Reshaping an Urban Landscape, One Front Yard Garden at a Time
Posted Nov 19, 2012 by Alejandro De La Cruz
Cause leader Roger Doiron, previously of White House garden fame, is rapidly becoming the face of front yard garden rights across the world. Last week, Roger launched a petition asking city government officials in Orlando, Florida to allow city resident Jason Helveston to have a garden in his front yard. In three days, and with more than 6,000 signatures, the pressure applied by the petition forced Orlando city officials to reverse their decision and publicly declare they would work with Jason to refine city code.
Jason Helveston, the owner of the Orlando front yard garden, wrote in an email to us that the city sent him a letter of violation on October 9, 2012 stating, “Note: Front yard must be restored to its original configuration and ground covers restored.” Adamant to keep his garden, Jason prepared a petition and received 800 grassroots signatures from supporters in his community. Then, Roger and the Kitchen Gardeners International cause – which has more than 63,000 members — stepped in to help. “Even though we were impressed with our 800 grassroots signatures, it wasn’t until [Kitchen Gardeners International] came to our support with thousands [of signatures] that we realized that this was not just about our little vegetable garden. This is our constitutional right.”
The right to plant sustainable gardens on private property is a fight happening all across the country. With more people trying to eat healthier, non-genetically modified and sustainable foods, Roger believes city governments will have to adjust their perception of vegetable gardens in residential areas. Roger said, “I think we’ll be seeing this situation playing itself out in many others communities across the country. The codes and ordinances that are on the books in many places are outdated and need to be revamped to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. There’s no magic wand to switch them all with one fell swoop. It will happen one city, one town and, in some cases, one neighborhood association at a time.”
One of the biggest points of contention is the aesthetic value of gardens. For homeowners, the way your house looks could determine hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property value. But Jason believes a vegetable gardens should be viewed in a new light. “We hope [city officials] realize that we all have better things to do than focus on a harmless vegetable garden. Vegetable gardens are not landscape; they are food first.”
Kitchen Gardeners International Declares Victory, Again
On November 13, 2012, city officials in Orlando declared on local news that they were no longer pursuing their original letter of violation. Jason detailed the situation: “The city has changed its position multiple times due to the increasing pressure from petitions and emails. Since Orlando has been trying to brand itself the ‘City Beautiful’ and an international magnet, they appear to be responding to the world’s voices.”
Roger’s cause is home to the second petition this year that has resulted in a city government changing its decision to destroy a front yard garden. As new members begin to raise their voice through this community, it’s safe to say that the Kitchen Gardeners International cause is a new, and exciting, epicenter for garden rights.