Jail For Planting a Vegetable Garden?

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist Activism, GardeningComments: 51

In the latest example of government run amok, Jill Bass of Oak Park, Michigan faces up to 93 days in jail for planting a beautifully maintained vegetable garden in her front yard. Ms. Bass has already been issued a ticket and now faces misdemeanor charges for her industriousness.

The cash strapped Oak Park, which should arguably spend its dwindling financial resources and efforts on more serious municipal matters, contends that Ms. Bass’ garden violates city code which requires front yards to consist of “suitable live plant material”.


Last time I checked, vegetables growing in a garden are indeed alive!  With regards to “suitable”, a plant that can be consumed by the people tending it does seem to qualify, don’t you think?

It seems the City of Oak Park considers pesticide and chemically fertilized grass to be more “suitable” front yard greenery than a humble vegetable garden.

Such foolishness reminds me of the stories I used to hear back in my Cold War school days when our Civics teacher would tell a roomful of wide eyed and incredulous children about Russian peasants being hauled off to jail for growing their own food!   In Communist societies, no one “owns” anything .. any vegetables that were grown had to be commissioned and approved by the State.

Nothing like that could ever happen in the good ‘ole US of A, right?

One can only hope that Ms. Bass’ neighbors and the community of Oak Park will flood the city phone lines with complaints over such over the top harassment.   Imagine that tax dollars are actually being used to pay for this outrage.

If you believe Ms. Bass has a right to grow a well maintained garden on her front yard, please go here to sign a petition to stop the harassment of her family by City authorities. The petition is close to the goal of 10,000 signatures.

Take a look at a picture of Ms. Bass’ vegetable garden and how beautifully it is maintained by clicking here.

Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist.com

Picture Credit

Comments (51)

  • Heather M

    I live in Michigan about a 1/2 hr from this woman and seen this on the news. It is wrong and crazy for a cash strapped city to harass a person over her vegetables, but she has several gardens boxed in with wood from the lumber store and it is not a garden just cut out of dirt. It is comparable to a person parking their car on the front lawn. It is very unattractive and I even have my own veggie garden, and support having them, but I believe she is grand standing. She should be able to have a veggie garden but it should have been done in a more appealing (more blendable, attractive) way. She should share some of her veggies with the neighbors who are taking up and issue and the city enforcemnet people. Who can refuse yummy (nothing like it) fresh veggies. Please don’t miss understand me, our government at the highest to the lowest levels need to stay out of our lives. I just think she should have thought things out better.

    July 9th, 2011 1:33 pm Reply
    • Kelli J

      I respectfully disagree Heather. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What may seem comparable to someone “parking their car on the front lawn” to some is a beautiful, life giving vegetable garden presented functionally and personally on an individual’s private property to others.
      When the government gets involved in this manner, and is allowed by the people to continue, our freedom is that much closer to the communist state Sarah referred to in her article. Sharing “some of her veggies with the neighbors who are taking up and issue and the city enforcemnet people” is simply a form of bribery for what should already be Ms. Bass’s fundamental right.
      Wasting tax payer dollars and time on this is foolishness. I hope one day common sense will once again prevail in these United States.

      July 9th, 2011 3:37 pm Reply
    • Anna

      i too live in michigan, and due to the looming growing season i would recommend that is this notoriously cold state you too start a raised crop garden. there is a purpose for it, it prolongs our already short growing season and with greenhouse structures placed over top it can extend the season into the winter. for the record michelle obama’s garden is in raised beds as well…would you consider her’s to be ugly? you can see the article detailing mrs. obama’s garden and info. on raised beds in the current issue of mother earth news. yes i am aware that this is an old issue for us, but just thought you might apreciate the info.

      April 6th, 2013 1:08 am Reply
  • hobby baker

    Gee I wish my garden looked that trim and manicured. Her boxes are nicely sized and spaced and the bark mulch looks really nice around it. I find it quite attractive. I understand not all people would though. Maybe if she would have planted the front ones with flowers and perennials, the people taking issue would not have had so much to complain about. But even the First Lady had some of the White house lawn tilled up for a garden. Why aren’t more cities taking a cue from that? Maybe some sympathetic neighbors should plant some “Victory gardens” in support. What a great way to “reduce the pressure on the public food supply”. The whole thing is really a ridiculous misuse of taxpayer money.

    One point though – I would not personally plant a vegetable garden in my front yard for the main reason that I don’t want automobile exhaust fumes contaminating (and dog walkers “watering”) my veggies!

    July 9th, 2011 3:34 pm Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      You have to wonder if maybe this lady does not have a back yard? Certainly a front yard garden is not ideal but we all have to work with what we have.

