Food Politics + Justice

Published on July 10th, 2011 | by Becky Striepe


Oak Park Garden: Another Family Fined for Growing Food


Oak Park garden

A family in Oak Park is fighting a legal battle to keep their front yard vegetable garden.

We’ve talked before about people getting in trouble for edible gardens. In Canada, residents in one neighborhood were getting slapped with fines for their basement vegetable gardens, thanks to an outdated law, and here in Georgia, a man was fined for growing too many veggies on his land. It looks like a resident of Oak Park, Michigan is facing similar troubles.

After a sewer pipe broke on their property, Julie Bass and her family had to dig up their whole front yard to repair it. Rather than plant a water-sucking lawn or ornamental plants, they opted to build a set of raised beds and grow food on their property instead. After checking with the zoning board, they learned that the city of Oak Park allows decorative plantings, and Bass felt that a beautiful yard full of fruits and veggies would fit the bill.

Not so, apparently.

They hired a contractor to build their raised beds and planted them full of edibles. A couple of weeks later, they got a visit from code enforcement, and they’ve been fighting for their Oak park garden ever since. Here’s a local new segment on the issue:

I guess edible food doesn’t fall under “suitable” in the eyes of the city of Oak Park? Bass is now facing fines and a possible 93 days in jail for her raised garden beds. Our sister site, Sustainablog, has a compelling analysis about the meaning of the word “suitable” as it relates to this case that’s definitely worth a read.

You can keep up with the situation on Bass’ blog, and we’ll be keeping an eye on the Oak Park garden legal battle as it unfolds, as well.

Have you heard of other folks getting in trouble for growing food? It seems to be a recurring issue, and I find it really worrisome.

[polldaddy poll=5219578]

Photo via Oak Park Hates Veggies

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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 .

12 Responses to Oak Park Garden: Another Family Fined for Growing Food

  1. Bill says:

    I don’t agree with the city. You should be able to grow whatever you want in your front yard. As long as she’s not breaking any HOA rules or city rules… go for it. Good luck to her and her family!

    I think your poll should be modified to say “Are you growing a vegetable garden in your front yard?” to be more inline with the story. They are not opposed with her growing vegetables, they are opposed with it growing in her front yard.

    • That’s a good point about the poll, Bill!

      I’d update it, but we have lots of responses, and it might make some folks’ responses untrue at this point. In some of the other cases where food gardeners have faced fines they weren’t growing in their front yards, necessarily, so as part of the larger issue at least it’s still relevant. :)

  2. Steve says:

    If more people start growing their own food, that will put the illegal aliens who pick our fruit and veggies out of work.

  3. Bettie says:

    Its a trashy neighborhood from the looks of the pictures so who cares about a trashy front lawn?

  4. Pingback: The Definition of Suitable: Not “common” – Sustainablog

  5. Didn’t Michelle Obama rip up part of the White House lawn to build a veggie garden? Hmm … okay for the White House but not okay for Oak Park! Oak Park should be ashamed of itself!

  6. Pingback: Useful Tips for Avoiding Jail Time while Vegetable Gardening in Your Front Yard – EcoLocalizer

  7. Anon says:

    These officials are just doing their job and it sounds like they are uneducated and afraid of what might follow if they allow one person to have a veg garden.

    Veg ARE ornamental. Have you seen all the ornamental cabbage, chard, and herbs used in mixed planters?

    As long as it is very tidy and clean, there shouldn’t be a problem with food garden in res. zoning. The problem for administration is – who decides when a food garden is getting too messy? How do you decide? That’s an increased administrative burden and cost that city budgets can’t bear. So, pro-foodies need to address this (unspoked) concern in order to win over officials.

    Gardens also can be designed in a more ornamental way – this one looks too barren. Mix flowering herbs like agastache with veg and perhaps no one will know you’re growing veg!

    Also – screen from the street by make a hedge of fruit trees (will anyone notice it’s not just a flowering apple?) They can be espaliered or trained to be dwarf hedges. You also can make a hedge with flowering herbs, rosemary, or rugosa rose (makes hips) and those are all very ornamental.

    Make it easier on the officials who have to answer to laws and the citizens.

  8. Pingback: Oak Park Garden Update: Charges Dropped? – Eat Drink Better

  9. Pingback: Oak Park Garden Update – Eat Drink Better

  10. Pingback: Man the lifeboats!

  11. Pingback: Spotted: Front Yard Vegetable Garden – Eat Drink Better

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