Home gardens – otherwise known as urban agriculture – have become an integral part of our modern day society, as we experience major economic and environmental instability, these gardens have become more than a hobby or favored past time, they have become a way of life for some and a means to get by for others. Now more people are pursuing urban agriculture and publicly recognizing that growing and selling food – and even donating it – have a vital place in our communities.
Urban gardens are changing lives everyday. One such garden, the Ballard P-Patch, in Seattle is a great example. Garden members plant “giving gardens” where one or more rows are planted for the homeless. This results in about 2,000 pounds of fresh produce going to Seattle area food banks. Another group known as Food Forward in Los Angeles gathers volunteers to harvest fruits and nuts from city-owned or privately-owned trees, to save them from rotting and going to waste. The harvested fruits are then donated to charitable organizations that feed the hungry.
These gardens teach sustainable food habits, promote health, inspire and feed hungry people (as well as wildlife), and even benefit our environment and entire ecosystem. It is hard to believe that such gardens are, in fact, under attack by city councils, food activists and even our own neighbors. There have been countless reports of garden owners being cited for “unsightly” yards on their own land. One man in Georgia was fined $5,200 for “growing too many vegetables in his backyard” and another man in Los Angeles had his home garden cited as “parkways cannot be used for agricultural purposes…” according to the city. Most recently, a local Math teacher in Memphis Tennessee, Adam Guerrero, was found in violation of two city ordinances and had his home garden deemed “a nuisance.” Mr. Guerrero’s garden was a place for students to come and learn, as well as practice gardening. In July, a Michigan woman faced jail time for refusing to destroy her home garden (the charges were later dropped).
Home gardening is being attacked by our cities and even the government, by creating endless zoning laws and restrictions they are making it near to impossible for people to garden on a large scale in their own yard. During such economical struggle, when cities should be promoting such projects instead they are making it harder for residents to embrace sustainability. The majority of city laws today require residents to obtain a permit before they can even start planting gardens on their own land. These permits are exceedingly difficult and time-consuming to attain, not to mention expensive – permits cost upwards of $400 – even with the permit, plants cannot be any higher than 3 feet. Once again, these are required for private, home gardens, which will inevitably make zero profit. Some cities are even planning to increase the cost per plot for community gardens; Los Angeles, in particular, increased their cost per plot in January of this year from $25 to $120. The majority of community gardens are run by nonprofit organizations who use these gardens to simply better the lives of those who are unable to do so for themselves. Community gardens have a positive economic, social, and educational impact on local neighborhoods, resulting in stronger communities and clearer, greener cities. These practices should be embraced, not shunned.
If you would like to take a stand against these unjust attacks against home and urban gardens, you can do so by signing a petition in your community or write a personal and respectful letter to your local city council supporting home gardening. You can also visit the Change.org website and sign the petition of your choice or you can even start your own petition. Change.org is a free and easy way to start a petition and make your voice heard by government and business leaders.