Homeowners Forced to Uproot 17 Year Old Edible Garden (But Cheap, Plastic Flamingos Approved)

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist November 25, 2013

Flamingos vs garden

If you didn’t know already that there is a war going on all across North America against eggs, dairy, meat and now, even fruits and vegetables produced in a home based or small farm setting, this recent story from my home state of Florida should help jolt you awake.

For the past 17 year, Hermine Ricketts, a retired architect, and her husband, Tom Carroll have maintained a lovely garden in the front yard of their middle class Florida home. They chose the front yard because the back yard is very shady and doesn’t get enough sun for the garden to thrive.

Hermain’s edible garden included okra, sweet potato, broccoli, kale, lettuce, eggplant, onions and a dozen or more varieties of Asian cabbage.

As you can see from the picture above to the right, the garden is well maintained and not an eyesore which could damage neighborhood property values.

This past May, the city of Miami Shores decreed that Hermaine and Tom’s garden along with any others like it, would have to be removed. What’s more, the new zoning ordinance fined any owners who refused to comply $50/day to keep their gardens.

The ordinance specifically disallowed vegetables from being grown in front yards in order “to protect the distinctive character of the Miami Shores Village.”  Fruit, flowers and shockingly even cheap, tacky, plastic flamingos made in China are fine.

Hermaine and Tom twice appeared before the Miami Shores Code Enforcement Board and were denied an exemption despite the fact that their garden was well maintained with no complaints from neighbors, used a water-efficient drip-irrigation system and has been lovingly tended for 17 years.

Frustrated and discouraged, the couple dug up their garden by the August 31 deadline rather than pay the city $1500/month in fines. Now, only a few fruit trees are left, including a papaya.  Near the edge of the front lawn, a plastic, pink colored flamingo stands, which Ricketts says is a symbol that “It’s OK to have a cheap plastic thing shipped in from abroad, but it is illegal to plant organic vegetables in your front yard.”

She and her husband “are already feeling the impact of shopping for overpriced organic food,” she added in a statement made to the Miami Herald last week.

Last week, the Institute for Justice got involved and filed a lawsuit against the city of Miami Shores on Hermaine and Tom’s behalf.

Attorney Ari Bargil said the lawsuit is not about money.  He wants to see the zoning ordinance declared unconstitutional so that Hermaine and Tom are free to peacefully grow their garden again as they did for 17 years.

The Florida Constitution recognizes the inalienable right of privacy for its citizens even more broadly than the US Constitution according to Bargil, and as such the ordinance would have to promote “a compelling governmental interest” and be “narrowly tailored to advance that interest” not to infringe on this basic right.

Bargil warns that while cases like this may seem small, it is a slippery slope to government intrusion on private life. “If the government can tell you what you can and can’t do in your front yard, what else can they decide is off-limits?”

Miami Shores Village Attorney Richard Sarafan disagrees. He said, “It’s not easy to overcome a municipality’s right to regulate aesthetics.”  He went on to claim that gardens are “not harmonious with our community. This is not an agricultural zoning area.”

This dispute is not a rare situation across North America. As the trend for producing some of one’s food in a home based setting has taken hold and grown in recent years, others have faced a similar predicament.

According to Florida Watchdog, Ron Finely of Los Angeles and Adam Guerro of Memphis, Tennessee were both found guilty of violating city gardening ordinances.  Both men chose to challenge the ruling and eventually prevailed.

Others did not fare as well. While Denise Morrison of Tulsa, Oklahoma waited for her court date to arrive, local authorities destroyed her vegetable garden. Some have even faced jail time for gardening such as Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan (the charges were eventually dropped).

And who could forget the case of 4 year old Rosie in South Dakota who earlier this year had to remove the small garden she tended in an unused area outside the backdoor of the subsided housing development she shares with her disabled mother at the insistence of a USDA subcontractor?  Due to extreme negative publicity of Rosie’s situation via the alternative media including this blog, an embarrassed property management company promised to build the family a new raised bed vegetable garden in the spring of 2014. In addition, the garden will be available for other tenants of the complex.

