Will international activism save this couple’s garden from a town code?
People are hungry, economies everywhere are tanking. The answer to that problem used to be “do what you can on your own.” In America, it was the now iconic Victory Gardens. In Montreal, Canada there is a move to defeat such self-reliance.
For some strange reason, helping yourself is the very last thing the governments in both the U.S. and Canada will “allow” you to do; not even on your own land. Stranger still, it is the lower-rung, local governments that show up in news stories extinguishing property rights in the name of almighty municipal code.
Josée Landry and partner Michel Beauchamp decided to start an urban garden for both economic and health reasons, and they even have documented its progress via their family blog since its beginning. They proudly gave their new passion a name – Rosa – in memory of civil rights icon, Rosa Parks, who refused to take her place as ordered by the tyrannical bureaucracy of the day.
Now it seems that they find themselves forced to take a stand for another basic civil right: food freedom. Instead of allowing this garden to flourish and nourish, local officials in Canada now want to make any new front yard gardens completely illegal by autumn, along with uprooting Rosa.
The crackdown on home gardening has been marching across the first world at a rapid pace of late. In the U.S. we have seen a woman threatened with jail for 93 days for front yard tomatoes and a Tulsa, OK woman sued after coming home to find her yard full of herbal remedies and vegetation ripped up and taken. Oftentimes, it’s a power play, and only when enough negative attention is garnered, do the code enforcers back down, usually citing their targets for some other minor infraction.
This latest move in Canada follows a similar pattern; by enforcing an arbitrary code that front yard gardens (also called kitchen gardens) are only allowed, at the bare minimum, less than 30% vegetation. Who in Drummondville, Quebec would create such a code and why? Also, shouldn’t other factors be considered: they own their home, they offer the food to the community without profit, it is aesthetic and has attracted worldwide media attention, as well as some celebrity garden bloggers.
Not only does the city want most of the couple’s garden uprooted and tossed, but they are seriously discussing outlawing all future front yard gardens! The only stipulation being that old gardens can apparently stay as long as it meets the “under 30% of the yard” code.
The couple was facing fines of between $100 and $300 per day if they did not comply by yesterday. According to CBCNews, “The couple said they had no intention of complying with the city’s request.”
As per usual, the local authorities love to vaguely claim that there have been neighbor complaints. CEO of Drummondville, Claude Proulx, called it a question of “uniformity of the urban fabric.”
But, Beauchamp has been open with his neighbors, and they have shared the fun and eats. He has had no inkling of anyone disliking the tidy and delicious landscape, adding, “They love it. Everybody is surprised by the kind of taste we can have from fresh vegetables.” (Source)
And no doubt the neighbors may also be impressed by the changes they see in the urban farming couple: both growing and eating the garden goods has helped Landry and Beauchamp lose a combined 100 pounds!
Take some tips from this video of their garden’s formation:
Urban kitchen garden activist and blogger Roger Doiron got behind the fight and organized an impressive worldwide petition called Stop the War on Front Yard Vegetable Gardens. As of Sunday, they had 800 signatures, yesterday 8,000, and today almost 11,000 and counting. The couple’s “bed-in” peaceful protest, Lennon-Ono style, also garnered much support and media attention.
By the way, Doiron is the one who apparently encouraged Michelle Obama to grow the Presidential garden. No sooner had he featured the Canadian garden on his site when they get slammed with threats of hundreds of dollars in fines if they didn’t rip it out and replant grass. Do you think he wonders why the White House shows the world about gardening, and then municipalities everywhere start simultaneously cracking down on their residents?
What does it ultimately take to stop the rolling boulder of unyielding municipal power? As evidenced above and in other cases, a negative spotlight, lots of outraged people, and the threat of losing an election (and salary and pension) speaks volumes. The culmination of which recently bought Landry and Beauchamp till September 1, before the officials decide what to do with them. Activism works!
That allows them to harvest their garden, but then what? Will people forget the original intention to outlaw all such yard gardens? That’s a problem when things get pushed back – the officials hope that people do not stay so riled up, and that the media moves on. And what of the gardening soldiers? Will they be slapped with other arbitrary code violations?
Let’s try to revisit these plights to make sure we don’t leave them behind in the big fight for all of our food freedom.
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Potager-urbain/404082506296711
Personal website of Josée Landry and partner Michel Beauchamp: http://www.lepotagerurbain.com/
Roger Doiron’s Kitchen Garden organization with over 24,000 in the online community: http://kgi.org/
Read other articles by Heather Callaghan HERE
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