Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Woman Prosecuted (and Persecuted) for Growing Vegetables in Her Own Yard!
OMG! Tonight as I was looking for some tips to help my fruit trees on Youtube I was getting ready to sign off when I came upon the story of Julie Bass, a woman from Oak Park, Michigan who was in the National news recently because she's being taken to court by the City, and could even face jail time for growing a vegetable garden in her front yard. The City cites some vague policy that says plantings in the front yard in the City must be "suitable plant material" although there is nothing that actually states that vegetables are not suitable. They are interpreting "suitable" to mean that which is "common" in the area. As a fellow planter and supporter of DIY I could not go to bed without writing about this in my blog, as from what I understand, her court date is today.

There were several videos about this situation posted on Youtube, one of them from a man in California with a magnificent vegetable garden, producing enough fresh food probably to fully sustain him. More and more people have to resort to growing their own food (myself included).

I went to her blog; oakparkhatesveggies.wordpress.com and also read some of her own postings, one of which really moved me. It was about the fact that the city had villified her and attempts to set her apart from those in her community but in reality she's not really any different from anyone else.

She lives in a neighborhood where most of her neighbors actually like what she's done with her yard and the neighborhood children enjoy helping with the gardening. She is somebody who was just going about the business of living and some busybody took it upon herself to turn her in (and that particular neighbor after turning her life upside down over what should have been a non-issue hid behind a disguised voice when interviewed by the TV news station, and wouldn't allow her face or identity to be revealed).

It occurred to me that not only was this mightily unfair that such a thing could have been so blown out of proportion based on one complaint but it could very possibly be unconstitutional; a violation of her property or other rights to live as a free citizen of the United States.

Would the city of Oak Park rather she seek government assistance to pay for food than for her to grow her own? Clearly they have not fully thought through the full ramifications of their position. And if they should prevail in court what is that going to do in other municipalities where other people have to rely on home grown food for their survival? Hunger in this country is very real and ever-present and right now with unemployment being at an all-time high (and many unemployed are not even officially counted), the citizens of this country cannot afford to lose any liberties.

Food prices are increasing yet salaries are not. Those who are not out and out laid off from their jobs are likely to have their salary cut and/or have their hours reduced. Many people still cannot afford health insurance. Governments all over this country are saying they cannot afford to operate and are cutting back needed and vital services.

Going after private citizens in their own homes to challenge what they choose to do with their own yards is not the answer and it will accomplish nothing but making both parties increasingly broke.

Before I get too long-winded with this I want to let you readers know what you can do to support Julie Bass in her good fight against this ludicrous ordinance. To reach somebody fastest

Please e-mail Kevin Rulkowski (Director/City Planner) at krulkowski@ci.oak-park.mi.us
and/or call (248) 691-7450
Fax: (248) 691-7165
Mon-Thurs. 8 AM - 5 PM

I just sent off this e-mail to Mr. Rulkowski;

Dear Director Rulkowski,

I have been hearing about the plight of Julie Bass on the news and on the web and would like to ask that you drop this case against her and allow her to continue to grow produce in her front yard. It is my understanding that only one neighbor disagreed with the vegetable garden and that the majority of the community is behind Ms. Bass in this use of her yard.

This one neighbor should not be allowed to blow such a thing so out of proportion and cause trouble for this woman who is only trying to live her life. This garden is doing nothing dangerous to anyone in her community and it sounds as though the root of the controversy is merely a matter of personal taste.

I think if you'd really think about this you'd realize that to legislate against something like this would set a very bad precedent and at a time when many branches of government are operating at a severe deficit and that persuing charges against someone for something like this really takes money away from much more serious matters.

Besides, would you rather people go for public assistance to pay for their food? Don't you think the alternative to growing your own food would be even more costly? Think about if you or someone in your own family were laid off or not making enough money to eat for the whole month. What would you do? Wouldn't you want to do everything in your power to remain independant and provide for your family? That is all this woman is trying to do. What she does with her own property should be her decision as long as it does not endanger anybody else, and this doesn't.

That one neighbor might not like how it looks, but part of being neighbors is having tolerance for how others live their lives even if you wouldn't live that way, and it sends the wrong message to indulge somebody who has made a mountain out of a mole hill when there really isn't a vital reason for it. This is a difficult time in our country and instead of divisiveness our government officials should be encouraging communities to pull together and support one another, not to nitpick every tiny detail nor to abuse local ordinances and make others' lives that much harder.

There may come a time when growing a garden in one's front yard becomes a necessity for most people and that time may be sooner than you think. It is likely that this recession is going to continue for quite awhile and the worst may be yet to come.

Why not give this woman a break and consider this her personal decision and something the government should stay out of. There may be constitutional issues that supercede City ordinances on this issue anyhow. People have been gardening for food since the days of the early settlers and I think a case could be made that it is a well-accepted practice even in today's society.


Pippit Carlington
If any of you readers grow edible plants I hope you'll do the same because this affects all of us ultimately. We sure don't want other municipalities following this bad legislation/policy. Citizens should have the ultimate control over what they/we eat, and should be allowed to grow it where we live, and no government entity should have the right to place restrictions on that choice.
You can also post links and info on your blogs and Facebook page, forums, etc,  if you have them.
Ther's also a petition you can sign here; http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/oak-park-hates-veggies/
I'll be posting part II about the sprout dishes soon, but this story was too important to put off another minute.


Miss Val's Creations said...

Wow! I am appalled this women is being given a hard time about doing something so good! I love seeing people plant their own vegetable, fruits and herbs. This is truly a shame. ~Val

Jill Q said...

It's unbelievable that this woman is going through such a thing ... will be keeping track of what happens to her!

turpin3166 said...

I was at her hearing today and the charges have been dropped. The city caved from the pressures from Julie's supporters and the world wide media attention. Thank you for your support. I will make sure Julie knows of your support. Thanks ryan

Giftbearer said...

I am really glad things turned out with a positive outcome!

PussDaddy said...

I read an article called Farmegeddon today about how police and government agencies are prosecuting people for stuff like this to force them to abide by what is sometimes senseless rules. It is happening a lot to organic farmers and those who are in co-ops to exchange organic foods, things like that.