Grow Your own Vegetable Garden and go to Jail. ~ Lori Flynn

Via elephant journal
on Aug 14, 2011
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1,500 sq. ft. house + 1/10th of an acre garden = 6,000 pounds annual harvest of over 350 different veggies, fruits & herbs


In 2003 I was inspired to walk away from a decade long career in corporate America, weekends at the mall and my fast food addiction in search of something greater. Within two weeks I’d sold everything in my apartment, subleased it, threw my dog in the car and headed from Denver to Los Angeles to another job in corporate America – that’s what I knew. But in my new environment I was inspired to at least give up the mall and the fast food.

I began to seek out new ways of living which led me an on exciting journey that included living off-grid and studying permaculture. At the start of my journey, I took a field trip with a bunch of other adults who were re-activated and we were off to learn to brew our own biodiesel fuel in a residential garage in Pasadena.

What we found when we got there was much more than a biodiesel workshop.

Photo: Mulloy

We pulled up to a smaller home in a charming neighborhood to find every inch of available land utilized for an edible landscape. We wandered through the backyard among ducks and chickens and bees! We made our way to the garage where we all learned to brew our own fuel from used vegetable oil before we spent some time touring the property. In my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined being so self-sustaining, much less, having the creativity to do something as crazy as grow fruits and vegetables in a front yard.

But Julie Bass imagined it just recently. So she planted a garden in her front yard in Oak Park, Michigan. And now she is being charged with a misdemeanor by the City of Oak Park and 93 days in jail on the grounds of a code that says, “a front yard has to have suitable, live, plant material.”

“It’s definitely live. It’s definitely plant. It’s definitely material. We think it’s suitable.” –Julie Bass

“If you look at the definition of what suitable is in Webster’s dictionary, it will say common. So, if you look around and you look in any other community, what’s common to a front yard is a nice, grass yard with beautiful trees and bushes and flowers.” –City Planner Kevin Rulkowski

Granted, a front yard garden is not the norm…but it’s certainly not uncommon. As I wandered further down my path I began to see the value of something as simple as a community garden – it gets us outside, unites us in a goal, gets kids away from TV and video games, and it gives us control of our own food.

Working with the earth is healing, grounding  and meditative. A residential garden is even more beneficial in that it utilizes earth and water that would otherwise be used for grass or other cosmetic, non-food producing plants. As we all move along on our path it is up to us to find ways to sustain, evolve and grow as individuals and a society. More often than not, that means having our views challenged and our eyes opened.  Which brings me to my plea for assistance.

I’d love to believe I’m not alone in my bewilderment that a person is being charged with a crime for growing her own food in her front yard or that someone actually thinks that an edible landscape is unsuitable. Don’t get me wrong, flowers, trees and bushes are all very pretty to look at, but fruits and veggies are simply another kind of plant that blossoms and flowers. And you can eat them which will lead to spending less money on groceries, saving money on gas and knowing where your food comes from.


So I’ve decided to write an email to City Planner Kevin Rulkowski ([email protected]​.us) – a well crafted, non-condescending and hopefully inspiring note that might spark him to expand his and the City’s thinking about the visible presence of fruit and vegetable gardens. If you, too, are a proponent of home gardening and edible plant suitability, please join me in my crusade to provide Mr. Rulkowski with an educated and passionate note in support of Julie Bass and her food garden. Take pictures of your own front yard gardens and/or community spaces and include them. Let’s show him that it’s not so uncommon. Let’s band together and use our power for good!


  Lori Flynn lives in Lyons, CO where she teaches yoga in tucked away places and writes music – but not at the same time. She is deeply grateful to have landed in the right hands when she made the leap out of systemite-dom and into the world of the family of Eric Lloyd Wright who, together with his wife and many friends and family members, devote their lives to sustainability through organic architecture and their non-profit Wright Organic Resource Center in Malibu, CA. This is an organization that truly walks the talk, so if you’re in the LA area and looking for something real please check them out. Visit Lori at


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5 Responses to “Grow Your own Vegetable Garden and go to Jail. ~ Lori Flynn”

  1. Lori says:

    This is the city website with snail mail address, email, phone, etc.

  2. theoracle says:

    Good luck. Break the law, the law that says you have to stand in the supermarket line. The law that says you have to do what all your neighbors are doing in their front yard. The law that says you can't be more creative. The law that says you must be dependent. The law that says you can't think out of the box. The law , and this is the most important one, that says Americans cannot own land, it is all owned by the government and rented back to us under the heading of "property taxes". Which binds people into economic slavery for their lifetime. The government knows your land belongs to them and you are renting it by paying "property taxes". Otherwise they would not be telling you what to do with the front yard. Put some control on your local government, any control you can.