Productive Property vs. the Lawn Police

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It’s amazing to see the number of individuals who are being persecuted for using their own property for productive purposes. This house and garden in Florida violated an “appearance code.” Appearance is always subjective, that is, until the government perverts definitions to enforce its arbitrary laws.

Individuals who defy the crazed American Lawn Worship Culture and instead plant useful, organic gardens are the new outlaws. Here’s a case from earlier this year, in a suburb near where I live, where a woman was treated like a criminal for growing contraband in her front yard: tomatoes, zucchinis, and peppers. Here’s how the lawn became a garden:

Bass got the idea to plant a garden in front yard after it was torn up over a busted sewage pipe.

“There were piles of dirt outside and we knew we had to do something,” Bass said. “We looked into putting in sod but it was shockingly expensive, so we starting looking into other books to do something a little more cost effective. We found pictures in a bunch of different library books of garden beds. It was perfect and we had a blank canvas.”

City ordinances usually require plantings in the front yard to be “suitable plant material.” Suitable according to a strange culture that worships chintzy, worthless lawns in place of innovative productive land use.

A neighbor on my street has a front yard that looks like a trash can flew over the house and emptied on the lawn – the whole square is littered with stupid plastic trinkets, dumb decorations, plexiglass, broken fencing, and unmaintained plantings. It’s a looks like a trailer park dumping ground, and yet, it is all perfectly legal and city approved. The cars up on blocks are okay, as well as the front yard-turned-patio-bricks for the purposes of parking the family rust bucket on wheels. Yet a garden in my front yard – and I’d love to have one – would bring me citations and the threat of handcuffs.

In Massachusetts, these criminals were forced to disassemble their ingenious tomato garden. Here is an interesting quote from the article.

That, says Emily Broad Lieb, director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, is a problem caused in part by “age-old zoning rules” bumping into people’s desire to grow their own food.

“It’s such a human thing,” she says. “It’s not like they’re building a space shuttle on their front lawn.”

She sees the Newton case as a microcosm of a problem that is popping up more and more, from battles over rooftop and urban gardens to bureaucracy surrounding farmers markets. Modern laws often jettison agriculture and food production to backyards and far-flung rural areas, she says. But with individuals and communities now interested in taking back some or all of their food production, “people are starting to realize that we have to change the rules.”

This is not a uniquely American stupidity – Canada is also turning gardeners into lawbreakers. This beautiful garden in Quebec was also targeted by local totalitarians. Follow me on Twitter @karendecoster.com.

6:05 pm on January 4, 2013
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