Private Property
Matt Powers · June 9, 2016

After waiting almost three years, yesterday a couple from Miami Shores Village, Florida finally got their day in court. Nearly 20 years ago, Hermine Rickets and her husband, Tom Carroll, started growing vegetables in their front yard. But in 2013, Miami Shores Village, Florida amended its ordinance to prohibit front-yard vegetables gardens. The couple joined with the Institute for Justice to challenge the ban, and yesterday, a judge heard their case. An Associated Press report, which was reprinted by over 200 outlets nationwide, including the New York Times, U.S. News & World Report and the San Francisco Chronicle, said: “the couple [was] asking [the] judge to uproot the ban they claim violates their constitutional rights.”

Tom told the Associated Press he never received any complaints about the garden in the 17 years he tended to it in his front yard. Tom and his wife were forced to uproot their vegetable garden after the village threatened to fine them $50 per day if it was not removed. “We’re just trying to grow vegetables,” Tom said.

Despite the government’s attempt to fine the couple, Richard Sarafan, an attorney for Miami Shores, claimed “There is no vegetable ban in Miami Shores. It’s a farce. A ruse.” At the hearing he defended the village’s actions by claiming that “Aesthetics and uniformity are legitimate government purposes. Not every property can lawfully be used for every purpose.”

“We’re not saying you can do anything you want on your property,” said IJ Attorney Ari Bargil. “We are simply saying you can grow vegetables on your property and that is protected by the Constitution.”

This isn’t the first time that front-yard vegetable gardens have caused controversy. In April, a family in Sugar Creek, Missouri, near Kansas City, made headlines when they were told by a town official that their vegetable garden was illegal under a new city ordinance. The situation was later resolved when the city informed the family their garden was grandfathered in under the new ordinance and was therefore legal.

IJ’s Nick Sibilla also wrote about garden bans in other cities across the nation in Reason, including in Orlando, Fla., Ferguson, Mo., and in Oak Park, Mich. (The latter even threatened to send one home gardener to jail for up to 93 days, though thankfully, they relented). These incidents demonstrate a disconcerting trend in local governance, as city councilmembers are increasingly seeking to regulate even the most harmless uses of property. But cities should respect property rights and not dictate what homeowners choose to grow in their gardens.