Moines, Iowa, gardeners may soon find themselves in
hot water with their City. A local resident recently took front yard veggie
growers to task for what the resident feels to be unsightly lawn growth. Beets
and berries, it seems, do not have the same aesthetic appeal as a green,
freshly-mowed front lawn.
The Des Moines
Register did not include the lawn-loving resident’s name in their
Feb. 7 report,
nor has the Des Moines City Council made any decisions on whether or not a ban
should be imposed on front yard gardens. The Council is expected to consider the
issue in coming weeks.
However, some Council members, such as Kevin Trevillyan,
are reluctant to establish a ban on front yard food production because they view the move as limiting homeowners’ property rights. Trevillyan told the Register, “I struggle with where do you
draw the line on property owner rights that say here’s what you can and can’t do
on your own property?”
This isn’t the first time front yard gardening in
Des Moines has
come under scrutiny — last fall, a City code enforcement subcommittee drafted an
ordinance to ban front yard fruit and vegetable production after a different
resident found these plants to be visually unappealing. Growing corn in front
yards was at the center of this particular debate. Mayor Steve Gaer recommended
bringing the ordinance to a meeting so all Council members could weigh
Garden advocates counter that front yard food production
is often necessary when backyards are shaded by homes and trees, which can often
be the case in older, established neighborhoods such as exist in West Des Moines.
Additionally, they argue that lettuces, pea trellises and flowering
vegetable plants are indeed as appealing to look at as approved ornamental lawn
Moines gardeners are not alone in this
battle. The City of Orlando, Fla., made a Jan. 15, 2013, recommendation that Orlando residents Jason and Jennifer Helvenston uproot their front yard vegetable patch or face
fines of up to $500 per day. The Helvenstons have repeatedly made known that
they have no intention to remove their front yard “patriot” garden or backyard
chickens. The Orlando decision has not yet been finalized. Those
interested in supporting the Helvenston's mission to keep front yard gardening legal can
to order a packet of seeds and a yard sign to show support.
To speak with the City Council of Des Moines — and let
them know how you feel about the right to grow food — contact Mayor Steve Gaer’s
office at 515-283-4944.
[Update] Des Moines Front Yard Garden Complaint Withdrawn
On Feb. 7, 2013, KCCI Des Moines reported that Des Moines City Council is dropping plans to consider banning residents from planting fruits and vegetables in their front yards. The resident who initially took issue with front yard gardens has withdrew the complaint, and the council will not move forward. Mayor Steve Gaer said residents were concerned a ban would interfere with their rights as property owners.
Photo by Fotolia/Henryk Sadura
Kale Roberts is an Assistant Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS. His interests include renewable energy, real food and sustainable rural development. You can find him on Google+.