by germinatrix | July 11th, 2011
Far be it from me to be all LOUD about anything, but sometimes circumstances are such that there is no choice BUT to yell. Julie Bass from Oak Park, Michigan, is trying to grow food in her front yard. A neighbor complained, a ticket was issued. Julie did exactly what I would do – “TICKET SCHMICKET… I’m growing my food, my way!” So instead of prosecuting the REAL criminals running around the Detroit area, a local prosecutor has made it his mission to put Julie in the clink. You heard it right – she could actually go to jail for 93 days! Say WHAT?
As many of you know, I wrote a book about this very subject. And I am shocked, but not at all surprised with what is going on. One of the couples profiled in The Edible Front Yard, Yvette Roman and Fred Davis, had a similar fight – and they won. They had to prove that their front yard was the best place to grow edibles because of the generous amount of sun it received, and then they had to show the benefit of growing organic food, and nearby examples of lawn-free front yards. Their fantastic garden is the pride of the neighborhood they live in – everyone benefits from the bounty!
Julie Bass may have thought nobody would care about her front yard food – but many people fear change. Seeing a neighbor rip out their lawn can be very unsettling for some people. They believe that our lawns link us together, and that a lawn is the only thing that looks “good”. I experienced blowback when I ripped out my lawn – people thought I was ruining a beautiful “landscape”. Thankfully, my naysayers didn’t complain (in my East LA neighborhood, the bigger problem is graffiti and drag races) and my garden had a chance to grow. My front yard is a mix of succulents, drought tolerants, and food.
Many of my public edibles are tucked in among other plants – they are in disguise. Julie Bass did something different – her food is front and center, in wooden raised beds that are clean and geometric, sitting in a yard mulched with shredded bark. It looks functional and spare, but more than anything it looks NEW! LET IT GROW, Oak Park! When Julie’s edibles grow in, they will be full and lovely and they’ll look fantastic within the boundaries of the raised beds. The empty space around the beds will make more sense because the beds will be bursting at the seams with yummy goodness. From a design standpoint, Julie Bass is breaking no rules with her planting area, not as far as I’m concerned, and I think I can say that I am a better judge of this issue than Julie’s disgruntled neighbor, or the prosecutor who is hellbent on taking this to trial.
People need to get over themselves – this is an idea whose time has come. The tide has turned! This is a cultural shift! People are growing food, and often the best place to do it is the front yard. If there is enough sun to grow lawn, there is enough sun to grow food. So what is a better use of our resources? Julie Bass is being SMART – she is putting her time, effort, and dollars into something that gives back to her and her family – she’s watering and caring for edibles instead of lawn! (I’d say “So sue her!” if I wasn’t afraid it might actually HAPPEN)
Part of my book is about dealing with the reality that some neighbors WILL have a problem with this, and sometimes we have to get creative and design our edible front yards so that they look just like any other garden. Using beautiful edibles in artful combinations can trick the nosier people on the block- they’ll never know that the plants they are looking at are food! Purple basils, speckled lettuces, striped eggplant, culinary sages, colorful kales … all of these can be combined in a way to create an ornamental and edible front yard. I have no doubt that if people leave Julie Bass alone and let her do her thing, her front yard garden will develop into something glorious. She wants to share this space with her neighborhood! She wants the children of her community to join in on the fun of growing food! If they just LET IT GROW, it will become an inspiration and anchor for the community – I know it. I’ve seen this happen in my own life.
So I to thank Julie Bass. She didn’t start out to do it, but she is taking one for the team. It isn’t fair that she is risking losing her freedom for 3 months – but this has galvanized a community. I am so confident that the groundswell of support she is experiencing will sway the judge in this matter. What is right is right – and this is a good fight. I am proud to lend my voice to the chorus of supporters! GROW IT JULIE!!!
XOXO Your Germinatrix!
ps – Thanks for the cool thumbnails, Derek Powazek !