Illinois Becomes Second State to Enact Right to Garden Bill

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · August 2, 2021

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed the Illinois Vegetable Garden Protection Act (HB 633), a bill that will preserve and protect the right of all Illinoisans to “cultivate vegetable gardens on their own property.” Introduced by Rep. Sonya Harper, the Act will protect the right to grow vegetables, as well as “herbs, fruits, flowers, pollinator plants, leafy greens, or other edible plants.” 

“I just want to grow my own food on my own property. In America, that really shouldn’t be such a controversial idea, and it certainly shouldn’t be illegal,” said Nicole Virgil, an Elmhurst resident whose efforts to grow vegetables in her rear yard have been repeatedly stymied by local officials. “Now that the Vegetable Garden Protection Act has passed, we look forward to helping other Illinois residents enjoy their own backyard produce all winter long. Recent events have caused many to consider how they can live more sustainable and independent lives, and we are happy to contribute to this groundswell.”

With the governor’s signature, Illinois is now the second state to provide express protection for the right to grow one’s own food. In 2019, Florida enacted the nation’s first statewide Vegetable Garden Protection Act, which sprouted from a years-long legal battle the Institute for Justice fought on behalf of a Miami Shores couple that was forced to uproot their 17-year old vegetable garden, after the city banned vegetable gardens in front yards. The Florida and Illinois legislative reforms are part of IJ’s National Food Freedom Initiative, which promotes the ability of individuals to produce, procure and consume the foods of their choice.

“This new law will strip local governments of the power to impose HOA-style prohibitions on an act of self-sufficiency in which humans have been engaged for thousands of years,” said IJ Attorney Ari Bargil. “Over a year ago, as fears of the Covid-19 pandemic took hold nationwide, many Americans developed grave concerns about the weaknesses in our nation’s food-supply chain as grocery stores rationed purchases and shelves grew depleted. As the past year has shown, the ability to grow food is not just a right—for many, it is a necessity. Enacting this bill is an important step in the march for food freedom for all Americans.”