First they came for the raw milk farmers,
and I didn’t speak out because I don’t drink raw milk.

Then they came for the free range egg farmers,
and I didn’t speak out because I am allergic to eggs.

Then they came for the home gardeners,
and I didn’t speak out because I don’t have a garden.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

adapted from poem from pastor Martin Niemöller (1892—1984)

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist


Miami Shores sued for ordering couple to remove vegetable garden

Pure manure: City uproots FL couple’s 17-year-old garden


Comments (26)

  1. I feel their pain. My husband and I would love to have a small garden in our front yard but we aren’t allowed to, either. I can’t imagine how much worse it would be to have tended the garden for years and then have to just dig it up. Yeah, and let’s torch those obscene pink flamingos, shall we? What a disgrace.

    • I agree Sara. I don’t mean to be rude by pointing out the obvious; the folks who insisted that this garden be dismantled, may see hunger soon. Ignorant of the facts. God save America.

  2. DISOBEDIENCE IS THE ONLY ANSWER!!!! Citizens need to band together and resist the govt takeover of our lives. To many nannies out there who have nothing more to do than take the fun out of life for all. That neighborhood should’ve gotten together and marched on city hall and into the mayors office in protest. Dam commies and islamics ruining the country.

    Screw the govt. It doesn’t represent the people anymore. Just the special interests and the leftist agenda. It’s OK for now but when the SHTF they will be the 1st to pay the price.

    • Easier said than done. When the government has the power to fine you and then take away your home if you don’t pay for the fine, what can a person do? We need a national law that protects our homes from being taken away from us. The American Dream Bill sounds great. Hospital bills are another way they try to take away your home. Pay our exhorbitant bill or sell your home and pay some more.
      Tomatoes are a fruit aren’t they?

    • “Dam commies and islamics ruining the country”….Jim, I believe it is ignorant comments and thinking like that which is ruining the country, not to mention society on a whole.

  3. Just wondering … is this even the same house as before? There are huge palm trees in the photo in the after pictures and not before? Definitely not the same angle for sure…

    • It’s not a before and after picture. If you read the article they only have one flamigo standing. The other phone I believe is an example of what is acceptable.

  4. This is a awful disgusting situation when You can’t grow veggies on your own property in your front yard..
    But Pink tacky flamingos are ok!!

    That said, when people buy condo’s, town houses, gated community’s etc. they need to read the Rules and Regulations..
    They did not read there contract unfortunately..

    I’m glad to read there not giving up on there front yard veggie garden. Hopefully this will make many more people able to grow, and they will be more aware to read there contracts when they buy a piece of property .
    Hopefully there will be new contracts that do not have such stupid Ridiculous rules..
    Annie\’s last post: Homeowners Forced to Uproot 17 Year Old Edible Garden (But Cheap, Plastic Flamingos Approved)

  5. Ditto: It’s not the same house — I think it is a comparison or what is and isn’t allowed!!! – obviously. Its a shame that one needs explaining.

  6. Ok, people are going to call me a conspiracy lunatic, here goes anyway:

    1. Pink flamoingo’s – cost $16 for a pair (yes I did a quick search). So money going into the economy, good thing, authorities don’t care.
    2. Panting vegetable and fruit, take money away from the poor, struggling food suppliers. authorities are concerned.

    Ok, don’t really believe that, just playing devils advocate.
    Bethany\’s last post: What Is The Best Disability Insurance For Physicians

    • It also affects the whole medical community when we eat healthy. Think of the thousands of jobs that would affect if people had no more aches and pains and considerably less illnesses.

  7. Has anyone asked the City if they have any weeds growing in their front yards, cuz hate to say it but those are all edibles/vegetables and therefor they should also be fined $50/day if that’s how they want it. Just ridiculous. It’s not like they have a corn field in their front yard. Personally I would much rather look at a garden than those stupid flamingos. I hope for the best for them, Good Luck!

