Going to jail for vegetable gardens

Yesterday a friend shared a story with me. It seems a woman named Julie Bass in Michigan has installed raised vegetable beds on her front lawn. They are just like mine, only I have nine and she has four. The difference? She may go to jail for hers.

Although I was hassled by a bylaw officer earlier this spring, the Town of Oakville has not come back to enforce what they perceive to be a problem. I suspect it is because they worried that it would erupt into a public mess. And if Julie is any indication, that is exactly what could happen. While I still feel a little uneasy at the sight of a Town of Oakville truck in the neighbourhood, Julie Bass is in so much trouble that she must appear in court at the end of July. Read the full story here or just google it–there are about a million other blog posts about it.

I could not help but feel outraged on her behalf. And since I am too far away to go and support her on the day she appears in court, I wrote a letter to the local city official who is taking this case forward. I was careful to send photos of my own garden, too.

Dear Mr. Rulkowski,

My name is Reverend Kristine O’Brien. I live in Oakville, Ontario, Canada and minister at Trafalgar Presbyterian Church. On my lawn I have installed nine raised vegetable gardens, almost identical to the ones on Julie Bass’ property in Oak Park Michigan. I have attached pictures so that you can see that I, too, am concerned about rising food costs. Some of my produce also supports the families in a low-income housing area nearby.

I have found that there is tremendous support for my new garden. My neighbours regularly stop by to talk about what is growing. Children and teenagers are interested in learning about how food grows and often come by to look. I, like Julie Bass, made sure to create tidy boxes and keep the beds free from weeds. Many people consider this to be both practical and beautiful.

I believe that if you did some further research you would certainly find that these front yard vegetable gardens are becoming quite common in your country and in mine. You could read “Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn” by Will Allen and Diana Balmori (Metropolis, 2010), “Year of Plenty: One Suburban Family, Four Rules, and 365 Days of Homegrown Adventure in Pursuit of Christian Living” by Craig Goodwin, (Zondervan, 2005) or “Edible Landscaping: Now you can have your gorgeous garden and eat it too”! by Rosalind Creasy (Sierra Club Books, 2010). All of these demonstrate that you may need to revisit your condemnation of Julie Bass’ front yard garden based on its not being “common”.

I, like many other upstanding citizens, fully support Julie Bass and her family and wish them much success in their garden. Please contact me if I can be of any assistance to you, or visit my blog to see the whole story of how I came to change the grass in my front yard http://www.bloomingreverend.wordpress.com

Rev. Kristine

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3 Responses to Going to jail for vegetable gardens

  1. bunty says:

    Your daily blogs brighten and enlighten my day. Particularly admire your defence of the Michigan ladies front yard vegetable gardenand hope the officials take the time to read at least one of the books you recommended and change their stance on the subject.

    • I’m so glad you are enjoying the blog! Yes, here’s hoping those officials come to their sense and figure out that vegetables in the front yard are not as uncommon as they think they are.

  2. Nicole Quesnel says:

    It amazes me that any town council would persue this. There are people who let their yards become run down and, often, really hard to look at. Then, when someone does something constructive (pardon the pun) and a little different they challenge the individual. It makes no sense to me at all. No one is at risk, the yard is well kept, food will be the end result and no one gets hurt. Really, are their not more important things to occupy City Hall’s time?

    Great that you supported the woman in the USA.

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