Making its rounds on the twitter feeds of various foodies and a few food-related listservs is the news of a family in Oak Park, Michigan that is in some trouble with local authorities for planting a vegetable garden in their front yard. The family put in the vegetable garden after work on an underground pipe required that they rip up their front yard. Instead of replanting with grass, they put in the garden to grow some food for their meals and to use in the education of their six children about food and where it comes from.
According to city officials, a number of neighbors have complained about the garden, which does violate neighborhood ordinances that "regulate the aesthetics of the community". One city planner has been quoted as saying: "I don't know of any community where I have seen a full garden in the front yard. In planning and zoning, we try and put things in appropriate places." This raises the question of what exactly is an "appropriate" place for a vegetable garden? Must food production be hidden from view? Do gardens belong in the city? in the suburbs? Should they be in greenhouses? The idea that there is such an appropriate place - besides where vegetables will best grow and produce - is ill-concieved at best.
The story is not yet complete, as the family has their court date, and the wide coverage of the story has led to an outpouring of support for the family, and protest against the city. An online petition is being circulated, and as of this writing, has nearly 17,000 signatures from around the globe. In these difficult economic times, and when the food available in the supermarket can not always be trusted, is the regulation of vegetable gardens such a good idea? Such gardens violate community ordinances around the country, so this may be just the first of such battles.
Or better yet, plant some vegetables in your front yard as a message of solidarity!
Photo courtesy of the Gannon Garden @ www.gannon.org