Friday, September 24, 2010

Will gardening be illegal?

There is a certain amount of idiocy you expect from city governments. And it seems, the larger the city, the more idiocy there is. Backing up heavily traveled streets for months to put in bicycle lanes, poorly timed traffic lights, ordinances on how often you must mow your yard, etc. Most of these do have some sort of reason behind them.

But when city governments start placing heavy fines on otherwise law-abiding citizens for having a food producing back yard garden, you are crossing over to the realm of the absurd. A gentleman in Atlanta has been fined almost $5000 for planting part of the 2 acres he owns in vegetables. These food crops are for his own personal use, he gives some to his friends, and any extra he will take to the farmer's market to sell. He isn't using his yard to grow cash crops, it isn't a business, and he isn't annoying his neighbors with heavy farm equipment. He has a garden as a hobby for his own enjoyment and just happens to have a bounty to share.

The City's stance on the issue is that his property is not zoned for agriculture. So this past Spring, after getting the citations in January and February, He applied to the city to have his property re-zoned. It was approved. The Code Enforcement officials are saying that he still owes the fines, and now the penalties for not having paid them, because there were food crops growing while the rezoning was still under consideration. And they are suing to get their money.

I am not sure exactly what their problem with this gentleman actually is. Did someone complain? Is the zoning commissioner some sort of Nazi who wants complete control over what the citizens do on their own property? Is this just a way for the city to collect money they otherwise are not entitled to? Or is it something bigger?

It is bad enough that the Big Three agri corporations (Monsanto, Cargill, and ADM) are trying to control the food supply through genetically modified food and the availability of heirloom seeds, but trying to prevent individual citizens from having a backyard garden is going too far. The vast majority of people who do have a backyard garden only do so to either have fresh produce during the summer months or maybe to can, or because they just enjoy gardening. They don't do it for money, because there just isn't enough money in it to justify the costs. They do it for the food and the love of getting dirty.

I worry about what this means for all of us in the long run. I guess I will have to get a fancy trellis for my tomatoes and call them landscaping.

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