      July 9th, 2011 4:03 pm Reply
      • Leanne

        There is a huge movement afoot in North America to turn environmentally unfriendly grassed front yards into food producing gardens. Anyone who’s been paying attention to food issues over the last couple of years would have seen the stories popping up all over. I believe Vancouver Canada recently started a program to encourage just this kind of thing. In our area there is an urban farmer who rents peoples front and back yards and pays for the rent with produce. It’s a brilliant scheme.

        This particular woman decided to put the gardens in after a sewage repair left her in need of re-sodding the yard. She opted to make it a useful space. And, with 6 kids, I imagine she prefers her back yard to be as spacious as possible for the children.

        July 9th, 2011 4:44 pm Reply
  • Mary McCandrew Babst via Facebook

    Pathetic! Authorities need to concentrate on the real criminals!

    July 9th, 2011 4:49 pm Reply
  • Mary Siever via Facebook

    Welcome improvement! Lawns can be pretty but gardens are useful AND pretty!!

    July 9th, 2011 4:51 pm Reply
  • Shannon Holmes via Facebook

    this angers me. and everyone complains about people going hungry?! UGH!! personally i think those veggies look beautiful <3

    July 9th, 2011 4:54 pm Reply
  • Cat Ellis via Facebook

    Have you read the other articles stating why veggie gardens on a front lawn do not qualify as “suitable”? Apparently, the genuis city planner said that “suitable” means “common”, and that front yard veggie gardens aren’t common, they are not suitable. Um, no, “suitable” does not mean “common”. There are many things that are “common” that are not “suitable”. Someone needs to buy this Rhode’s Scholar a dictionary.

    I would hope that a judge would be able to realize that “suitable” does not mean “common”. However, if a prosecutor actually thinks they can win this, I really have to wonder about the IQ of folks in Oak Park, Michigan.

    Of course, if a bunch of people in the city started planting front yard veggie gardens, his argument would be totally shut down.

    July 9th, 2011 4:55 pm Reply
  • Barbara Torrey Centofante via Facebook

    Sign the petition ! http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/oak-park-hates-veggies/

    July 9th, 2011 4:56 pm Reply
  • Nichole Sawatzky via Facebook

    how stupid can you get. waste water on lawn but dont grow a garden?

    July 9th, 2011 4:57 pm Reply
  • Michelle Lloyd (@Mkokopelli)

    Are you kidding me? http://fb.me/18P9mfqTR

    July 9th, 2011 4:57 pm Reply
  • Leila Cook via Facebook

    Ridiculous. One should be able to grow their on food on their own property. We live in a rural community but in a nicer neighborhood and a lot of people haul out tillers in the spring (we have a raised garden) and plow through their yards to plant food. I’ll bet the Founding Fathers wuld roll i their graves if they knew people were being arrested for providing themselves food.

    July 9th, 2011 4:59 pm Reply
  • Sharon Catney Donovan via Facebook

    Wasn’t it the lovely Michelle Obama who said we should ALL plant gardens? Maybe her garden is not suitable at the White House. This is sooooo stupid. She is getting exercise and doing something good and they pull this. If she didn’t plant the garden they would probably get her for her grass not growing.

    July 9th, 2011 5:00 pm Reply
  • Patsy Miz Bee Brekke via Facebook

    Michelle Obama grew a garden on the White House lawn…

    July 9th, 2011 5:00 pm Reply
  • Melinda Todd via Facebook

    That is ridiculous. Seriously, the neighbors were just jealous that they didn’t get any of the produce!

    July 9th, 2011 5:02 pm Reply
  • Amber Moon via Facebook

    Do as I say..not as I do..

    July 9th, 2011 5:02 pm Reply
  • Keren Self Barbina via Facebook

    Seriously? I mean, the woman has 6 kids. She is doing what is necessary to sustain her family – and has a very community oriented attitude about it, I might add. If I were an Oak Park resident, I think I’d be requesting a refund of my tax dollars. Ridiculous!

    July 9th, 2011 5:06 pm Reply
  • thehealthyhomeeconomist via Facebook

    Hi Barbara, thanks for sharing the petition. I signed it. They are almost to their goal of 10,000 signatures!

    July 9th, 2011 5:06 pm Reply
  • Keren Self Barbina via Facebook

    I signed too!

    July 9th, 2011 5:10 pm Reply
  • Julia Hansen via Facebook

    I just signed. Stories like these not only make me angry but also scared for the future of my own family. We should have the right to sustain ourselves on our own property. What is this country coming to?

