In a bid to perpetuate a growing culture of dependency, authorities in Orlando, Fla., are trying to force a resident to dig up a vegetable garden he planted in his front yard, saying the plot of produce is a violation of city ordinances.
According to local reports, Jason Helvingston, who planted a 25 x 25 foot micro-irrigated garden of radishes, wax beans, kale and other veggies, is so far defying the city, saying he doesn't see any problem in trying to grow his own food. Nevertheless, city officials have given him a deadline to dig up the garden, or suffer the consequences.
"I said, 'You'll take my house before you take my vegetable garden,'" he told WKMG. "There's nothing wrong here, there's nothing poisonous here. This is a sustainable plot of land."
The TV station reported that city code requires any ground cover to be planted in such a way that it gives off a finished appearance. The city says that is so neighborhood lawns appear clean and inviting, so as to preserve property values.
'We love it'
None of that matters to Helvingston; he's decided he won't listen to the city's demands and has kept his garden intact - so far. In the meantime, he says he will try to get the code changed to allow residents to grow vegetable gardens in their front yard. In support, he's gathered more than 200 signatures, including one from Shelly Snow, a neighbor.
"(I'm) definitely not bothered by it. As a matter of fact, we love it," she told the TV station.
There's no indication yet from the city whether officials will budge, but Helvingston says he hopes the city will reconsider the rule when he meets with a code board in December.
For him, the issue is about private property rights and preparedness.
"This is another example of the government telling us what we can do with our own property -- that should never happen," he said. "In any economic downturn in the past history of the United States, the government has always encouraged the people to grow their own food, and so we want to continue with that movement."
The city's stance has other residents worried that they, too, will soon be targeted. Some of them told the local TV station they are also growing gardens and don't want to have to give them up.
One resident, Greg Clifton, said he has planted a quarter-acre of vegetables in his backyard.
"But I have every intention of using my front yard as a garden and I think the more I can grow the better it is," he said.
Reclaiming sustainability and self-sufficiency
City codes in Orlando mirror those in scores of other communities around the country; despite the fact that owners may keep their house payments current and pay their taxes in full and on time, they never really have control over their own property.
They are told by micromanaging bureaucrats that they are not permitted to fend for themselves. Jason Helvingston's is a case in point. It's not as if he's trying to raise livestock on his front yard; all he wants to do is grow some of his own food, but that kind of self-sufficiency and preparedness mindset is against the rules.
Some communities; however, are bucking that trend. Consider Buffalo, N.Y., where city leaders have long encouraged residents to turn vacant lots into vegetable gardens.
A growing number of residents who, as the Buffalo News reports, "a taste for local food, a passion for living sustainably and a devotion to ensuring everyone has access to healthy, affordable food," have started urban farms in several once-empty lots on both the city's East and West Sides.
Investors are trying to do the same thing in Detroit, once the auto manufacturing capital of the world - buying up abandoned properties around the city and turning them into farming operations.
Sustainability, self-sufficiency and non-dependence - all attributes of a truly free people.