Couple Fights To Grow Vegetables In Front Yard

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Above: This year, Hermine Ricketts’ front-yard garden was filled with plants and fruits — but no vegetables. She’s suing to change that. (Greg Allen/NPR)

Florida couple told to uproot her vegetables, but now she’s fighting back

It happened in Quebecwe watched it play out in Orlando, and now in the town of Miami Shores, Florida a retired architect named Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom are fighting city officials who said they couldn’t grow vegetables in their own front yard.

Hermine Ricketts

Hermine Ricketts, Greg Allen, NPR

Hermine Ricketts says she gardens for the food and for the peace it brings her. As she explained to NPR in a radio segment that aired Monday, Ricketts planted her vegetables in the front yard because it faces south—”that’s where the sun is.” But now, even though she gardens “for the food and for the peace it brings her,” city officials told her she had to uproot the veggies and remove the garden.

As Greg Allen reported for All Things Considered:

There are lots of things planted in Ricketts’ front yard: a pomegranate tree, a blueberry bush, papaya, strawberries, pineapples, flowers and green plants.

But noticeably absent is anything considered by Miami Shores to be a vegetable. That’s because earlier this year, after tending her garden for 17 years with nothing from the neighbors but compliments, Ricketts was ordered to dig up her veggies.

She says she was surprised several months ago when a zoning inspector stopped by.

“He told me I was not allowed to have vegetables in the front yard,” she says.

Though Hermine and Tom fought the order all the way to the town’s zoning board, the board chairman refused the appeal and Ricketts ultimately complied by removing the offending plants in her front yard.

The battle, however, was not over as the couple tapped the national advocacy group Institute for Justice who agreed to take on the case.

And Ari Bargill, a lawyer now representing Ricketts as she contests the city rules, told NPR that the ban against front yard vegetable gardening is an affront to other guaranteed property rights.

As he explained to NPR, Miami Shores must have a very good reason to restrict what individuals can do in their own yard, “and that is not the case with a ban on vegetables.”

“You can plant fruit, you can have flowers, you can adorn your property with pink flamingos,” Bargill said, “— but you cannot have vegetables. That is almost the definition of irrationality.”

As the Miami Herald previously reported, the suit filed by Hermine and Tom against the city is not about financial gain. “The couple are not seeking money; they’re suing for $1,” the paper reported last month. “They just want to be able to restore their vegetable garden in their front yard.”

  • David Shaw Jr

    Cities should not be allowed to tell people where to grow food on their property.

  • DeAnne Dingwall

    Go for it, Hermione & Tom. Vegetables are beautiful plants!

  • April Weingarth Chabot

    it’s not just cities. I live in a mobile home community and was also just told (months after building my boxes and after plants and seeds went in the ground) that vegetables are not permitted in my “front lawn”. They are not on my lawn but surrounding my steps in 3′ confined beds. My entire property is visible from all sides so I have no idea what “front” or “back” is. Seems like I’m up for a fight depending on what the lease actually states and what I can find out regarding their right to prevent me from eating things I grow in my own yard. What would they do if I sat on the steps and ate the flowers that I grew there? would they tell me I couldn’t grow that either? But despite having edible flowers, one cannot live on them alone. It just pisses me off that people will let things happen rather than say something in the beginning to ensure the rules (known or not) are followed. I see people here with all kinds of crap in their yards from cars to toys to rusted out buildings but what I did improved this property and would improve my health as well. Guess we can’t have that now, can we? Strong, healthy, self sufficient people cause trouble because they think for themselves! Fight on!