Thursday, July 7, 2011

In Oak Park Michigan it is Illegal to Grow Veggies in your Front Yard, Seriously

You read that right, it is apparently illegal to grow veggies in raised beds in the town of Oak Park Michigan.  Julie Bass, mother of 6 and upstanding citizen has been given several citations from the city because she is growing veggies (gasp!), on her front lawn.  Apparently she is high on the list because she received her citation early in the day, and the city official claimed to be busy, wow.  I honestly thought I'd never see the day!  Vegetables, such violent creatures by nature don't you know?!  You would think that this city would have better things to do than fighting "vegetable crime!" 

So, as usual the Take Back page is jumping on the band wagon and writing letters, blogging and letting the world know all about this story.  I posted a letter writing action day and we have almost 140 people writing letters to the city planner and city council members.  I posted a petition for Julie and saw it climb from 22 to almost 500 today!  I feel like we're making a difference as a community and I'm very proud! 

Here is the letter I e-mailed to the city of Oak Park:

Dear Sirs,

Recently I heard about a woman in your town named Julie Bass who has been given several court summons by your city over the "crime" of growing vegetables in her front yard.  I am the creator and admin for the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) facebook page, which consists of nearly eight thousand urban homesteaders, most of which grow and harvest vegetables in their own yards.  

Urban homesteading is becoming increasingly common during these difficult times when families like myself are struggling to make ends meet.  Many are hanging on by a string financially and having access to their own free produce on their land makes a huge difference both nutritionally and financially.  My family lives on .15 of an acre in Eureka, Northern California.  We have 10 raised beds full of veggies on our property which we eat from daily.  We are a family of 4, with only one working parent, living in a very expensive area of California.  The prices of gas, food, and goods have all increased exponentially in the past few years, and families like ours are finding it increasingly difficult to support ourselves.  Fresh produce is very expensive, and organic pesticide free produce is even more expensive and completely out of our budget at this point.  Growing our own vegetables gives us the opportunity to eat healthy nutritious greens, whereas we wouldn't be able to have access to them otherwise.

I have researched Julie Bass' story extensively, and it appears that she was cited for not having "suitable" vegetation in her front yard.  The statement made by you, Mr. Rolkowsky was as follows, "If you look at the definition of what suitable is in Webster's dictionary, it will say common. So, if you look around and you look in any other community, what's common to a front yard is a nice, grass yard with beautiful trees and bushes and flowers."  I researched the definition of "suitable" in Webster's dictionary and found the following definitions:  1.)  similar, matching, 2.)  proper 3.) satisfying propriety, 4.) able, qualified.  Nowhere in these definitions do I see the word "common."  Ask any horticulturist and they will tell you that kale and ornamental kale are very similar, however one is edible and the other is not.  Is it not true that all vegetation is related genetically?  It is obvious that you are splitting hairs in regards to your definition of suitable in this instance in order to drive your point home.  Just because Julie's garden doesn't satisfy propriety in your eyes doesn't mean it is in any way an eye sore to her neighborhood. 

Julie and her family of 6 8 are law abiding citizens who are simply attempting to grow their own food in a creative and innovative way as are thousands of people across the nation.  She doesn't have unsightly garbage, un-registered cars, an unattractive unkempt home, or anything unattractive or illegal on her property.  Her front yard raised veggie beds are some of the most attractive I personally have seen.  Yes, this is an exception to your norm, but it doesn't make it unattractive, just different and foreign to you. 

Myself and the community at Take Back Urban-Homesteading fully support Julie's actions.  Our group consists of hundreds of bloggers, writers and urban homesteading activists who are writing, blogging, and spreading her story on the internet and the media at large.  We won't refrain from actively supporting and educating the public about your actions until she is allowed to grow vegetables in her front yard.  As a fellow urban homesteader and mother I ask you to please reconsider your position.  Please put yourself in her shoes and ask yourself the question:  If I were a mother of 4 6 living on a tight budget would I put a raised bed garden on my front lawn to help feed my family? 


April Alexander
creator and admin of Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) 


  1. I can't believe this. I read an article on it yesterday. Is this America? How free are we really if we can't even grow veggies in our yard if we want to? Just let me know who to email and their address and I'll email them too. I will gladly sign any petition as well if you post the link.

  2. I know, it's very hard to believe isn't it? Thanks for your support. Here are the emails and the petition link:

    Mayor Gerald Naftaly's e-mail:
    Council Person Angela Diggs Jackson:
    Council Person Paul Levine:
    Council Person Emile Duplessis:

  3. Great post April. My husband and I took a walk the other night and I told myself I would count all the vegetable gardens I could see from the street. I counted 11 vegetable gardens in four blocks. There is one house in my neighborhood that has a sign that reads "Farm Your Lawn". GO REDWOOD CITY CA! ;-)

    If my front yard was not shaded by a very large tree I would also "Farm My Lawn" but for now my back yard will have to do.

    Looking at Julie's front yard... I think I would put up a nice little picket fence to keep the nosey neighbor(s) at bay.. not that she should have to.

  4. Hi April (dig the name btw) But you can call me Pril! (dropped the A somewhere done the line of life)
    i am interested if you received anything back from the council from the letter you wrote? I'm so not good with words but have sent a message myself. I wish i would of copied yours now. lol.