Food for Thought

I have a vegetable garden.  In my front yard.

I never even gave a thought to the fact that it might be illegal.

But it might be.  It could be.

There was a case last year about a woman in a sleepy little town of 29,000 people.  Oak Park, Michigan.  She planted vegetables in her front  yard to save money.  When her municipality caught wind of it they told her it wasn’t allowed.  Vegetables weren’t “suitable” for a front yard.

Unlike the sofa, tricycle, and dog crap on my neighbour’s front yard.

So city officials warned Julie Bass, ticketed her and then finally charged her with a misdemeanour.  You might recognize that word, although it’s usually used in reference to a thug on Law & Order.  A misdemeanour is just below a felony (murder, rape, terrorism) and just above a petty crime (jay walking, public drunkness).

Let us keep in mind she was growing vegetables.  Not pot.  Or crystal meth or automatic assault rifles.

Julie Bass faced 93 days in jail if she didn’t take her vegetable garden out.  Can you image?  Jail food would be absolute torture for someone used to fresh picked vegetables.

She left her vegetable garden right where it was.  The city decided to drop the charges but said they might take a look at the issue again later.

When I heard about this story I’ll be honest with you, I thought.  Pfttt.  Something that ridiculous would never happen in Canada.  We don’t have those kind of rules. Or those kinds of politicians.  

Turns out we do.

Case in point: Drummondville, Quebec.  Just last week a couple in Drummondville, Quebec was warned by their municipality that if they didn’t get rid of their front yard vegetable garden, they would be fined.  And fined and fined and fined.

And this time the city doesn’t appear to be backing down.  Not yet anyway.

If you aren’t familiar with the story there’s a good article from The Huffington Post here including pictures of the garden  to get you up to speed.

As if often the case in these times, someone created an online petition to support the couple.

So if you believe homeowners have the right to grow vegetables in their front yard, sign the petition.   The petition signs you in through Facebook for some reason.  Doesn’t post anything to Facebook or do anything weird … just letting you know in case it startles you, like it startled me.

Between the chickens and the front yard vegetable garden I’m probably this close (fingers an inch apart) to the clink.  I wouldn’t do well in the clink.  They hardly ever allow livestock and I don’t think they have wireless.

And all of the food in that picture above?  I picked it from my very own front yard vegetable garden.  We ate every bit of it for dinnerlast night.


Sign the petition, stop the stupid.
Have a good weekend!


  1. Jennifer says:

    I signed! That’s ridiculous…

  2. Karl R says:

    I tried to sign but it requires me to sign in using my Facebook credentials. Still, that’s an impressive front yard garden!!!

    • Karen says:

      Kari R – Yes it did the same thing to me. Took me aback a bit, but it didn’t post anything of mine to Facebook and didn’t seem to have any effect at all. I just went ahead and signed and it was “thanks”, and that was it. ~ karen!

      • Ho!! Karen!!!, you know I’m in love with your blog and your personality. You are a brilliant artist and a woman with a big heart. Thank you for your support. Stay close, because I will need you shortly to unite our voices to convince other nearby towns to step forward and allow the front yard vegetable garden. Merci Karen xxx

        • Karen says:

          Michel – Je vous en prie! Make sure you come back at the end of the day to read all the comments. I suspect there’ll be a lot. ~ karen!

      • Renee says:

        Doesn’t have any effect except Facebook having a record of every petition you sign through that site so they can show you ads for the politician that supports front yard veggie gardens 🙂

        Oh well, they track every site you visit anyway!

  3. shuckclod says:

    I signed it also. I live in the sticks, country without the farms/ranches. When we built our house the people across the road had sheeps and goats for mowing not food. Then they sold their house to an older couple who put a illegal trainer on the property and moved their drug addict son and his family into it. The property now looks like a junk yard and there is nothing the city will do about it. I would love to have a person that grew vegetables in the front. Stupid laws, there are more important things to worry about.

