Miami, Fla.—Today Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal dealt a major blow to property rights when it upheld the Village of Miami Shores’ ban on front-yard vegetable gardens. This means homeowners Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll—and others like them—are still banned from growing a front yard garden to provide food for themselves. Hermine and Tom are represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ), which first challenged the ban in November 2013.
“Today’s decision gives local government the power to flatly ban homeowners from growing plants in their front yards simply because they intend to eat them,” explains IJ Attorney Ari Bargil, who argued in court on behalf of Hermine and Tom. “The decision authorizes government to criminalize something people have freely done for centuries—grow food to feed themselves.”
In March 2013, Miami Shores adopted a zoning ordinance banning front-yard vegetable gardens. Only vegetables are banned—trees, fruit and garden gnomes are fine. And despite its purported aesthetics-based justification, the ban applies to attractive and unattractive gardens alike. The ban immediately impacted Hermine and Tom, a married couple who had used their front-yard garden to grow vegetables and other plants for 17 years. Miami Shores told Hermine and Tom to destroy their garden or face fines of $50 per day. Unable to bear the cost of the fines, they dug up their garden.
In today’s decision, the court upheld the vegetable ban, concluding 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.”
“If Hermine and Tom wanted to grow fruit or flowers or display pink flamingos, Miami Shores would have been completely fine with it,” continued Bargil. “They should be equally free to grow food for their own consumption, which they did for 17 years before the village forced them to uproot the very source of their sustenance.”
The case has brought international attention to an issue that affects all Americans: our food. Michael Bindas, an IJ senior attorney and director of IJ’s National Food Freedom Initiative, said “the Institute for Justice will continue to fight until courts make clear that all Americans have the right to peacefully and productively use their property to feed themselves and their families.”