I do love a good story of an individual sticking it to “the system”, i.e. the reign of capitalism. But having grown up in British Columbia’s Shuswap region, land of rich earthy gardens and succulent fruit (getting hungry?), I was shocked to discover that in some areas that act of rebellion can be as simple as growing a garden. It’s illegal.
Look at Michel Beauchamp and Josée Landry in Drummondville, Quebec, for example. After the couple planted a beautiful vegetable garden in their front yard last summer, the city threatened them with fines of anywhere between $100-300 a day until they removed a large section and replaced it with lawn.
But it is not just among les pauvres Québécois where red tape is restricting homeowners from growing their own food. Our neighbours down South are suffering the brunt of gardening restrictions as well. Apparently Michigan resident Julie Bass was even threatened with jail time for her dangerous vegetable operation.
While many people assume that to eat healthy means to buy organic (i.e. expensive), gardening opens the door to healthy eating at very little cost. Denying people the opportunity to grow their own food, especially in areas with limits access to nutritious goods, is equivalent to denying them the opportunity to eat healthy.
You know the saying “being poor doesn’t mean what it used to.” I believe it. My parents grew up dirt poor. As in, “dear God, thanks for bringing that man to our door with a bag of potatoes because we have no food left in the house” poor. But the difference between poverty back then and poverty now is the type of food that gets eaten. When my parents were young the food that got them through the hard times was eggs (from the chickens everyone used to have) and root veggies stored up from the garden. Today options tend to be a little more limited.
In his TED Talk Ron Finley explains how his community in South Central L.A. is essentially a food desert. He used to have to drive several miles just to find any kind of food other than fast food. In his words “More people were dying from the drive-thrus than the drive-bys.” So he became a guerrilla gardener, putting the power of eating healthy, nutritious food back in the hands of his community.
So for today’s Fame Day I want to say, power to Ron Finley and people like him who make gardening a reality in places where it is least expected. And people like *Beauchamp and Landry and Bass who continue to grow their own food in spite of a system which would much rather they keep manicured lawns and buy their food from Mexican wage-slaves like a normal person.
And you! Go plant a garden! Start a revolution in your yard! I can tell you from my own pathetically limited personal encounter with growing food that you should believe them when they say you plant “a miracle.”
As I mentioned yesterday I’ve been living with my in-laws up North for the entire last month. I asked my parents to water the peas and tomatoes I planted in their yard before I left and came home to these monstrous plants WITH REAL RED TOMATOES ON THEM! And crunchy, juicy, sweet peas on my pea-vines too!
And I can tell you, no tomato will ever taste as amazing as the one you pull off your own little tomato plant, still warm from the hot sun and still glistening with drops of water from the hose.
So what are you waiting for? Go join the revolution.
*In case you are wondering, Beauchamp and Landry were allowed to keep their garden “thanks to a 30,000-signature petition, media attention and much grousing from sensible people.” According to the article I found dating March 2013 Julie is still fighting to control her food source. Though apparently the city is now going after her farm animals instead.
Wait, why are they being asked to remove their gardens? Is it really for aesthetic purposes?
You can click on the names of the gardeners to see the original article where I read about them. In the Quebec case the article says “According to a spokesperson for Drummondville, front lawns in the couple’s St-Charles-de-Drummond neighbourhood must be 30 per cent grass.” It never really specifies why that is a requirement. But I would only assume it is an aesthetic issue.