Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom Carroll may grow fruit trees and flowers in the front yard of their Miami Shores house. They may park a boat or jet ski in their driveway. They may place statues, fountains, gnomes, pink flamingoes or Santa in a Speedo on their property.
Vegetables, however, are not allowed.
Ricketts and Carroll thought they were gardeners when they grew tomatoes, beets, scallions, spinach, kale and multiple varieties of Asian cabbage. But according to a village ordinance that restricts edible plants to backyards only, they were actually criminals. They didn’t think they were engaged in a Swiss chard conspiracy or eggplant vice, yet they were breaking the law.
Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld Miami Shores’ ban on front-yard vegetable gardens in a recent decision, so the couple will take their case to the Florida Supreme Court. They argue, on behalf of gardeners everywhere, that the village’s restriction is unconstitutional and an infringement on their property rights.
“That’s what government does – interferes in people’s lives,” Ricketts said. “We had that garden for 17 years. We ate fresh meals every day from that garden. Since the village stepped its big foot in it, they have ruined our garden and my health.”
Ricketts and Carroll did not face jail time for brandishing green thumbs, but they did face $50 daily fines after the village amended its ordinance in 2013. They had to dig up their garden – which won’t grow in their north-facing backyard because of a lack of sun. But they have continued to fight Miami Shores in court with help from the Institute for Justice, a national non-profit libertarian law firm.
“This decision gives local governments tremendous leeway to regulate harmless activities in the name of aesthetics,” said Institute lawyer Ari Bargil. “It gives government the power to prohibit homeowners from growing plants in their front yards simply because they intend to eat them.”