Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When a Garden Equals Jail Time

            Oak Park, Michigan is in the news in a bad way.  Julie Bass, who grows organic vegetables in her front yard, was cited for violating a city code that says residents are required to have “suitable, live plant material” in their front yard.   Bass is facing 93 days of jail time because she’s growing some vegetables in front of her house. 
            Apparently the definition of ‘suitable’ pretty much just pertains to grass, and maybe some trees and flowers, but NOT actual food, as far as the city is concerned.
            Really now?  This reminds me of my rant about HOA’s and clothesline bans.
            I personally would LOVE to see people growing vegetables in their front yards, back yards, wherever they can.  I think we see enough grass already, truly, and grass is kinda high maintenance and fairly boring. 
It’s like if you live in suburbia you’re expected to conform to the norm, to arbitrary, subjective and narrow standards of what is acceptable, and growing vegetables? Well, that’s just not ok.
            Backwards, I tell you.  Bass has even gotten neighborhood kids interested in her garden and they enjoy helping her.  That’s another one of my pet peeves—most people have a lack of access to fresh, organic food.  Here Bass is not only growing organic food, but giving kids access to it—not to mention the kids have the great fun of watching food grow before their wondrous eyes.  And she’s being punished for it.
            Thanks to the wonders of the internet this story has exploded and Bass is getting all kinds of support. As of press time the facebook page ‘Oak Park Hates Veggies’ had over 23,000 ‘likes.’ I’d love to see Bass’s neighbors plant gardens in their front yards too. How far is the city going to take this?  If Bass and her neighbors all go to jail, there will be worse eyesores—such as a sea of unmowed grass.
            It just boggles the mind that time and effort and money would be poured into this case of prosecuting a woman innocently growing a patch of vegetables. Shouldn’t it a right that we should be able to line dry our clothes and grow some plants?  It’s definitely not worthy of being a crime. 

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