Could Growing Your Own Food Land You In Jail?

Millions of people plant gardens to provide fresh food for their families at a fraction of grocery store prices. But recently, it seems that cities have launched a war against this simple act of self-sufficiency.

For the past week, the online world has been ablaze with news that a Michigan woman has been fined and threatened with jail time for planting a vegetable garden in her yard. Seem impossible? Watch below:

EatDrinkBetter reports:

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.

But soon after getting the plants in the ground, the Bass family got an unexpected visit from the City Planner for the city of Oak Park, Michigan, who recited the following portion of city code with an amazing lack of perspective or understanding: “All unpaved portions of the site shall be planted with grass, shrubbery or other suitable live plant material.”

This means a) somehow vegetables aren’t considered suitable live plant material and b) if Julie Bass had chosen to instead pave over her entire lawn with asphalt, the City would have left her alone.

How You Can Help

Starting today, Natural News is urging real food advocates to bombard the Oak Park City Planner’s office with phone, fax and email complaints that point out the inappropriate interpretation of city code and the wisdom of planting a vegetable garden.

Action Item #1) Sign the online petition!
It already has 14,000 signatures (as of this writing) and lots more on the way!

Action Item #2) Contact Oak Park city officials, including City Planner Kevin Rulkowski:


Be sure to CC the City Manager Rick Fox who needs to be kept in the loop so he understands the gravity of Rulkowski’s actions:


If you wish, you may also cc the Mayor of Oak Park,Gerald E. Naftaly:

Action Item #3) Follow developments on Julie’s blog, which you will find at:

She has a “donate here” button on the top of the page where you can donate to her legal defense fund (to help pay some of her legal bills). Please consider making a donation to this cause. She is now being represented by Solomon M. Radner, founder of Radner Law Group (in the Detroit area).

***Remember: if you choose to contact Oak Park city officials, keep it respectful and heart-felt. Threats or insults will not help this cause.

Related Reading:

Tips for Growing and Sharing Your Own Food

Big Vegetables In Small Spaces: How To Start A Container Garden

Image Credit: Flickr – ksuyin

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Author: Beth Buczynski

  1. I thought this was crazy! I have seen a number of folks in central Massachusetts turning their lawns from grass to a garden in response to the change in the economy. Her garden looks great – what is the problem?!

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  8. Grow a hedge around your front yard so that the fat lady can’s complain about your healthy and constructive decision to grow your own crops.

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  11. if you don’t like city ordinances, which apply equally to everyone, then move somewhere that better suits your lifestyle like alaska.

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