Detroit Area Homeowner faces Jail for Front Yard Vegetables

July 21st, 2011

Being in Michigan, (though thankfully not Detroit) I am somewhat familiar with Detroit. The city is basically a hole, miles of abandoned buildings. It has suffered under decades of big government mismanagement. It is the only city in the US to surpass 1 million people, but then fall below that, and in fact it’s population has dropped by over 50% from the peak. The continued mass exodus from Detroit is a big reason why Michigan was the only state, the only state, to lose population in the last census. 49 states gained people over the past 10 years, and Michigan shrunk. You would think government officials in the Detroit area would not try to chase off what residents they have left, but you would be wrong. Apparently you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t shake the government knows best attitude out of a big government bureaucrat.

So, an Oak Park (Detroit suburb) woman is facing jailtime for planting vegetables in her front yard. I take personal offense at this because I have advocated for growing your own food and front yard farming.

As I’ve mentioned before many cities have really archaic ordinances on the books about what you can do with your yard. And God forbid you live in a Homeowner’s Association full of people who just can’t mind their own business. Often the laws have to do with grass coverage. Grass being the most useless and most resource intensive thing you can possibly plant. It needs more water, more fertilizer, and of course more mowing, than traditional gardens. It is very wasteful. All grass really has going for it is it makes a good play surface. But who wants their kids playing in the front yard by the road? I know I don’t.

So this poor women, who is only trying to combat ridiculous high food prices thanks to other misguided government policies, planted a garden in her front yard. Maybe because the back yard is full, maybe because the back yard is shady, maybe because she wanted to share and be social with her neighbors. Most of her neighbors like it, and people are voicing support online. But the pencil pushers at city hall are taking her to court, wasting even more taxpayer dollars.

Michigan cities all over the state are having budget problems. Laying off police or fire fighters, not fixing pot holes, etc. I wonder how much Oak Park pays to have the “grass police” drive around writing tickets. Now sure, no one likes a house overgrown with weeds. Those weeds can go to seed and infect the whole neighborhood, and it can bring down housing values, no one likes that. But a house with a garden in front is a homeowner who cares, it shows character, and to me would make the street seem safer. A garden is not an eye sore, and should not be treated as such.

If Detroit really wanted to get their act together they should bulldoze the tens of thousands of abandoned buildings and turn all that space into urban gardens, where everyone can grow food. In fact, imagine if the whole country planted food in their front yard? Imagine all the extra food we would suddenly be producing.

10 Responses to “Detroit Area Homeowner faces Jail for Front Yard Vegetables”

  1. Msry  Says:

    A marvelous idea, gardens growing a surplus of food. How soon until the government begins to pay the gardener NOT to grow — as it has done with the farmers?

  2. Annissa  Says:

    I recently heard this ridiculous matter from Alex Jones, and have been appalled. It is petty arguments like where the government gets itself in trouble financially. However, I simply feel this action is for control, to make citizens accept what they are told to do. I also would like to comment that I agree with your idea of urban gardens. I recently wrote an article on including this concept. It’s not like the idea is foreign, it was greatly embraced during the world wars. I feel it should again, we just need to encourage our friends, families, neighbors, and communities to do so. Think of the self-reliance skills we could teach our youth!

  3. Titou  Says:

    What is actually surprising to me is the fact while this law itself does not seem to make a lot of sense in the economical crisis that has touched the US, apparently, there are trying to apply it on this woman.

    I wonder what are the arguments that led to the creation of this law initially.

  4. Jen (the green ninja)  Says:

    This is insane! This woman should get a medal- not a ticket. Hopefully someone will take up her case for free and get her the justice she deserves.

  5. Karina  Says:

    This is absolutely ridiculous! Did they even give her a reason as to why it would be such a huge concern? I just can’ t believe this.

  6. Sara  Says:

    Why are you bashing the city of Detroit when this happened in a suburb with its own laws? Urban gardening is extensive inside the city and I’m quite sure a resident wouldn’t be fined for front yard gardening. Detroit is a leader in the urban farming movement so I’m disappointed that a Michigander would put such a negative spin on our region.

  7. richard andrews  Says:

    sitting on my patio glass of red in hand looking at your beautifull photos great blog thankyou

  8. Marion Thompson  Says:

    I cannot seem to grow daylilies they come up every spring but will not grow big and dye I live in Amarillo Tx our soil is clay

  9. pat  Says:

    But it’s good enough for the White House lawn to have a vegetable garden on it. Maybe Mrs. Obama would have something to say about this.

  10. Shauna  Says:

    I stumbled across this site looking to find out if rutabaga greens are edable (and they are!). I also live in a Detroit suburb and worked in the city for quite some time. I currently have a large garden and recently planted 13 fruit tree in my FRONT yard. I have plans to expand my front yard gardening and also to start raising egg laying chickens and dairy goats. My city, of course, has an ordiance against these things. However, thanks to a wonderful state law called the “Michigan Free Farming Act” I will move forward with my plans. This law is concidered to be the most progressive farming act in the whole nation. For all of those in Michigan, especially those living in cities that try to curb your “farming”, read up on this law, it is extremely powerful. If more of us Michigangers, and Detroiters get on board with taking care of ourselves, our families, friends and neighbors maybe we can survive this recession. We need to stand up for the right to take care of ourselves and lucky for us, we have a state law that protects that right. To the woman in Oak Park, fight the city! It is your right to take care of yourself! I also agree with poster who mentioned bulldozing all the abandoned housed and properties in Detroit to make way for farming. I have been saying the same thing for years and think it would be a GREAT way to turn bad neighborhood and situations positive. Instead of trying to fix something that is broken beyond repair we need to try to build something new.

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