Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Govt. Busybodies to Homeowners: Tear out your Garden!

I wish my neighbors' yard looked like this instead of the weed-choked dump they've let it turn into:

Jennifer and Jason Helvenston, gardening scofflaws. Photo from the Institute of Justice.

The city of Orlando, Florida ordered the Helvenstons to dig up their front yard and replace it with lawn or face a $500 per day fine. From the Institute for Justice (the same nonprofit organization that's defending blogger Steve Cooksey at,

Jennifer and Jason Helvenston of Orlando, Fla., take their role as responsible members of society very seriously, by choosing to commit their lives to sustainability: They built their home with naturally sourced materials, harvest eggs from their backyard chickens and grow vegetables in their front yard. Not only does their garden provide them with their own food, but it has become a community attraction where the couple teaches local youth about homegrown vegetables. The Helvenstons embody life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They have found life in the soil and the food they grow for themselves, liberty in their self-sufficiency and happiness in the contributions their garden makes to their community.
But the Orlando City Council—which aspires to be “the greenest city in America”—claimed that the Helvenstons’ harmless, well-tended front yard garden was in non-compliance with the city code, and threatened to fine the couple $500 a day unless they uprooted it and replaced it with lawn. Since the Helvenstons were originally cited, deadline after deadline to uproot their garden were postponed, and the future of the Helvenstons’ front yard, the source of most of their food, has hung in the balance. Undoubtedly, the city was waiting for media attention to abate before it enforced the law.

 The couple's website says,

The U.S. and Florida constitutions protect our property rights from arbitrary invasions.  Insisting that we grow grass instead of a vegetable plant is irrational and beyond the scope of government power.  The city should not only withdraw its demands that we tear up our garden, but amend its zoning code to allow more people to take our lead. Growing a garden is as old as civilization and deeply rooted in the American experience.  During both World Wars, Americans were encouraged to plant their own “Victory Gardens,” which were an economical way to increase the nation’s food supply.  It makes little sense that something that was once  considered a patriotic duty should now be against the law.  The garden ban is especially ironic because Orlando aspires to be the “Greenest City in America.” 
Orlando's proposal for new, less stringent regulations (which would nevertheless force the Helvenstons to tear out much of their garden), is on hold.

Back in February, the city of West Des Moines, Iowa showed more common sense, with some officials saying, basically, such an ordinance would be a waste of time and could violate property rights.


Suzie_B said...

Don't we Americans just love how government looks after our best interests in the land of the free? And let's not forget our pride in liberty too! Maybe only in Texas? Belief that our voter elected government holds these core values is kind of delusional I'd say.

Lori Miller said...

As you know, our federal government nursed along the rising obesity and diabetes with their low-fat dietary recommendations, and now is goading us all to eat more vegetables, while another branch of government wants its citizens to stop planting them in their front yards. One has to wonder how much better off we'd be if government had left people to eat and grow whatever food they wanted.

Suzie_B said...

There was a time when "private property" meant something to that effect.