I’m With Julie
Julie Bass lives in Oak Park, Michigan, with her husband Jason in a humble single family home. Their front yard had to be ripped up to replace some pipes, so instead of replanting the lawn, they decided to put in five raised beds and grow vegetables. Their yard is a favorite of neighborhood kids, who come by to lend a hand.
But it turns out that their front yard veggie garden could be against Oak Park guidelines, which require that front lawns contain only “suitable” plants. City planner and hater of freedom Kevin Rilkowski said, “That’s not what we want to see in a front yard.” When a local reporter asked what he’d say to people who think this is ridiculous, he said that people don’t think that. The news report then cut to a Daily Show-style montage of neighbors saying it’s ridiculous.
Bass received a written warning, then a ticket, and now she’s been charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a potential 93-day prison sentence. For growing a vegetable garden. On her property.
The city mouthpiece seems to love grass lawns, but I wonder if he knows how dangerous they are.
In American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, Ted Steinberg documents America’s weird addiction to lawns, as well as the environmental and social costs that come with it. According to the book, “using a power lawn mower for an hour spews as much polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons into the air as driving a car 93 miles.”
Lawns are also not easy to grow, so many turn to chemical assistance. According to Eartheasy, “Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system. Of those same pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 11 are toxic to bees, and 16 are toxic to birds.”
Lawns, in a word, suck. So why not plant a vegetable garden? They’re beautiful, they’re educational, they can become a focal point for local community, and when harvest time arrives and you wind up with way too many vegetables, you can feed your neighbors!
This is happening in Michigan, where 1,083,000 people use food banks each year. That’s 1 in 10 people. But city conformity compliance officer Kevin says, “A tomato vine on a tomato cage is just not attractive.”
Julie goes before a judge on July 26. I wanted to show my support, so I whipped up these banners in the Andre has a posse style. Feel free to grab one and put it on your site, too. You can follow the drama on Julie’s blog. There’s also an online petition and a Facebook page.
Hang in there, Julie.