In many North American state and local laws, your front yard and lawn must maintain an appearance that stays in line with the visual expectations set by other yards in your neighborhood. Basic trees, flowers, and plain green grass are okay, but your vegetable gardens – no matter how neatly ordered or visually attractive – are (in many cases) not welcomed. Some might think, what’s the worst that could happen if you did it anyway? Where’s the crime? They’re only vegetables. They’re nutritious, colorful, and heck, they’re infinitely more useful than plain grass.
Well, you could be arrested. Or fined up to $300 dollars for every day you fail to comply with city ordinances, depending on your local laws.
In July of 2011, a resident of Michigan – Julie Bass – faced 93 days of jail time for the vegetable garden she planted in her front yard. She had turned her plain plot of grass into 4 separate vegetable gardens with the help of many kids from the neighborhood; some in the area even considered it a great asset to the community as a whole. However, the city planner maintained that the garden violated city code as it was just “not what we want to see in a front yard.”
Though the charges were dismissed by a judge, the case was not dropped and could be refiled by the prosecutor at their discretion at any time.
More recently, in Canada, Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamp are facing fines of $100-300 dollars a day for every day that their front yard garden is on display.
City ordinances state that a garden is only allowed to take up 30% of the front yard real estate. They have said that unless the beautiful crop of fresh beets, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and brussels sprouts that the two have been sharing with their neighborhood is scaled down by this Sunday, the fines will pile up.
The couple, so far, has resisted the city’s demands and have no intention of future compliance. The garden has helped the both of them lose a combined total of 100 pounds and is well-loved by many in their neighborhood.
A petition is in place to “Stop the war on front yard vegetable gardens!” which you can sign if you wish to assist Landry and Beauchamp and others like them. Of course, if you agree with the actions of the local governments in these situations, then all is still well with the world.