Food Politics + Justice USDA shuts down 4 year olds garden

Published on August 25th, 2013 | by Becky Striepe


USDA Shutting Down 4-Year-Old Girl’s Vegetable Garden

USDA shuts down 4 year olds garden

A South Dakota girl may have to destroy her vegetable patch because of USDA rules.

Seriously, what is with these crackdowns on growing your own food? We’ve seen a couple of folks get fined for growing food: see here and here. This time, instead of a fine USDA Rural Development Agency (RDA) is making a 4-year-old tear out the vegetable garden that she is growing in the subsidized housing development where she and her mom live.

According to the folks at The Healthy Home Economist USDA RDA in South Dakota “forbids residents to have structures of any kind within landscaped areas.” That includes small plots of vegetables, which the girl and her mother were using to supplement their diet. Her mother is severely disabled, and they can’t afford many fresh vegetables on her $682/month disability payment.

To be fair, it’s not like USDA agents descended on this little girl’s garden and ripped it out. The property management at the subsidized living complex say that they are following USDA guidelines. What strikes me about this is that it feels so…cold? Sure, I can see not wanting residents building actual structures. If everyone in an apartment complex decided to build a shed, for example, it could become a safety problem. But we’re not really talking about a structure here. We are talking about growing food. It feels like they could have used a little bit of heart in this decision, doesn’t it?

What You Can Do

There’s a petition going around to save this little girl’s garden. They’re calling her “Rosie,” but that’s a fake name to protect her identity, since she’s a minor. You can also write a letter directly to State Director of USDA RDA in South Dakota, Elsie Meeks, asking her to reexamine this rule. Her email address is

Have you run into ordinances that prevent you or someone you know from growing your own food? Tell us your story in the comments!


Image Credit: photo via petition page

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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .

  • P Howard Dilling

    We need to move beyond the notion that land can be owned in order to keep someone from growing their own food. We are composed of the earth and have the right to nurture the earth to sustain ourselves, our families, and our communuties. God did not open a bank and hand out loans to purchase land to grow food on. He gave it to all of us to share and to protect for future generations.

  • Mike

    This story isn’t even true. Check your sources.

    • Becky Striepe

      Do you have a source refuting this that you could share? I’m always happy to correct if I get something wrong.

      • Chris

        US Gov’t agencies like the USDA have to provide almost any and all documents if a public information request is filed. Perhaps If you could post copies of these documents it would better corroborate your story.

  • Chris

    US Gov’t agencies like the USDA have to provide almost any and all documents if a public information request is filed. Perhaps If you could post copies of these documents specifically related to this story it would better corroborate your story. And I don’t mean a copy of generic rules/policy. I mean a letter to the tenant and/or management company regarding this specific issue and the specific people involved, even if personal info is redacted.

  • Peter Pitchford
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