Self-sufficiency is not a crime

This is illegal?

At a time when we need more people growing their own food and becoming more self-sufficient we have government pushing back. Check out this picture of a families home in Oak Park, Michigan. Seems they have run afoul of local ordinances. According to “‘City code says that all unpaved portions of the site shall be planted with grass or ground cover or shrubbery or other suitable live plant material.’  Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are what Basses see as suitable.”

According to Oak Park’s Planning and Technology Director Kevin Rulkowski  the city disagrees. He says, “If you look at the dictionary, suitable means common. You can look all throughout the city and you’ll never find another vegetable garden that consumes the entire front yard.” Of course you won’t find another vegetable garden that consumes the front yard, it’s illegal. Since when do we allow the government to tell us we cannot grow food to eat?

I know we have heard stories like this before, but these are times when growing your own should be a right, if it isn’t already. These homeowners should be held up as examples of what we should be doing in our front and back yards. I hope these people are not forced to remove their garden. The city should be ashamed for telling these people to stop being self-sufficient and toe the line of mediocrity and conformity.

Roger, The Shrubber

And as far as putting shrubbery in the front yard I asked famous plantsman Roger the Shubber and he had this to say, “Oh, what sad times are these when government ruffians can say Ni at will to vegetable growers. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred. Even  I, a Shrubber by trade say let them grow food, and skip the shrubbery”.

Here is a petition you can sign in support. 

About Trey Pitsenberger

Trey is a nurseryman, author, and speaker.

08. July 2011 by Trey Pitsenberger
Categories: | Tags: , , , | 13 comments

Comments (13)

  1. My latest blog post at The Blogging Nurseryman, "Self-sufficiency is not a crime" via @pitsenberger

  2. This is really no different from city governments telling owners they cannot have “wild” landscapes, etc. Honestly, I think that this sort of landscape control is backed by a lot of people. The suburban landscape is quite conservative in appearance in large part because vocal neighborhood opponents see decadence in anything not resembling carpet and hedge. They may even restrict you from having red curtains, purple shutters, basketball hoops, pools, clotheslines in the back, cars in driveways, etc. etc. We are free individuals caught in a swamp of taste and opinion.

    This is local politics. These folks shoulnd’t be victims of their own laws. They must lobby to change the law, and should do so against the taste and opinion of those to their left and those to their right.

    • Frank, agreed it’s local politics and they should fight it. What concerns me is people need to be able to take care of them selves at a time when the government is not always going to be there for you. People should have the right to grow their own food on their property. As long as it’s maintained and not allowed to fall into disrepair.  

      Here in northern California municipalities have started suing banks to maintain their foreclosed properties. Often the most blighted areas are filled with foreclosed homes being used as grow operations, meth labs, or just idle with weeds and trash in the yard. This vegetable garden would be a welcome respite to that. 

      • I agree. If I lived in an area with lots of foreclosed homes, empty yards, I would be jumpin fences and growing vegetables. Land isn’t cheap, certainly not free, and I could make it productive.

        I’ve always agreed that one should do with their yard what they wish. Pave it over, garden it, lawn it. Whatever you wish. Its funny when the conservative, government out of my business crowd gets up in your face about how your yard looks. No government when it serves me, too much when it serves me. Its awfully conservative to insist on the lawn, isn’t it?

        On the other hand, I’ve come to see how we really don’t own our property. We only own the right to do certain things with it, but ultimately we pay rent to the landlord, and that rent is in the form of property taxes. By paying those taxes, we also submit to the taxing body’s authority over that property.