  8. I hope the case wins. Disgusting. Too many people in America have what I call an “HOA” mentality. Instead of dealing with the important things in life, like freedom, and eating healthy, they are more concerned with artificial appearances. But I have to say, their garden was no eyesore anyway. I will never live in an HOA again. I plan to use edible plants in all the landscaping in our next home!

  9. To the conspiracy guy who thinks this is caused by “commies and muslims”, let’s try a more rational approach. If you google the household income and demographics of the Miami Shores neighborhood you will see that they are above average income and home values for Florida. It’s a manicured look style neighborhood that cannot tolerate difference.

    Blaming a certain subgroup of the population that you do not like, and believing ‘they’ are taking over the country is the SAME disease that affects the homeowners of Miami Shores.

  10. There was a similar situation in a town near where I grew up. A landowner living in the denser village area of the town had a vegetable garden w/ some corn growing. It wasn’t a ton, but since it’s tall, it’s noticeable. The town said it was “an eyesore” and forced the landowner to remove his garden. To retaliate, he hunted down approximately 10 old toilets and lined his property with them and planted flowers in the bowls. I guess he figured he would show them what a real eyesore is! Those toilets are still up in that town the last time I visited. Ha, I love it!

  11. Has American local governments gone mad! Americans have the right to bear arms but don’t have the right to grown your own veges!! what an amazing story. We have a televised gardening show here in Australia (ABC Gardening Australia) where the host not only promotes growing vegetables in front yards but right out on the verge of the footpath – I think you should sell up and come and live in a country where bureaucratic red tape hasn’t taken over commonsense.It’s ludicrous to me that you would even have to get legal advice about a vegetable patch.

  12. I don’t know. hate to be a dissenter here but traditionally, from what I’ve always known and seen, food gardens are always grown in the backyard, not the front. While it irritates me to see the government coming down on these people and their gardens – I’m all for gardens – this is why it is important to read your contracts before you sign them when doing *anything* like moving into a specific community or condo. These things are built into mortgage and rent contracts. People who understand them and follow them don’t run into these kinds of issues.

    • This couple had this garden for 17 years, when the city CHANGED the law to ban vegetables in front yards. There was no “contract” for them to read when they planted the garden 17 years ago. There was no language in their mortgage banning vegetable gardens (I’ve never even heard or that. Really, why would a bank, lending money to buy a house, care if you plant a garden?). There was nothing special they needed to “understand” before planting their garden 17 years ago. Their idiotic, moronic city officials changed the law.

      • Laws are changed constantly, if a person purchases property and there are no laws prohibiting growing a vegetable garden in the front yard, then they shouldn’t be penalized for doing so!

        I agree with the gentleman that said the manicured uniformity of the upscale
        Neighborhood Is what they are trying to maintain.

        I think the garden was beautiful but that really isn’t the point, the point is if there wasn’t a stipulation in their contract about planting a front yard garden, then the City of Miami is perpetrating a serious fraud!

  13. Hi Sarah,

    I found some good news on this real food battle. There is an article in the Orlando Sentinel about another Florida couple with a garden in their front yard.

    Headline says
    “Gardeners prevail in Orlando turf war: Veggies OK in front yard, too”

    and the link is:

    Fantastic news!

  14. I just learned that you can graft any fruit tree onto any ornamental tree. What this means is that you can graft productive branches onto any aesthetically approved tree. Example: Bradford pears are very popular in my area. You can get a slip of apple, pear, or peach tree and grow it on the Bradford. The yard fascists will be appeased and in a couple of years you’ll have a crop of fruit. This is great for small yards, as you can have several fruits coming from one tree and you don’t have to wait for the tree to grow to an adequate size to produce fruit. Until the folks running government use common sense, we just have to out smart them. This doesn’t fix the problem with vegis. A person might interplant their pole beans with morning glories. That way the flowers disguise the beans. Voting with your fork is a great place to start, by supporting farmers we agree with we are helping to change the playing field while sustaining ourselves.


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