Florida Court Rules Couple Cannot Grow Vegetables In Their Front Yard

A Florida couple has been battling their local government for their right to grow vegetables in their own yard. Unfortunately, they lost another legal battle in their struggle for personal freedom.

Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom Carroll grew vegetables in their front yard for 17 years, mostly because their backyard did not get enough sunlight. But in May of 2013, the local government of Miami Shores passed an ordinance banning the practice, reported Anti-Media.

Though the ordinance allowed fruit, trees, garden gnomes and flamingos to remain in front yards, vegetable gardens were illegal, claiming they were unsightly, but somehow bright plastic pink flamingos are not unsightly.

The city council claimed it was “protecting the distinctive character of Miami Shores Village.”

Code enforcers came to their property, issued a citation, and threatened to fine them $50 per day if they didn’t destroy their crops of okra, kale, lettuce, onion, spinach, and dozens of other plants. The couple could not afford the fines, so they had to destroy their food.

They pleaded with the Miami Shores Code Enforcement Board on 2 separate occasions but the board did not care about personal freedom.

Represented by the Institute for Justice, a constitutional advocacy organization, Ricketts and Carroll sued the city, in what would end up being a years-long legal fight. Last year, circuit judge Monica Gordo sided against people’s freedom.

The couple argued that the ordinance ran afoul of the Florida Constitution, including that it violated their privacy rights and their right to acquire, possess and protect property.

Gordo acknowledged that she wasn’t sure how their garden disturbed the aesthetics of the neighborhood, but she maintained the government’s right to decide what was visually acceptable.

“Given the high degree of deference that must be given to a democratically elected governmental body … Miami Shores’ ban on vegetable gardens outside of the backyard passes constitutional scrutiny,” she wrote last August.

The couple then contested her decision, taking it to an appeals court. This month, however, a three-judge panel sided with the government again, saying that it is constitutional for a government not to allow people to grow vegetables.

But as the Institute for Justice previously observed:

Hermine and Tom never set out to violate the law.  The idea of making productive use of their property to grow food just seemed like a smart, economical thing to do. In Miami Shores, however, that sort of self-sufficiency—always a hallmark of the American character—is against the law.”

The Institute for Justice is reviewing its options on how to proceed with their fight for Ricketts’ and Carrol’s right to grow food on their own property.

(Article By James Carter)