    July 9th, 2011 5:28 pm Reply
  • Jessie TreeNickle via Facebook

    Crap like this is passed by rich sons of mothers who have small families and free insurance paid with by your money. That think their way of living is the only way. What happened to the ‘land of the free?’ growing food? Really?

    July 9th, 2011 5:51 pm Reply
  • Cat Ellis via Facebook

    Control the food and you control the people.

    July 9th, 2011 5:55 pm Reply
  • Angela Blazek Salinas via Facebook

    Sounds like Cuba.

    July 9th, 2011 5:55 pm Reply
    • Sonia

      I have been on a rampage all day about this…that city planner really pushed my buttons….! I even blogged about it today….Si, se parece mucho a Cuba…..

      July 9th, 2011 10:11 pm Reply
  • Dawn Lane via Facebook

    I signed – this is ridiculous!

    July 9th, 2011 5:56 pm Reply
  • Angela Oden Burch via Facebook

    I signed and shared!

    July 9th, 2011 5:57 pm Reply
  • Tina Loving via Facebook


    July 9th, 2011 6:07 pm Reply
  • Polli Minnell via Facebook

    oh no…..I heard about this – its the second case facing prosecution. Our governments have gone mad :(

    July 9th, 2011 6:23 pm Reply
  • Brittnee Turner Horting via Facebook

    So they want to legalize pot…but outlaw veggie gardens!?

    July 9th, 2011 6:42 pm Reply
  • Carolyn Miranda Wade via Facebook

    She needs to live in country where it don’t matter

    July 9th, 2011 7:26 pm Reply
  • Amanda McCandliss via Facebook

    I saw that last night! It wasn’t ugly or anything either!

    July 9th, 2011 7:41 pm Reply
  • HealthyHomeEconomist (@HealthyHomeEcon) (@HealthyHomeEcon)

    Jail For Planting a Vegetable Garden? – The Healthy Home Economist http://t.co/LW4HcGn

    July 9th, 2011 9:16 pm Reply
  • Sonia

    I was born in Cuba where all civil and personal liberties have been abolished….much like what this city is trying to do. I have been on a rampage all day about this…that city planner really pushed my buttons….! I even blogged about it today….

    July 9th, 2011 10:13 pm Reply
  • Danielle

    Good news! petition is over 11,000. Thank you for spreading the word on this. It’s just craziness to jail someone over a vegetable garden!

    July 10th, 2011 7:04 am Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      I saw on the Oak Park Hates Veggies FB page that the next Oak Park Council meeting is tomorrow night (July 11) and that folks are being encouraged to come in veggie costumes! LOL

      July 10th, 2011 8:15 am Reply
  • Peggy

    We have a similar thing here with our Homeowners Association. They can fine me $50 a day for growing edibles “within view of the street.” As stupid as that is, I knew it before I bought here. A city taking action is crazy, though. I hope this gets a LOT of attention nationwide. Sarah, I remember those stories from school about the USSR too!

    July 10th, 2011 10:14 am Reply
  • Marie Kuby (@Timeless51)

    Jail For Planting a Vegetable Garden? – The Healthy Home Economist: http://t.co/ysU96oU via @addthis

    July 10th, 2011 11:13 am Reply
  • MDZ (@mdelz)

    Jail For Planting a Vegetable Garden? – The Healthy Home Economist http://t.co/TJ5RMZJ

    July 10th, 2011 11:15 am Reply
  • D.

    In some foreign countries, NOTHING is planted which doesn’t produce something edible. Seriously. I don’t think it’s law, but it IS common sense at its best. My best friend was from Stuttgart, Germany and her family had front and back yard gardens of mixed flowers and veggies (those people know what plants love and help each other in the garden, i.e. Carrots Love Tomatoes) and their side yards had pear trees, walnut trees, etc. They don’t grow ornamental, fake looking, bright green Miracle-Gro lawns over there. Those people are smart because it’s the way things have been done for centuries. WHY doesn’t America take a page from their book and just TRY to learn something for once? Heavens no . . . that might make sense, it might be logical – – – and it won’t support Monsanto and their ilk.

    Even in my own city people are against community gardens (like the Victory garden type thing) because we used manure. It was aged manure which is what is supposed to be used on gardens and trees and flowers and bushes because it’s natures answer to solving several problems at once. We use the animal product, which enriches the soil which encourages beautiful growth which stops the erosin and putrid run-off, etc. If manure is aged properly, it has no smell at all. For more good information on manure and how best to use it, read the book called Holy Shit by Gene Logsdon. He makes things pretty clear!

