A family in Sugar Creek, Missouri has been given four days to tear out their entire vegetable garden or face a fine from their municipality.
Their terrible offense? Planting vegetables in their front yard.
What makes the situation even more unfair is the fact that the ordinance under which the city is fining Nathan Athans and his family was just passed on March 28, 2016. Because of that remarkably convenient timing, Athans believes he is being personally targeted.
He would move the garden to the backyard but it doesn’t get adequate sunlight, so the vegetables can’t grow there.
The new law says the garden has to be at least 30 feet from the road, which isn’t possible on Athans’ property.
That last word is what makes this all so ridiculous: It is, in fact, private property.
A front yard vegetable garden might not be to everyone’s taste, but that doesn’t justify using the government to force gardeners to comply with other people’s preferences.
Unfortunately, Sugar Creek is far from the only city to pull this sort of invasive nonsense. While vegetable gardens were once actively promoted by the government, in the last few decades they’ve come under fire in many municipalities around the country:
— An Orlando family was threatened with fines as high as $500 per day for their front yard vegetable garden—apparently they’d run afoul of a city ordinance requiring people to plant grass, shrubs, and other “traditional landscaping” options on their properties.
— In Miami Shores, FL, a couple was forced to uproot their 17-year-old vegetable garden in the face of city fines of up to $1500 per month.
— In Oak Park, MI, a woman was threatened with 90+ days of jail time for her vegetable garden. After she hired a lawyer, the case was temporarily dismissed, but could be renewed at any time.
— In Tulsa, OK, city officials actually destroyed a woman’s garden for the “crime” of having non-tree plants taller than 12 inches in her front yard. She was out of work and had been relying on her garden for food while money was tight.
— And then there’s Oakland, CA, where you can grow all the fresh vegetables you want… but if you want to sell any of them, be prepared to buy a pricey permit from the city to do so.
All of these anti-garden laws are born out of two dangerous convictions: First, that the government should be allowed to regulate peaceful, voluntary activities that people do with their own property. Second, that not liking something is ample justification for banning it.
Both of these are dead wrong. While vegetable gardens may not seem like a big deal, allowing this type of state invasion into our personal lives sets a terrible precedent for governance.