Tonight, while perusing my Twitter feed, I came across a story on TreeHugger about a woman in Tulsa, Oklahoma who is suing the city’s code enforcement officers for cutting down and destroying her edible/medicinal garden.
The story as reported by KOTV in a nutshell: Last August, Denise Morrison received a letter from the city citing a complaint about her yard. She took pictures of the garden when she went to meet with the inspectors and invited them to her home to point out the problem areas. She states their response was that everything had to go. She then went to the police who issued her a citation and a court date. At the court appearance the judge told them to come back in October but City workers showed up at her home the next day and cut down all of her plants and some of her fruit and nut trees.
“I came back three days later, sat in my driveway, cried and left,” Morrison said.
Sound familiar? That’s because we’ve heard versions of this story several times over the past few years. And every time I hear about another garden destroyed based on the complaint of one backwards-thinking neighbour or another gardener sued by the city for deigning to grow food in their front yard I am horrified, saddened, angered, and incensed. But worst of all I am paralyzed. I feel helpless, useless, powerless, hopeless about the state of the world, and consequently I do nothing. I self protect. I put it out of my mind and move on.
This time, rather than doing nothing or assuming there is nothing that can be done, I thought I’d at least get a discussion going about what can be done. Employ the power of many rather than remaining passive and powerless as one.
Firstly, I’d like to know how we can help this woman and others like her. Could we organize a drive for plants, seeds, and materials to replace what was lost, locals to show up at the site of the destroyed garden to help replant?
Do we need a public body of support? Citizens against the destruction of edible gardens? Gardeners for Gardeners?
And as Gina of My Skinny Garden asked on Twitter, I also wonder what we can do to circumvent this kind of thing from happening rather than reacting with shock and horror when it does happen.
On the one hand I feel like some of the work is already being done: writing about edible gardening as a positive, showing gardens that are not like the chemically dependant lawns and gardens popularized over the last 50 years, and gardening ourselves. Showing our neighbours what is possible, talking to them about what we are doing and shifting attitudes one person at a time. But it’s not enough. Clearly it is not enough.
What else can be done? I’d like to know what you think.
UPDATE: There is a petition at Change.org