    Our next choice will have to be figuring out how to plant indoor gardens for the year round production of our own produce, but then how long will it be before the gubment goons can tell us what we can do inside our homes? We’re not far from that scenario, I’m afraid. It’s getting scary out there. The first step in ending gubment control is getting rid of lobbyists – and even a revolution of sorts, if necessary. I think it’s got to happen.

    July 10th, 2011 11:36 am Reply
  • Linda

    I signed. It is over 10,000 now. I live in an HOA neighborhood, unfortunately. You are suppose to get approval for anything you do that shows from the street, not that we have done that. It’s annoying. I would love to plant edibles in my front yard. Instead, people here have the mentality that our yards should look like we live at the country club. People have riding lawn mowers for their tiny yards. We have Chem Lawn in here. Of course every spring, summer we are out every week cutting the grass with our power mowers that have to have oil and gas. I’ve been wanting to get a push mower that at least doesn’t require that. I have admired some front yards in town that are filled with flowers. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to grow flowers and veggies all around the home?

    July 10th, 2011 11:45 am Reply
  • Michael Acanfora (@BayonneChiro)

    Jail For Planting a Vegetable Garden? – The Healthy Home Economist

    July 10th, 2011 12:55 pm Reply
  • Rose

    As ridiculous as this sounds to e and as excessive as jail is, some cities/communities have standing ordinances. My own development has covenants that restrict having a vegetable garden in view of the public rights of way. I hate it but it’s the way it is and I have to abide by it until I move. If this is the case where this woman lives she ought to have repect for the ordinances. Should those ordinances even exist? Personally I think it’s silly. you have to think she was probably aware, like her neighbors who are complaining are. If they moved into that community because of the ordinances, what about there rights?

    July 10th, 2011 1:02 pm Reply
  • Heather Anderson

    To fine someone for growing vegetables in their front yard is the height tyranny. When we lose the ability to provide food for ourselves we are in serious trouble!

    July 10th, 2011 8:37 pm Reply
  • Pavil, the Uber Noob

    Its a good idea from time to time to ask ourselves: “Does for government work for us or do we work for the government?” We never really have the luxury of not participating in government process. This cause seems like a good rallying point to clear the deck of bureaucratic knot heads.

    Ciao, Pavil

    July 10th, 2011 9:26 pm Reply
  • Daryl

    I just signed the petition. I wish I could plant a vegetable garden like that. I applaud her for making use of a piece of land to produce healthy food for her family. With all this talk about getting back to fresh food and avoiding diseases like obesity, diabetes, etc, we punish people for taking action like she is. I am praying that there will be a victorious outcome in her favor. Let’s all plant our own gardens if we can and save money and our health.

    July 10th, 2011 11:09 pm Reply
  • Sue Bond (@SueBond)

    @brookebcnn Bizarre news >> Jail for planting a vegetable garden (via @HealthyHomeEcon) http://t.co/naYm0M1

    July 11th, 2011 12:39 pm Reply
  • Magda Velecky

    I just signed – the number is now over 16,000 !!! Awesome !! I hope she gets to keep her garden – it’s beautiful!

    July 11th, 2011 1:15 pm Reply
  • Pingback: Oak Park Michigan Woman Faces Jail For Planting Vegetables

  • Erica

    What? A woman gets fined for growing her own food in the land of the supposed free? Why isn’t there a huge crowd outside of the White House demanding our rights for real food? What happened to America? The old America would have never put up with this nonsense!The old America would have walked for 100s of miles making sure that their government was working for them! Are we just going to sit back until even more raids continue to wipe out a large portion of our small farmers, and our ability to grow our own food? I think we have been sitting back for far too long!

    In truth, we don’t live in a free country anymore! My local, pastured egg farmer even told me that a man got fined for collecting rain water… Yay, rain water!!! The government officials in a certain state assessed that the rain water wasn’t his property… Insane, isn’t it? People wake up!!! How can they say that rain water is their own property, and not ours too? This is the same situation as the strict regulations in the S. 510 Senate Bill that our federal government tried to pass last year to forbid us from growing our own food and saving seed. Well, they passed it; however, it is less strict. We are still able to grow our own food, at least some of us, and save seed FOR NOW. God only knows what will happen in the near future.

    People, it is time for a new revolution to stop BIG government from controlling what foods and drinks we consume. Better yet, it is time for us to fight for our constitutional rights that have been so badly manipulated by some of the people in congress. The question is, when shall we begin?

    “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God. Every generation needs a new revolution. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government,” Thomas Jefferson.

    July 12th, 2011 9:03 pm Reply

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