn and green beans all over South Central LA. (But, if a pack of sweet corn seed is $2 and sweet corn is a $1 an ear at the store (which it is–LA food prices have gotten high), throwing in a few seeds in your front lot with a bit of water now and then is not a bad idea.

    Ditto with chickens. There’s a big difference between the Martha Stewart Heirloom $50 a chicken chickens and the central Americans and Vietnamese families who are keeping a handful of banties in their tiny yards (that they let one or two get broody once a year).

    It’s also like farming or hunting. There’s dressing up in gear with high-powered rifles or expensive duck blind “hunting” and then there’s the guys who kill a deer, cut it up, and feed their kids for the winter. (Or, in LA, the guys who are pulling carp to eat off the pier.) Truck farmer versus horse farmer, and so on.

  4. We’ll have to agree to disagree, especially with respect to the urban chickens and other urban livestock. I don’t think there is any way that a homeowner can grow produce, produce eggs or produce meat cheaper than large farms. If they could, wouldn’t they all be doing it. This is especially true if you factor in your opportunity cost. Now if you are doing it as a hobby (which the elite are), that’s fine. Don’t tell me, however, that you are feeding the world. You’re engaging in a hobby. Have fun.

    Urban chickens and livestock are really scary. In addition to vermin and the like, the animals have to be kept healthy. Mortality rates for urban chickens are generally very high. I read one article where the woman had a 70% mortality rate and said that she “couldn’t afford” to take the birds to the vet. “Couldn’t afford”?? Would you eat eggs from that bird or eat the meat? I wouldn’t, even if I wasn’t a vegetarian.

    From a zoning perspective, it’s a health issue. I don’t mind folks in the city have a few tomato plants or a few fruit trees, but no birds or livestock, please.

  5. I don’t believe I used the phrase “feeding the world” Jesse. I believe I said “a few to supplement.”

    And given that every time I set foot into a vet in LA County for one of the dogs, it costs me at least $100, and usually more like $400, I can get how somebody couldn’t afford to take chickens to the vet. (One of the advantages to living in Blacksburg is having first-rate, extremely affordable vet care; comparable vet care, with people who actually care about the animals, is horrendously expensive here.)

    I do think there’s a reason why we see small sets of chicken in Los Angeles, particularly in south central. While it is probably cheaper to just go to the store, it’s at least an hour bus ride to the nearest Ralph’s (in Compton) for some parts of south LA. When you factor in time, it does make a difference.

    In LA County, you’re allowed six chickens, and you don’t get to slaugher. You get the eggs.

    I am betting my grandmothers’ chickens had about a 50 percent mortality rate. I ate those and lived.

  6. I’m not a big fan of regulation. I think local governments are hyper-regulatory with respect to land use, for the most part. However, with respect to chickens and livestock in urban settings, valid and important public health issues actually support regulation, which is not the case with many existing land use regulations.

  7. The plot thickens. I saw a piece on this on CNN. It was buried amongst all of the righteous indignation, but she doesn’t just have a veggie garden in her front yard. Her ENTIRE front yard is a veggie garden.

  8. I saw the pictures. I still say: so what? I get it, she seems like a yucky liberal and you don’t like them, but is anybody in any way harmed by the veggies rather a lawn? I’m willing to accept the (I admit–I think–overblown) worry you have over urban chickens or livestock, but what difference–what REAL difference does it make–for her to have a vegetable garden. And if you scuttle into neighborhood property value argument, prepare for a guffaw. I don’t care if it comes down to busybody neighbors who want to tell you what color to paint your shutters, whether you can work on your car in your driveway, or whether you should have a veggie garden or a lawn–she has property rights and her use isn’t hurting anybody.

  9. The ordinance says something like “ordinary” lawn. An entire lawn of veggies isn’t ordinary. And, yes, I’ll have to resort to community norms on this one. I don’t like mowing the lawn and if it were up to me, I wouldn’t have an “ordinary” grassy lawn. I also think that people in New Mexico, etc. that plant grass in the desert and water their lawns are crazy. However, that’s the norm. I have pressure from my neighbors to keep the grass mowed and looking good and it enhances the value of my property (and my neighbors’ property). So, it has the reciprocity of advantage that zoning generally does- I’m limited in what I can do with my property, but my neighbor is too. I don’t care whether the woman is a liberal or not, but I bet if her neighbor, for example, filled their lawn with orange and maroon Hokie birds, she would complain very loudly. Same thing. It’s a slippery slope. If she’s allowed to do whatever she wants with her front yard, then so is everyone else.

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