When I saw these words, Right to Garden Bill, my first reaction was, “What? I need the government to give me permission to grow a garden?”
Since the pandemic and the visible realization of empty shelves, more and more people are choosing to grow their own food. As companies realized that employees could successfully work from home, the elimination of commute time has provided the time to manage and enjoy that garden.
I could go on to describe all the benefits of growing your own organic food, but I think you all know that.
But did you know you may be regulated about where you grow and what you grow?
When putting in a vegetable garden in the front yard, you may have height restrictions, so you do not block views for motorists. You may also need to control pests and excessive weeds. But vegetable gardens can beautify a street and give opportunities to share your bounty with neighbors which improves a community.
So, what is this Right to Garden Bill?
In August 2021, Illinois enacted a Right to Garden Bill, second to Florida. Nicole Virgil of Elmhurst, Illinois, had been hounded by the local government about her backyard garden. She wanted to extend her growing season by putting up a temporary hoop house. It was not the growing of vegetables that was the issue but wanting to extend the growing season as many gardeners do to extend cold crops.
Nicole ended up taking her fight to the state level. In August the governor signed the Illinois Vegetable Garden Protection Act (HB 633) that preserves and protects the right of all Illinoisans to “cultivate vegetable gardens on their own property.”
Cities and towns still maintain zoning tools like height restrictions and controlling invasive species. But if Nicole wants to put up a hoop house or greenhouse, she is free to do so without being threatened by local code enforcement agents.
In Florida, local gardeners partnered with the Institute for Justice, and non-profit organization, and sued their local government. They lost the case, but the Vegetable Garden Protection Act was passed in 2019 by the state Legislature.
Legislative reforms in Illinois and Florida are part of the Institute for Justice National Food Freedom Initiative. The initiative believes that individuals should have the ability to produce, procure and consume the foods of their choice. And they are winning.
This movement is so important during a time when a pandemic has shown us the weaknesses in our food-supply chain. The ability to grow food is our right as well as a necessity.
The fight is not over.
What are the regulations imposed by your municipality?