Couple facing $500 a day fine for home garden in their own yard

Friday, January 11, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: home gardens, fines, Orlando

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(NaturalNews) An Orlando-area couple that faced prosecution from city officials over their front-yard garden in November is in hot water once again after refusing to dig up their veggies, only this time they are facing stiff financial penalties for their non-compliance.

According to the Florida chapter of the Institute of Justice, Jason and Jennifer Helvenston will be charged fines of up to $500 a day beginning Jan. 10 if they don't follow orders to uproot a garden that they say is helping sustain them.

But instead of renting a backhoe the couple has decided to stand up for what they believe is their constitutional right - to utilize their own property to grow their own food. So, in protest of the city's ordinance, the Helvenston's have launched "Plant a Seed, Change the Law," a movement aimed at getting the mandate changed or struck down.

Big time fines for growing food?

NaturalNews reported earlier that the Helvenston's 25-foot by 25-foot garden located in their front yard was not in compliance with the city's code. But local media said that, in response to receiving hundreds of emails from residents supporting the couple, city officials backed off, saying they would hold off on reprisals. But that tide of good will has ended; now, the city is asking the couple to dig up their micro-irrigated garden of radishes, wax beans, kale and other veggies and replace it with a lawn - or be fined.

"The greatest freedom you can give someone is the freedom to know they will not go hungry," said Jason Helvenston. "Our Patriot Garden pays for all of its costs in healthy food and lifestyle while having the lowest possible carbon footprint. It supplies valuable food while being attractive. I really do not understand why there is even a discussion. They will take our house before they take our Patriot Garden."

Ari Bargil, an attorney for the Institute of Justice, told WKMG the Helvenstons have a scheduled inspection Jan. 10, and that the city could decide to level the maximum fine.

"We are seriously interested in taking a look at this," said Bargil, when asked by the local news affiliate if his organization would be filing suit against the city of Orlando. "We're focused on helping the Helvenstons get the word out, encouraging the city to reach a sensible compromise here."

Earlier in the week city officials told the local station the case is currently on hold, but they did not elaborate nor provide any further details.

"We are asking residents across Orlando and the country to join us in planting a 'Patriot Garden' in their own front yards," said Jennifer Helvenston. "Please email us at and we will send you a free packet of radish seeds and a small sign for your front yard that says 'Patriot Garden: Plant a Seed, Change the Law.'"

Once upon a time, Americans grew 'victory gardens'

The concept of the so-called Patriot Garden comes from World War II, when the nation was scrambling for resources to send to American forces fighting overseas. In an effort to free up commodities needed to feed the troops, many Americans grew what were called "victory gardens" on their own plots of land and were considered very patriotic for doing so.

"Victory gardens popped up everywhere, as more than 20 million gardens were planted to answer the call," writes Thornton Parsons for LS Newsgroup. "But now, no matter where you live, if you have a neighbor within throwing distance of your house, chances are there are garden and lawn ordinances that apply to your lawn and your garden.

"These laws and ordinances are usually made by people who do not know freedom and patriotism, or who have never experienced the joys nor necessities of gardens," said Parsons.

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