A husband and wife from the Orlando, Florida, area were recently told by their City government that they would have to uproot their beautifully manicured vegetable garden, cultivated on a piece of property owned by the couple for more than two decades.
The dutifully tended garden produces loads of nutritious fruits and veggies including cucumbers, squash and herbs. The couple installed the front yard garden after growing tired of spending money on expensive, less nutritious produce at the supermarket.
“Basically, we decided to put in a front yard vegetable garden not realizing the city would then put us in violation saying they were going to charge us $500 a day if we did not remove the vegetable garden,” said Jessica in an interview with Luke Rudkowski from We Are Change.
City orders couple to destroy their lush fruit and veggie garden.
The city, using an “HOA mentality,” argued that the garden was not aesthetically pleasing, despite the fact that it was well maintained, added her husband Jason. The couple was ordered to destroy their fruitful garden or face paying a hefty fine.
However, the couple stood their ground, insisting that there was no possible way they were going to accept the city’s unreasonable orders. “They can take my house before they take my garden,” said Jason.
The couple decided to craft a long list detailing the garden’s benefits while illustrating that it was in no way a nuisance or harmful to their community.
Unfortunately, the local government displayed little interest in their claims. It was all about what the government wanted, said Jason. “Because they are in a position of power, they get what they want. And that’s what really upset me the most.”
Growing cucumbers in front yard ruled a crime
When Rudkowski asked what type of plants they were growing, Jason jokingly replied, “Highly illegal cucumbers,” as well as some overgrown squash and herbs.
This isn’t the first time the South Florida government has intervened in residential gardening. Another couple from the Miami area filed a lawsuit after the city ordered them to destroy their front yard vegetable garden, according to Fox News.
Tom Carroll and Hermine Ricketts had been cultivating their garden for 17 years when the town passed an ordinance restricting veggie growing to the backyard. In an effort to avoid a $50 daily fine, the couple begrudgingly dug up their garden in August 2013.
At a hearing in June 2016, the couple’s attorney argued that the restrictions violate their Constitutional rights, including the right to grow a garden on their own property.
“We’re not saying you can do anything you want on your property,” attorney Ari Bargil told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Monica Gordo. “We are simply saying you can grow vegetables on your property and that is protected by the Constitution.”
The community’s attorney countered that the new zoning rule was not unreasonable, and simply requests that residents’ yards be covered in grass or sod.
The Miami Shores couple said they had cultivated 75 varieties of vegetables, all of which were organic. Their lawsuit was still pending at the time of this writing.
Grassroots effort helps defeat unreasonable city ordinance
Fortunately, the Orlando area couple did not have to resort to suing. One morning before work when the couple went to vote, they noticed that everyone from their district was present and thought to themselves, “What a great place to start a petition.” And so they did.
The petition fought for the right to grow food wherever the sun shines on a person’s property. The couple pursued a grassroots effort and went door-to-door talking with neighbors and educating them on the issue.
“We soon realized we aren’t only fighting for our garden; we’re fighting for everybody’s right to be able to grow food,” said Jessica. Their persistence paid off, and before they knew it they had received more than 10,000 signatures, forcing the city to back down from its demands.
Since the ordeal, the couple has launched several grassroots initiatives, including a program that helps install gardens for residents with the agreement that they will donate 10 percent of the food to charity.
Thanks to their efforts, it is now legal to grow food anywhere you want on your property within the City of Orlando.