  4. Therese says:

    That’s insane. Have the Canadian authorities gone as bonkers as their US counterparts! Here in Australia they make TV shows about people setting up community veggie gardens on the common nature strip / verge, and whole street communities get involved. Hope your magnificent veggie garden stays safe. It’s inspirational.

  5. Silvie says:

    signed this on tuesday, will share your post on FB. Growing up, our old Russian neighbour planted potatoes on his front blvd to condition the soil. He then went on to engage in a friendly competition with my dad to see who could grow the biggest potato. When he passed, I shared this story with his widow, a

  6. Sam says:

    So if you throw pansies in your salad… Does that mean “toilet” pansies are actually veggies, ergo illegal? What about daylilies? Someone should make petunias illegal… Just sayin'(I have petunia issues 🙂 )… Oh, the slippery slope of edible plants!

    …Maybe Harper could cut funding to the guys who go looking for veggies in people’s front yards :).

  7. Belinda says:

    I wonder if it matters that I live on the other side of the world? Don’t care, gonna sign, cos’ that’s just sheer crazy madness

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Belinda. I think it’s important the tiny little government in Drummondville knows that people all over the WORLD thinks they’re ridiculous. 🙂 ~ karen

  8. Brenda j says:

    I’m always fascinated by what some would consider requiring “a complaint”. The place looks great!
    I signed.

  9. Dana says:

    It’s obviously not a matter of aesthetics. I’m pretty sure these laws really have to do with the “powers of be” worrying about consumers spending less money…

  10. Nancy says:

    When I first heard about the woman’s garden in Canada the images of your garden came immediately to mind. I tried to figure out the ratio of your vegetables to grass but couldn’t do the math. I just figured out you were safe from arrest and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they don’t find out where you live. Hopefully all of your neighbors are friendly.

  11. Former Michigander says:

    as a former resident of Michigan (born and raised, then relocated south), it does not surprise me that it happened there. The state wants money any way they can find it, including fining people for weird city violations.

    I will sign the petition when I leave work (ssshh… they block Facebook here! Communists, hehe).

  12. Sara says:

    Signed! Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Now I’m going to check my towns bylaws on the matter. From the look of things there is a law against having less than 4 abandoned vehicles in your front yard, not sure about vegetable gardens…

  13. Barbara says:

    I heard the news story yesterday and was just telling my friend about your garden; both of us wondering how long it would be before the Veggie Cops knocked at your door! good luck! but then I think you might live near T.O. and “Cabbagetown”, which has its own remarkable history with veggies in the front yard?

  14. Judith says:

    Signed it! Wish I could’ve added a big old “What the F??” to my signature too.

  15. Janie says:

    Whatever you have in your front yard, it doesn’t matter if it’s toilets/tires, etc filled with pansies, a nude boy fountain (water coming from an obvious appendage), wild flowers, WHATEVER, if a neighbor doesn’t like it/is offended they file a complaint. Complaints have to be followed through. Neighborhood associations usually have set rules and so do villages, cities, etc. Would be worth checking into, or just bribe all your neighbors with home grown vegetables and fresh eggs.

  16. Jillian says:

    I signed!

  17. Wow! That’s ridiculous alright and you are right…look how many disgustingly messy yards are out there. Their garden is extremely neat (as is yours!)and not an eyesore and I guess I’m in this boat too because this year, I put in a veggie bed in amongst my perennial gardens out front! Just let them try messing with me! I signed.

  18. Brenda says:

    I am so happy you wrote this post Karen, I couldn’t believe it when I read about it on the weekend. Perhaps there might be other more pressing issues for towns than waging a war on vegetable gardeners…total insanity.

  19. Rosemary Walsh says:

    Folks should check local ordinances re front yard gardens. My city’s state that no more than 30% can be planted in front yard veggies. That’s pretty clear. In Julie Bass’ case, the ordinance wording wasn’t as clear, and wasn’t interpreted fairly by Oak Park’s Code Enforcement. BUT SHE WON HER CASE!

