For almost two decades, Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll grew a magnificent amount of edibles in their front yard. Tomatoes, spinach and the like grew in neat and carefully maintained beds, along with a modicum of turf until the city of Miami Shores passed a zoning law that prohibits veggie gardens in front yards. Yep, Miami Shores is legislating edible plants.

According to the Miami Herald, the couple dug up their front-yard garden to avoid daily fines of $50. The city doesn’t mandate what type of garden goes in their residents’ back yards. But the couple doesn’t get enough sun to move their edibles out of sight to the back.

For the last four years, the couple has taken up arms (of compost and delicious, healthy food) and fought the regulation, all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the high court would not hear Ricketts’ and Carroll’s appeal.

The ban was upheld by both the trial court and Florida Third District Court of Appeal, which concluded that it is rational for government to ban “the cultivation of plants to be eaten as part of a meal, as opposed to the cultivation of plants for ornamental reasons.”

“The Florida Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Hermine and Tom’s appeal is unfortunate not only for them, but for all property owners,” says Ari Bargil, in a released statement. Bargil is an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represents the couple. “That government can fine citizens, that it can force them to destroy the very source of their sustenance, all for the harmless act of growing vegetables is something that should disturb every Floridian—indeed, every American.”

I wholeheartedly agree with counsel. Large swaths of turf and a poorly placed and likely over-pruned sad old shrub is OK to the city of Miami Shores. But beautiful foliage of leafy greens and colorful tomatoes and eggplant are not OK? This is asinine.

“The message from the Florida courts is clear: The purpose of private property is to be decorative, not productive, and it’s government that gets to decide how you decorate it,” adds Bargil. “That is a perverse view of property rights.”

But there’s hope. The Florida Legislature is considering Senate Bill 1776, which would prohibit local governments from banning vegetable gardens. The bill, sponsored by Senator Rob Bradley, received its first committee hearing in early February.

This could happen in your community. Even if you don’t grow and sell edibles, an attack on ornamentals (invasive plants notwithstanding) could be next. What if a city leader decided they didn’t like certain perennials or shrubs because they didn’t fit an aesthetic that person preferred and wrote a similar law in your town? As an industry we must convey the value of plants – all plants – edibles, annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees, and the economic impact our industry provides from a local, state, regional and national perspective. Get with your nursery and greenhouse associations, and make sure lawmakers know the incredible worth of our products.

krodda@gie.net