After Public Backlash, Iowa Town Buries Plan to Ban Front Yard Gardens

A proposal to ban West Des Moines residents from planting fruits and vegetables in their front yards was killed on Thursday. The idea for the ban was germinated by resident Donald McNutt, who complained about his neighbors planting corn and “decorative” gardens in their front yards. Speaking to a West Des Moines subcommittee on code enforcement, McNutt outlined what he imagined are the nightmarish terrors of unregulated horticulture:

“What’s to prevent them or anyone else now from this spring, bulldozing their entire front yard and planting a garden? If you don’t have anything in your ordinance to prevent this, I could see that happening.”

But after citizens called and emailed to express their concern for property rights, the ban was nipped in the bud. McNutt later withdrew his complaint. Not only are front yard gardens beautiful for many people to look at, they can also provide a source of locally grown produce. One Illinois gardener is even able to donate 100 pounds of food each year from her garden. 

Jennifer and Jason Helvenston           Photo credit: David Goodman

Yet banning and severely restricting gardens is a growing trend for bureaucratic busybodies. For planting a gorgeous vegetable garden in their front yard, Jason and Jennifer Helvenston have been threatened by the City of Orlando with up to $500 fines a day, unless they uproot it. The Institute for Justice helped publicize their case, mailing out hundreds of seeds and signs for people all across the country to grown their own “Patriot Garden.”

The city is now debating creating new restrictions, which would ensnare gardens in red tape. The Orlando City Council will meet on February 25th to decide what to do about Jason and Jennifer’s garden. Let’s hope they can follow West Des Moines and respect front yard freedom.

(Hat tip to Keep Food Legal.)

-- Nick Sibilla

Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice

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