Are you allowed to raise vegetables in your front yard? It may seem reasonable, but in one Florida community, it was against the law. A six-year legal battle over the issue has finally concluded. A Florida appeals court first backed a ban that Miami Shores Village had placed restricting front yard vegetable gardens. But eventually the Florida legislature got involved. The lawmakers overruled the ban. They also legalized such gardens statewide.
Floridians can thank Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom Carroll for that! They stood up against their city’s front yard garden ban. The couple was cited in 2013 for growing edible plants in their front yard. So the green thumbs sought legal counsel. After all, how could growing vegetables on one’s own property be illegal? During the legal battle, Ricketts said, “This law crushes our freedom to grow our own healthy food.”
Before their rights to garden were curtailed, Ricketts and Carroll harvested up to 80% of their meals from their front yard. When the ordinance was enforced, they were slapped with a fine. At $50 per day, the cost forced them to pull up their veggies.
The Miami Shores ordinance was intended to protect neighborhood aesthetics. Some people believe vegetable gardens threaten curb appeal. That means homes might sell for lower prices than homeowners would like. (Local governments like high home values too because property taxes are collected based on those numbers.) Ornamental and fruit trees, pink flamingoes, and garden gnomes were acceptable in front yards—just not veggies! Knowing how garden plots can grow out of control with unsightly weeds, the Miami Shores powers-that-be decided vegetables were just too risky for the tidy appearance the community hoped to uphold.
The Institute for Justice (IJ) represented Ricketts and Carroll in their court battle. It was a tricky case. Technically, the defendants were guilty. They knew the law and chose not to obey it at first. Even when they did comply, they didn’t agree with the ordinance or its purpose. So they chose to fight it. To win, the IJ sought to prove that the ban went against the constitutional right of owners to decide how to use their own property.
The lengthy lawsuit ended with legalizing front yard vegetable gardens statewide. “The Garden Act” took effect on July 1, 2019. Ricketts and Carrolls celebrated by (legally) replanting veggies in their front yard.
Romans 13:1-7 tells us to submit to those in authority. That doesn’t mean we can’t exercise personal freedom or seek to change laws. But it does mean we must do so peacefully and respectfully.