Fight for the Right to Grow Food: Orlando Man Cited for Illegal Gardening [Updated]


Illegal Garden 

For most of us who have vegetable gardens or aspire to grow our own food, we wouldn’t consider our bean poles and lettuce patches acts of political defiance. However, for Jason and Jennifer Helvenston of Orlando, Fla., their front yard garden has become a battleground, pitting food self-sufficiency against city ordinance.

The Helvenstons' 25-square-foot micro-irrigated front yard garden is in contrast to other yards in his neighborhood, where a “finished” and “inviting” appearance is mandatory. Their backyard chickens have not been called into question, with only the front garden coming under scrutiny. The City has asked them to remove their garden patch.

Jason blames the current situation on a system that allows city government the authority to dictate what homeowners do with their properties, something he argues “should never happen.” He has gathered over 200 signatures from neighbors, some of whom claim they love the garden, to petition the city to reconsider.

The Nov. 7 deadline for the Helvenstons to remove the garden passed with their refusal to uproot his vegetables. “You’ll take my house before you take my vegetable garden,” Jason told the city. Orlando officials have told him he will have to appear before a board in December for a hearing on the matter. Visit WKMGLocal 6’s Click Orlando for the video report. And visit the Helvenston's Patriot Gardens blog to stay current or offer support.

Orlando is not the only municipality in the news recently for restricting residents’ right to grow food. Earlier this summer, Tulsa, Okla., resident, Denise Morrison filed a lawsuit against the City for unlawfully mowing down her front yard in August 2011. Tulsa ordinance prohibits plants over 12 inches tall unless they produce food. Morrison claims each of her over 100 plant varieties not only provided her food but also medicine to treat arthritis and diabetes. Visit KOTV’s News on 6 for the report.

1/15/2013 4:40:52 PM

it's good that this rule will never happen in Thailand. Every family here can grow anything in their land such as vegetables and trees. Also, i hope people in Florida can have a right to have their own vegetable gardens. It's a wonderful thing, i know. I always see my mom's happy face when she is gardening. It can make you relax. You can eat healthy food from your land. Your children will grow up healthily. See? :)

12/27/2012 4:43:52 PM

Just read your article and felt moved to action. Here is my email sent to Orlando's Mayor Buddy Dyer who can be contacted at Hello Mr. Dyer, I'm an urban farmer from Portland, Oregon and deeply concerned about American's ability to grow and connect with food - especially with children and future generations. Further, I just read about Jason and Jennifer Helvenston's front yard garden and trouble with perceived "lack of ground cover" concern from a neighbor and potential requirement of fencing their garden. Please take a moment and use this event for the positive - help your citizens connect with healthy food. Teach classes on gardening, biodiversity, and cooking food grown at home. Connect with other farmers within the area for assistance. Allow the Helvenston's example to inspire others. Gardens evolve, move, dance, and are best when shared with others. We need city ordinances and codes to promote better health and connection within community rather than isolating and condeming. You can do it. Melina Carabajal

Barbara Pleasant
11/27/2012 1:06:22 PM

Good for Orlando! Many cities are seeing the wisdom of home food production, whether it's food or eggs from back yard chickens. Sustainability starts at home..

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