  20. Mary Werner says:

    Signed and sent to 10 more friends. This has been near and dear to my heart for decades. I was an avid reader of Rodale Press’ Organic Gardening in the sixties and seventies. Loved the earlier editions that were more news and information and personal experiences. Thanks for including this info for us. I live in a deed restricted neighborhood that doesn’t allow gardens in front and no pets other than up to 2 dogs or cats. So no bunnies for dinner here! Course we have wild ones that eat everything along with plenty of deer. They share their ticks with us as we share our flowers with them. Oh well. I sneak vegies in with the flowers all the time. Having a beautiful garden out front instead of hiding in the closet is most healthy and I’m for “grow rights” LOL.

  21. Love that line: “Stop the stupid” and added my name. I get it that they have probably voted in a certain “look” for their town or whatever but forcing them to remove productive gardens is just plain wrong and makes you wonder what kind of world the people behind these acts are creating. Idiots.

  22. Meagan says:

    I’m always amazed at the barriers that are set up against healthy living. Thanks for bringing the petition to our attention.

  23. Mary Kay says:

    Front yard gardeners unite!! What a nice garden they have!

  24. Sarah says:

    I saw that article the other day and thought of you. I think it said that only a certain percentage of your front yard can be a vegetable garden, so you may be in the clear. Totally stupid either way. Thanks for the petition info, I will be signing!

  25. Lyn says:

    That is the most beautiful front yard I’ve seen in a long time! You’d think communities would encourage that. Such silliness…

  26. Val says:

    It’s amazing that one could get fined for growing vegetables in their front yard, yet neighbors don’t get fined for all of their junk they keep in their yards. Our neighbor is one of those types with buckets and junk all over the place AND…. he is actually using property for his vegetable garden that is NOT his! Good luck and we hope that you don’t get fined or worse yet, get sent to the clinkers!

  27. Jamiek says:

    Heavens to Betsy! Their garden is way more beautiful than my front yard!! Got it signed!

  28. I live in the country, too, altho in a small neighborhood with homes on 2-3 acres each. When my town decided to issue chicken permits (4 each, only hens), some of my neighbors bought permits just to assure there were 4 fewer chickens in town. Seems that some folks just don’t know what to worry about these days.*sigh*

  29. Isabel says:

    the world has gone nuts! what a gorgeous garden! wish mine looked like that.
    signed the petition, although i read recently that online petitions weren’t worth the cyberspace they’re typed on… that true? anyone? anyone?

  30. Signed. First backyard clotheslines, then chickens and now front yard veggies? And people worry about “Big Brother” via the internet….

  31. Jodi T. says:

    Signed, and ya know… I expected to see a completely out of control jungle-y looking garden, and I thought to myself, “maybe they just need to clean it up”. I took a look, and GOOD GRIEF. REALLY? Their front yard looks better than about half the people’s in my neighborhood…. I wish the “law” would leave good people alone, and focus their energy on the crazies in this world that actually HURT other people. This pisses me off.

  32. ev says:

    I signed and gladly. What a joke! And what a beautiful garden. Makes me wonder what the regs are here in my sleepy Mayberryish Ohio town. Knowing some of our trustees, we could have the same problem. Hmmm, we’ll have to think about what we can grow out front next year….

  33. anna says:

    signed. so, so sad. their garden is absolutely beautiful- definitely not an eye sore.

  34. Mary Anne says:

    Craziness… A guy just outside of Boston just had a similar fight about the tomatoes he was growing in his front yard, tomatoes that he planned to donate to local food banks. The issue was with the structures he had built, not the tomatoes themselves. His weren’t terrible looking, but these folks have a beautiful garden. I would gladly look at that every day (and hope that I might get an extra veggie or two from time to time!)

