Stay-at-Home Dad Wins Right to Front Yard Vegetable Garden

© Karl Tricamo

Karl Tricamo has gardened off and on since he was a child. He says he's had about six or seven seasons in which to hone his "green thumb." Earlier this year, his concerns about GMOs and the use of pesticides and herbicides in industrial farming prompted the stay-at-home dad to convert his front lawn into a vegetable garden. His plant list included 55 heirloom varieties -- among them, tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant and various ornamental plants.

Before starting his garden he reviewed the city’s ordinances to ensure that he was following all the necessary rules in regards to front yard landscaping.

© Karl Tricamo

Ferguson, Missouri, city officials were not as impressed with Karl’s due diligence and his desire to feed his family with food he sustainably grew in his front yard.

His landlord (his fiancee's brother) was cited for “Failure to meet the minimum standards of the City of Ferguson exterior appearance code" when Tricamo tore up the front lawn and converted it into an heirloom veggie garden.

"He is in support of the garden, which is solely my endeavor," say Tricamo, 29. "But he was the one facing any legal repercussions such as fines, court, etc. I just faced losing the garden itself."

It's not clear if his garden was targeted because of any complaints, but at least one neighbor was on Team Karl. "My immediate neighbor even let me put two tomato bushes in her front yard planter box, as a show of solidarity," Tricamo informs me.

He says that last year he had a 15' x 20' front yard vegetable garden just a few blocks from the current garden that has caused a stir, but imagines that the garden wasn't detected by city officials because it was partially obscured from the street by a hedge.

On his blog, Vegetable Yarden, Tricamo documented his experience once he received the citation for his current garden. Along with listing ordinances that supported his case, he documents what seems like intimidation by code enforcement that routinely drove by or sat in front of his house as he disregarded their orders to remove the vegetable garden and plant grass.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that last week Tricamo’s months-long feud with the city ended when the city’s Board of Adjustment voted 4-1 to throw out the citation against his garden. Tricamo and his future brother-in-lawn were represented by Dave Roland, a lawyer with the Libertarian group Freedom Center of Missouri.

© Karl Tricamo

The lone vote against Tricamo’s garden came from board chairman, Joe Schroeder, who doesn’t seem too happy about the law being in Tricamo’s favor.

"The board felt that, technically, he had the law in his favor," Schroeder told the Post-Dispatch. "But I think that all of us on the board agreed that the garden is an eyesore. It goes against common sense, really, to put a garden in the front yard instead of the back."

From the pictures of the garden, I fail to see the same "eyesore" that the chairman does. I'm also baffled by why he thinks that common sense dictates that a garden belongs hidden from view like it's something to be ashamed of.

Instead of persecuting and adding to the stress of a recent father, Tricamo should have been held up as an example for his community.

He says, "The situation has been very taxing, and with all of the turmoil that went along with it, to prevail in the end offered a sense of pride that I've not known in the past."

In a few week Tricamo will be replacing his summer garden with a winter crop, and now that the matter has been resolved he will hopefully be able to harvest the stress relief and serenity he thought he'd find in this garden.

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Tags: Activism | Food Security | Fruits & Vegetables | Gardening | Genetically Modified Food | GMO