Sunday, July 10, 2011

Criminal Veggies

Do you have rogue, criminal vegetables in your neighborhood???

With all that has been happening this summer, between selling at six markets a week, working with the high school to maintain their herb gardens, keeping our own herbs in line, and making product to take to the markets, I havent had a lot of time to dedicate to my blog.

But I couldn't, just absolutely couldn't ignore this when I saw the story.

This is a local story... Oak Park Michigan, about 40 miles away from us.

Julie Bass, a homeowner in Oak Park, recently had her front lawn torn up to do some work on a sewer line.

Instead of replacing it with grass, she decided to plant a garden.

What a great idea!

What an opportunity, to instill a love of home gardening in the next generation. To follow the example set for us by the wife of our very own president, Michelle Obama, who planted gardens at the White House.

So, Mrs Bass, called the city and asked if she could plant a garden in her front yard. The helpful employee told her that since nobody had ever asked before the answer was probably not. She called another employee and was told that only "Decorative plantings" were allowed.

Mrs Bass was unable to find any rule or law that prohibited vegetables in the front yard, so the Bass family hired a contractor to build attractive raised beds, landscaped around them, added stones and ornamental elements and planted their vegetables.

Like I said, a great idea!

Unfortunately, the city of Oak Park didn't think it was such a good idea.

They sent her a warning, telling her that her vegetables would have to be moved to the back yard.

Back to City hall she went, seeking the ordinance that prohibited vegetables in the front yard. But alas, there was no ordinance to be found. The city ordinance says that " all unpaved surfaces shall be covered with grass, shrubbery, or suitable live plant material."

Apparantly a code enforement officer had decided that, absent any legal definition, vegetables were not suitable live plant material.

Mrs Bass was cited, and charged with a misdemeanor. She has now been informed that since she requested a jury trial, the city prosecutor intends to ask for the maximum penalty, which could be up to 93 days in jail.

That's right, 3 months in jail for planting a garden.

In her blog, oakparkhatesveggies Julie writes:
"rumor has it that the city will not back down on our case because they are afraid it’s a slippery slope.

i’m not sure what that means, exactly, in the context of our garden. are they afraid someone might decide to grow bigger tomatoes? more aggressive strawberries? i have heard whisperings that they are afraid of… (imagine the most menacing vegetable possible!)- corn. yep. if they give us permission to have a garden, someone might grow corn.

so, i guess based on the need to protect the citizenry from rampant cornstalks, they are probably right to be concerned…

i’m being sarcastic, in case you haven’t read this blog before…"

I spent the last hour reading her blog and shaking my head in amazement.

I have seen some boneheaded things done before, in the name of government, but this one breaks the cake.

When people started to find out about this, letters of encouragement started coming in, prompting Mrs Bass, to discuss with her attorney how people could best help her cause.

It was determined that the best thing those who are not local could do is make sure that their local news agencies get the story. Make sure Oak Park knows that the entire nation is watching with bated breath to see if they will really put a mother in jail for 93 days for planting a garden for her children.

So here you have it. I am officially letting the city of Oak Park know that I and my readers are watching.

Perhaps you can do the same.

You can read the story and watch a newsclip here


  1. Good grief. I've heard some of some major stupidity (or should that be absurdity?) perpetrated in the name of beaurocracy, but this really does take the biscuit!

    Just who decided what constitutes 'suitable plant material'?? Is some 'suit' looking to make his mark on the world, or what?

    So, OK, a mini corn field in people's front yards might spoil the look of the neighbourhood, but you can get around that by issuing a height restriction.

    Yeah, I'm watching. All the way from England. It's not fame that 'suit' will get, methinks, if he's not careful, but infamy.

  2. Talk about your nanny state.
    BTW, love the logo.

  3. Troy, first off, thank you for the nifty new ABC Wednesday logo. I had asked if, once we reached "Z," we would begin on the Cyrillic alphabet...! But your logo really gave the blog a lift!

    Now, on your post, I'm an old leftie,and a Wisconsinite now (mostly an old New Yorker). I'll look for details online and give them a chewing out. What a stupid law. One thing to say, no one should plant cannabis until it's legalized, but CORN? My God, if Mrs. Bass isn't doing a great thing for her kids, I'll eat my "Recall Gov. Walker" sign.

    In solidarity, Amy