Fight for Your Right to Grow Food

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Homeowners Across the Country Face Citations for Illegal Gardening

World Wars I & II coined the victory garden. Front yard garden
tomatoes, peppers and corn were seen not as acts of defiance, but
instead as expressions of patriotic national support. Today, in states
across the U.S., there instead seems to be a war on gardens.
Municipalities are citing homeowners for their “defiant” green thumbs
and in some cases going so far as plowing under residential front yard
gardens. In most instances, city codes state that front yards must have
“appropriate” or “suitable” ground cover — they mean grass or low
shrubs. Gardeners are challenging the definitions of what constitutes
suitable, claiming homeowners have the basic right to grow food on their

Global wars continue, food and water shortages are eminent and climate
change threatens land and growing ability everywhere. Faced with these
challenges, city and suburban dwellers across the country are digging
into the dirt to reconnect with their food, helping their homes and
cities become more food self-sufficient in the process. The “defiant”
gardens profiled in the articles listed here (and MOTHER’s reader reports, below) are sparking a national
debate, challenging our perception of subversive plots and recasting the
image of the modern victory garden.

Illegal Gardens in the News

Des Moines, Iowa. Illegal Front Yard Vegetable Gardens: Des Moines Considers Home Garden Ban
By Kale Roberts. MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Feb. 7, 2013.

Des Moines, Iowa. Seeds of Discontent in West Des Moines?
By Emily Schettler and Jennifer Jacobs. Des Moines Register, Feb. 7, 2013.

Orlando. Fla. Continuing Fight for the Right to Grow Food: Orlando’s War on Gardens
By Kale Roberts. MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Nov. 29, 2012.

Orlando, Fla. Homeowners Cited for Illegal Gardening: Orlando Couple Fight forthe Right to Grow Food
By David Yener Goodman. MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Nov. 15, 2012.

New South Wales, Australia. Bondi Woman’s ‘Illegal’ Community Garden Gets Locals’ Support
By Shane McDonald. Wentworth Courier, Nov. 14, 2012.

Orlando, Fla. College Park Man Fights to Keep Vegetable Garden in Front Yard
By Kristin Giannas. WKMG Local 6 News, Nov. 7, 2012.

Drummondville, Quebec.Illegal Front Yard Garden: Canadian Couple’s Kitchen Garden Targeted by Authorities
Huffington Post, Jul. 19, 2012.

Ferguson, Mo. City Officials in Ferguson Attempt to Bulldoze Citizens’ Rights, Gardens
By Dave Roland. Freedom Center of Missouri, Jul. 3, 2012.

Tulsa, Okla. Woman Sues City of Tulsa for Cutting Down Her Edible Garden
By Lori Fullbright. News on 6, Jun. 15, 2012.

Newton, Mass. Newton Officials Call Tomato Display Illegal
By Deirdre Fernandes. The Boston Globe, May 22, 2012.

Los Angeles, Calif. An Illegal Curbside Garden Flourishes in L.A.
By Nate Berg. The Atlantic Cities, Apr. 10, 2012

Oak Park, Mich. Oak Park Drops Charges Against Homeowner Julie Bass, but Hits Her with Two Other Misdemeanor Crime Charges
By Mike Adams., Jul. 15, 2011.

See related blog at

Washington Heights, N.Y. Rogue Farm Ripped Up Because Gardener Broke Rules, Says Parks Dept.
By Carla Zanoni. DNAinfo, Jun. 22, 2011

Chatham Township, N.J. Young Organic Farmer Fighting Rebuke of Chatham Twp. Law
By Aaron Morrison. Cornicopia Institute, Jun. 3, 2011.

Los Angeles, Calif. Is a Balcony Garden Against the Fire Code?
By Mike Lieberman. Urban Organic Gardener, May 26, 2011.

Boulder, Co. Home Garden Laws: Weeding in the Nude and Other No-Nos
By Jennifer Kongs. MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Aug. 18, 2010.

Clarkston, Ga. ‘Cabbagegate’: Man Fined $5k for Home Garden
By Dave Their. Huffington Post, Sep. 15, 2010

Urban Farming Resources

Organic Gardening Blog, MOTHER EARTH NEWS
Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with our great tips for organic gardening.

Patriot Gardens
When Jason and Jennifer Helvenston were told by the City of Orlando to remove their front yard vegetable garden or face fines of up to $500 per day, they got proactive. The Helvenston’s Patriot Garden blog recounts their ongoing struggle fighting for their right to grow food.

An Amazing and Prolific Urban Homestead By Jules Dervaes. MOTHER EARTH NEWS, February/March 2009.
How one family of four has created food and energy self-sufficiency on a fifth acre.

The Suburban Farm
Just because you live in suburbia doesn’t mean you can’t have a farm.

The Urban Farming Guys
The Guys took the seeds in their pockets and every square foot they owned and went about like mad scientists testing out innovative ideas from all around world and making them work in one of the most blighted neighborhoods in the U.S. — incorporating everything from urban fish farming to alternate energy. Now let’s pass it on!

Urban Farming Organization
The Urban Farming mission is to create an abundance of food for people in need by supporting and encouraging the establishment of gardens on unused land and space while increasing diversity, raising awareness for health and wellness, and inspiring and educating youth, adults and seniors to create an economically sustainable system to uplift communities around the globe.

The Urban Homestead Project
Surrounded by urban sprawl and just a short distance from a freeway, the Urban Homestead Project is a family-operated and highly productive city farm using minimum resources and land to set a progressive and forward-thinking example.
Urban organic gardener, Mike Lieberman, gives you practical container gardening tips to grow your own food, proving you don’t need any land or much money to start an apartment-based garden.

Reader Reports

We’ve asked our readers to tell us about any incidents they’ve heard of regarding “illegal” gardening in their hometowns and cities. Their reader reports will continuously be compiled below. Doing a little outlaw gardening of your own, or have a neighbor who has faced citations and fines for growing food? We want to hear about it. Send your reports to We’ll publish them here — and possibly be in touch to feature your battle in an upcoming issue.

Photo by Fotolia/Blair Bunting

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