Court upholds ban of vegetable garden in the front yard of Miami Shores home

Tom Carroll and Heroine Ricketts in their front yard in Miami Shores on Wednesday, December 13, 2017. The couple had to dig up their large vegetable garden in their front lawn after the Village of Miami Shores said their edible plants were not allowed in the front lawn. Al Diaz

Do not eat your veggies — if they are grown in your front yard, Miami Shores says

December 12, 2017 07:00 AM

UPDATED December 14, 2017 10:23 AM

Miami Shores residents cited for front yard vegetable garden

Miami Shores residents Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll were cited by the city for their front yard vegetable garden. They talk about the case in this 2013 file video.

Walter Michot Miami Herald Staff

The court ruled that Miami Shores has the right under its code to control design and landscaping standards to protect the appearance of the village and preserve “property values and the enjoyment of property rights by minimizing and reducing conflicts among various land uses.”

Village Attorney Richard Sarafan argued that while it’s popular to blame big, bad government for being intrusive, municipalities must safeguard their zoning authority lest they open a Pandora’s box of unsightly exceptions. Without any arbiter of taste, residents could get stuck living next to a polka-dot house with pigs taking mud baths by the garage and an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile on the swale. The couple’s front yard was filled with pots and cluttered with stakes that belonged in the backyard where they chose to have a swimming pool instead, the village said.

“It’s all about conformity. Miami Shores wants to be a mini Coral Gables,” Ricketts said of another tidy, upscale South Florida city known for strict zoning regulations that at one time included a ban on pickup trucks in driveways at night. “What is the definition of edible? I can go into any front yard and find something edible because every plant has an edible part.

“Miami Shores claims to promote green living. What could be more green than walking out your front door and picking what you’ve grown rather than driving to the store and buying what has been trucked in, in quantities that contribute to food waste?”

Bargil also objected to the court’s conclusion that “it is rational for government to ban the cultivation of plants to be eaten as part of a meal, as opposed to the cultivation of plants for ornamental reasons.”

Ricketts called the village short-sighted for encouraging the cultivation of “useless grass.”

“By killing gardens we are also killing bees and butterflies, the pollinators of our food supply,” she said. 

The court said that residents who don’t like the village ordinance can petition the Village Council to change it or vote for council members who will change it.

But in the meantime, the village has uprooted a source of sustenance and joy for Ricketts, 62, and Carroll, 59.

Their case is part of the Institute for Justice’s National Food Freedom Initiative, which includes litigation on behalf of home bakers in Minnesota,Wisconsin and New Jersey, a skim milk producer in northern Florida, raw milk farmers in Oregon and craft brewers in Texas.

When home associations go bad

Homes associations are meant to keep neighborhoods from turning shabby and to maintain property values. But when homeowners don’t follow their strictly enforced regulations, they may be fined, end up in court or even lose their homes. Here are their horror stories.

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