Orlando Gardener Vows to Fight Anti-Front Yard Veggie Garden Ordinance (Update)

WKMG Local 6 /Video screen capture

Tuesday's Presidential Election may have ended the war on women, but the war on gardens still rages on.

Click Orlando reports that city officials had ordered Jason Helvingston to remove his front yard veggie garden by this week.

According to the news segment, Helvingston’s garden is against city code that requires front yards to be planted with ground cover, which is suppose to provide a uniform appearance and keep property values up.

The 25 x 25 foot micro-irrigated front yard edible garden consists of crops like beans, radishes, kale and Swiss chard. And is hardly an eyesore by the looks of the video.

In an effort to reach a compromise that would allow him to continue to grow food in his front yard, Helvingston offered to put up a fence but the offer was rebuffed.

What will happen now that the deadline to remove the garden has come and gone? Hopefully, Orlando officials will not come in and cut the garden down like in Oklahoma where the gardener filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Tulsa.

From the video it sounds like this gardener is ready to take the case to the Supreme Court because he sees the removal order as an example of government officials overstepping their bounds.

“You’ll take my house before you take my garden,” he reportedly told city officials.

Helvingston has collected 200 signatures from neighbors who support his garden. He hopes to convince the city to reconsider the code when he meets with the code board in December.

It is interesting to note that Jason Helvingston keeps backyard chickens. By allowing backyard chickens, but zoning out front yard veggie gardens, Orlando is codifying the property equivalent of a mullet. Yards must be business in the front, but can be party in the back.

If you live in Orlando or would like to respectfully voice your support for this front yard veggie garden--and the right to grow your own food in your front yard--you know what to do. The contact info is at the bottom of the page.

Update on Jason's Orlando Veggie Garden

This week WESH 2 picked up the story and mentioned this post on TreeHugger as a sign of the story's popularity. They have a new video and interview with Jason.

13 News Now also covered the story and we learn two interesting things about the case. The reason the Code Enforcement Officer targeted Jason is because an out of town landlord complained about the garden.

The news station reached out to the city of Orlando and learned city officials are looking at changing their policies. The sent the following statement to the reporter:

"The City is not requiring the property owner to tear up his garden. The City of Orlando is committed to environmental responsibility and encourages the use of vegetable gardens as a sustainable source of producing food. The City is working with the property owner to address a concern shared by a neighbor. The concern was related to the appearance of the lack of ground cover.

"The City does not have an ordinance governing vegetable gardens in the front yard. Our existing landscape code never contemplated front yard food production, hence the confusion. As society’s tastes change, we continue to adapt our development and landscape codes.

"To assist with this process and the topic of sustainability as a whole, the City has created a Green Works Task Force. The Task Force will help develop Orlando’s plan for sustainability, which will serve as the road map to steer future policies, developments and investments. The Task Force will review the current land development code as it relates to landscaping and explore options and standards."

Congrats to Jason and everyone who supported his garden, including the city of Orlando for coming to their senses.

Want more garden goodness? Follow the MrBrownThumb urban gardening blog, also on G+, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.

Tags: Farming | Florida | Food Miles | Food Security | Fruits & Vegetables | Gardening | Sustainable Development

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