Florida Lifts Ban on Front-Yard Vegetable Gardens

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CC BY 2.0. David Owen

One couple's infamous battle over the right to grow vegetables has resulted in a new bill.

A couple in Miami Shores, Florida, had been cultivating a front-yard vegetable garden for 17 years when, all of a sudden, they were told it was illegal. Apparently vegetable gardens were now only allowed in rear yards, but that wouldn't work for this couple, as theirs was north-facing and didn't get enough sun.

Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll, indignant at the fact that vegetables were deemed more offensive than boats, RVs, jet skis, statues, fountains, gnomes, pink flamingoes, or Santa in a Speedo in one's front yard, took their case to the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Miami Shores' right to control design and landscaping standards. In other words, it was a loss for Ricketts and Carroll.

State Government Steps in

But a few months later, victory was theirs. The front-yard garden ban touched a nerve with enough senators that a new bill just passed in mid-March, stating that Floridians are now able to grow fruit and vegetables in their front yards without fear of local government fines.The Miami Herald cites Republican Senator Rob Bradley, who sponsored the bill and described it as a "vast overreach." Given how many food deserts exist and how hard it can be for many families to access fresh and affordable food, such bans are an absurd step in the wrong direction. Bradley said,

"The world is changing when it comes to food. There’s a big interest when it comes to locally sourced food or organic products. It is our role, our duty to review decisions that are made in the courts that uphold local government actions that violate property rights in the State of Florida ... When you own a piece of property, you should be able to grow food on that property for your family’s consumption."

Ari Bargill, the lawyer who represented Ricketts and Carroll, is pleased with the new legislation, saying he "looks forward to the day where no Floridian would worry about crippling fines for the offense of growing cabbage."

Not everyone supports it. The ironically-named Democrat senator Gary Farmer voted no because he fears front-yard gardens will attract iguanas and rats. (Why this isn't a concern in rear-yard gardens, I am not sure.)

New Bill Only Goes so Far

The bill doesn't solve the dispute fully. It only preempts local government rules, not the restrictions set by homeowners' associations or other groups. But it's a great start and one that will hopefully inspire others to rip up their useless grass and plant some useful vegetables instead. The more front-yard vegetable gardens there are, the more normalized it will become – and the more secure the food system will be, too.

(Wanting some inspiration now? Check out Fine Gardening's tips on making an attractive front-yard veggie garden.)