  35. Lauren says:

    I signed. I’m all the way down in North Carolina, so I can’t imagine it will have an impact on Canadian politicians….but it’s a stupid law and a beautiful garden…so solidarity and all that.

  36. Ana says:

    Why doesn’t the municipality find a solution to homelessness, poverty or hunger instead of micro-managing homeowner’s front yard. I signed!

  37. Shirley says:

    Karen: Loved your poster. Thanks for bringing this absolutely ridiculous situation to our attention, and here’s hoping the powers that be in Drummondville allow their common sense to prevail.

    Michel et Josée: Courage, mes amis, et bravo!

    • Karen says:

      Shirley – O.K. I’m going to be very selfish right now and say THANK YOU for mentioning my photo. I spent a LOT of time on it, LOL. We ate all of that food for dinner last night by the way. 🙂 ~ karen

  38. I can’t believe how ridiculous that is! Would they rather have a hoarder living there instead! I would not protest against someone doing this I think done well it is a thing of beauty!God forbid if they had a GREEN ROOF! Assholes! I’ll sign for sure!

  39. Sandy says:

    I signed the petition. I don’t know what help it will be living in North Carolina but I think that is about stupid!! That might be the only way for someone to feed their family. I’ve seen a whole lot worse in some yards.

  40. Kim says:

    Signed it! Do they not have any more ruthless criminals to attend to in this town?!?!

  41. Marion says:

    I signed too! I’ve heard of this before, it apparently happens a lot more often than people think in the states. I for one would rather see a bunch of beautiful food producing plants in someone’s front yard over weeds, or even manicured grass for that matter!

  42. Kristen says:

    What a beautiful garden. They did an absolutely brilliant job! I cannot imagine what the city is thinking. If they rip up the garden now, it’s going to probably sit empty as it’s so late in the growing season. So they would rather look at a front yard made of dirt than a wonderful vegetable garden. Good luck with your fight Josée and Michel!

  43. Thera says:

    What a gorgeous garden and what a bunch of @sses in Drummondville’s city hall!

  44. Al says:

    Gotta tell you, when you first posted about doing this, I thought about it. I’ve heard this in other cases also. I know someone with a small garden at front in Ajax that’s been warned and neighbours have complained bitterly. I’ve heard people being fined for putting in perennial gardens in the curb section of their properties, instead of grass because the city doesn’t want it and after all that section belongs to the city. I worried a bit when hubby put tomatoes in our side yard, but there’s been no flack for us.

  45. Chris says:

    I think their garden is absolutely gorgeous, however, given the upscale neighborhood, I can see where the town officials are coming from. Not everyone’s garden would be constructed or upkept in the same manner, which is what they want to prevent. However again… if their neighbors don’t mind (and reap the benefits of the garden), who cares?

  46. ruth says:

    I signed a petition for the one in Michigan and I will sign this one. Is it more difficult to change a by-law than to harass good citizens endlessly? Karen you are walkin’ the edge lady, with chickens in the back and veggies in the front! love it.

  47. Marie says:

    We have a lot of cash-strapped towns in my state, looking for creative ways to make money, which often results in imposing fines for ridiculous reasons (like these instances).

    Don’t worry Karen, if you wind up in the clink we’ll pitch in to bail you out!

  48. Olequiltbat says:

    I definitely signed. This is a stupid law. The garden is so beautiful & so neat. I certainly wouldn’t mind that being next to me. I’ve had big gardens in my life time..& always shared the bounty.
    The Drummondville council should be ashamed of itself. As others have said…”concentrate on those front lawns with tons of junk & garbage on them” & stop harassing good gardeners.

  49. Sue From Vermont says:

    I have half a mind to drive up there with a picket sign in the shape of a tomato that says, “O (Drummondville) Canada, let us eat vegetables!”. Man, I’m mad. So I signed the petition. Watch out, Drummondville. I have a feeling you’re about to feel The Wrath of Gardeners everywhere.

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