(NaturalNews) A Georgia farmer is being sued by the county for growing too many vegetables on his land, in a case local food critics say is indicative of the backwardness of many local zoning laws.
"I never realized this could get me in trouble," DeKalb county resident Steve Miller said. "In fact, it was a shock when I was told I couldn't have this many vegetables."
Miller purchased more than two acres of land in the town of Clarkston 15 years ago, in part because he knew that prior tenants had grown vegetables there for profit. Miller is a landscaper by trade, but gardening is his passion. He filled up his plot with fig trees and a wide variety of vegetables, selling the produce at local farmers markets or giving it away for free.
"When he moved here and I found out what he was doing I said, 'Steve, you're the best thing that ever happened to Cimarron Drive," neighbor Britt Fayssoux said. "And I still say that."
But according to county officials, Miller exceeded the number of vegetable plants permitted on a residential property. Miller has since gotten his property rezoned, but the county is still seeking nearly $5,000 in fines. Miller estimates his total legal costs at $27,000.
"How are they protecting the public, health and welfare of the citizens of DeKalb County by prosecuting this man on previous offenses that are now no longer offenses?" asked Miller's attorney, Doug Dillard.
Many food activists say that with rising global concerns over food insecurity, local producers like Miller are just what we need.
"Buying local food straight from the farmer puts you in closer touch with the origin of the food, cuts a significant portion of the time and money spent transporting and "selling" the food, saves you money, and places more dollars in the pocket of those who produce your food," writes Gabriel Cousens in his book There Is a Cure for Diabetes.
Yet zoning laws, by and large, are not written with backyard food production in mind.
"Most of the time," said Michael Wall of Georgia Organics, "it's the laws that need updating."