In the height of ridiculousness, an Oak Park Michigan woman faces jail for planting a vegetables in the yard. Julie Bass faces up to 93 days in jail just for planting a vegetable garden in her front yard.
The saga began early this spring when she and her husband needed to tear up the front yard of their oak park Michigan home to put in a new sewer line. With a blank canvas on which to plant in their front yard, Julie talked to her neighbors and talked to the city about what she can plant there.
City regulations indicated that spaces that did not have concrete needed to be planted with “suitable living plant material”. And this is where the problem began. What was the definition of “suitable living plant material”?
Julie, inspired by a desire to have organic vegetables with which to feed her family, decided to plant a vegetable garden, which could also be an inspiration to her kids and neighbor kids. She had raised beds built, which were made to be attractive, and proceeded to plant her garden. She had felt that she had already done her duty in trying to determine whether she could in fact plant this garden in the front yard.
Along comes a city regulator, who told her that the definition of “suitable living plant material” is what is “common”, and that she could not plant her vegetables in the front yard because they are not “common” enough. That she needed to move them to the backyard. Next comes the city planner Kevin Rulkowski who had her cited with a misdemeanor for failing to comply with city ordinances. Feeling that she has already done her civic duty by asking the city what she can plant Julie Bass refuses to move the garden, hires an attorney to assist her in court. She states that “if they can do this to me they can do this to anyone”. A court hearing is now planned for July 26.
This is a story which is ignited a firestorm. Bloggers, news media, and interested individuals on both the left and the right seem to have picked up on this particular story. I have seen everything from Green gardeners to civil libertarians from the Huffington Post FOXNews and ABC news to bloggers commenting on this story.
A couple of blogs that caught my eye, which are commenting on this story are the Healthy Home Economist and Julie bass’ own blog Oak Park Hates Veggies, in which she has been chronicling her saga and struggle to grow veggies in her own home.
As for me, I think the city of Oak Park ought to get a life. I live in a fairly large city in the central Willamette Valley in Oregon. I can say that within about a four block radius of my house there are at least 15 or more front yard vegetable gardens. They are planted up with everything from tomatoes to corn, and from beans to carrots.
I personally have carrots, beans and cucumbers in my front yard. And I have no one harassing me for growing them. Perhaps the city of Oak Park needs to read copies of some edible landscaping books. Vegetables are really quite attractive. And from the pictures I have seen Julie Bass’ garden, it is quite attractive.
How will the saga and? No one yet knows. I only hope that the city of Oak Park somehow comes to its senses and realize is this woman is doing a good thing feeding her family and providing some education in gardening and civics to the rest of her community.