90 Days in Jail for Planting a Vegetable Garden?

July 8th, 2011

The house practically screams unsuitable doesn't it?

It is no surprise that the price of food is increasing due to inflation and high demand. So when prices become unreasonable, would it not make sense to grow your own food, from the privacy of your own front yard? That is what Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan did to help combat the costs of organic vegetables. However, her veggie patch has gotten her in trouble with the police, and she could face jail time for violating a city ordinance.

Code enforcement officers warned her that she was breaking the rules with her front yard, and initially gave her a ticket. When Ms. Bass refused to remove the garden, she was informed that she could face a misdemeanor charge, which carries a roughly 9o-day jail sentence.

According to a city planner, the warning was issued because a garden is not “what (people) want to see in a front yard”. Who is he referring to? Does he mean the city planning committee, or does he mean the people of Oak Park? If he is in fact referring to the people of Oak Park, who is he to determine what individuals put in their front yard? Apparently, a city code specifies that a front yard must have “suitable, live plant material”. What is the definition of “suitable” in the eyes of Oak Park officials? After all, vegetables are alive, and they are plants, so why are they therefore not suitable?

It sounds like this isn’t really an example of making sure the law is being followed, but rather just a city government trying to tell people what is and isn’t acceptable on their private property. A person should have the right to put whatever they want on their front lawns as long as it doesn’t infringe on anyone’s basic human rights, and I’m fairly sure a vegetable garden isn’t doing irreparable harm to either the city or its residents.

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