        • I happen to be a conservative, right wing republican, and I don’t think that having a lawn is a conservative ideal.  In fact many conservatives like me think that government is too big, and likes to impose its will on the unwilling people.  People should be allowed to do what they want with their property.  If I bought it and payed for it, why should I let someone else tell me what to do with it?  Big government is the real problem.  Aesthetics is totally subjective, so my idea of a beautiful front yard is not going to be the same as your idea of a beautiful front yard.  When government steps in and says “this is what is beautiful because we say so”, that’s a problem.  Next thing you know, the ‘all knowing’ government is going to be telling you how many kids you can have, or how many cars, or what religion you can practice.  Does that sound familiar to anyone?  China perhaps?  Socialism is running rampant though our society and has been working to take over our government and ultimately our lives.  It’s up to us to fight back by taking small matters like this to court.  “When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”  -Thomas Jefferson

  3. Sorry, Ill go with gov on this one. Imagine everyone on the street with gardens unattended, weeds, animals, etc. This one is well done but do you think everyone’s will be.  What if he had too much and began selling his produce (and the neighbors)?  What if they die?  Who takes care of the garden.
    “Since when do we allow the government to tell us we cannot grow food to eat?”
    This isn’t the issue at all.  They’re saying you can’t grow it in your front yard. Enough of the government paranoia garbage.  Don’t let tv and radio people tell you how to think.

    • Jay, you can see the picture. Does it look untended? Why, when it comes to vegetable gardens do we worry about untended yards. You ask a lot of “what if’s”. What if they don’t maintain the lawn and weeds infest it? What if they don’t maintain their trees and they drop limbs? What if the only place they can grow vegetables is where the sun shines, in the front yard? So what if he has enough produce and wanted to trade or sell it to his neighbors? Right on! What’s wrong with that? All plants can die. Lawns, flowers, trees and shrubs can all die. It’s not about being paranoid of the government.  It’s bout being allowed to grow food on your property. 

      You argument about, “what if it’s untended” applies to any garden, ornamental or edible. Surely if it’s allowed to go untended and becomes a health hazard or blight it should be addressed. But it’s not.

      You say I should quit letting TV or radio tell me how to think. I don’t!  You act as if you know me, or perhaps have categorized me into a group of people that let “TV and radio” tell us how to think.

      I think someone is a bit more paranoid than me.

      • My apologies bro,  You have a valid question but I still disagree. Often times when a need for a garden arises then people come together and build community around a “group garden”. Part of the appeal of the neighborhood for what it’s worth is “uniformity”.  The gov is the bad guy cause they have to make the tough decisions.  The folks who work for the gov like to garden also and they would personally probably side with the guy.  Laws can be changed. There are endless stories of a renegade loner finding a loophole and making a mess of a nice neighborhood.  Again, this guys plot is well done but it’s against the rules.  He has rights of redress and he can be heard maybe with more neighbors.  I guess it was the comment about the government telling us what to do as I hear it constantly.  We’ve all become victims of the of the urge to fix the government by changing the people and party when the greatest problem our country faces is the disintegration of the neighborhood.  When we all focus on our neighbors needs and those of our community the government will take care of itself.  Everything that is important is local.

  4. More on the "criminal" gardener in Michigan from @pitsenberger – and a link to a petition you can sign to help her out!

  5. Self-sufficiency is not a crime via @pitsenberger

  6. Pingback: Why do we do this? » The Blogging Nurseryman by Trey Pitsenberger

  7. If it were a flower garden no one would complain..The city fathers require a reasonable lawn or something like that. I say plant grass between the beds would that then qualify? I think they have better things to do in Michigan than to tell people what they can do with their yards. Unkempt is unkempt, regulate the height of grass…not how much.

  8. Out here in Santa Cruz, CA, lawns are seen as a terrible waste of water and resources. The water district will actually pay you (with bill discounts) to remove a lawn and replace it with water-wise plants.

    I think laws that enforce aesthetics are kinda dumb, as they are totally subjective. I happen to think lawns are hideously ugly, and would probably hate the “legal” landscapes in that area. Putting a veggie garden in the front yard means that you’ll be spending more time in front of the house, which leads to more contact with neighbors, greater presence in the neighborhood, and a more secure and happy neighborhood overall.

    I can’t see why someone would be against such a thing.