I Want to Get Fined for Growing Too Much Food

Posted on Sep 22 2010 - 3:55am by Mike Lieberman

Last week it was in the news that a Georgia man was fined $5,000 for growing too much food in his backyard garden.

He’s been growing on his land for 15 years and growing food was the reason for him buying the land. He’s been selling some of his excess produce at the local farmers market and giving it to neighbors as well.

The reason for him receiving the fine is that it is illegal to grow that much food for the zone that he is in. I understand that it is illegal, but how is it legal for it to be illegal to grow food? Yet it’s legal for fast food restaurants to exist?

Is growing your own food that risky and that much of a threat to society. Isn’t growing and sharing food with your community what society has been built around for years? Are we that disconnected from food?

I currently have 10 containers in my balcony garden and am certainly not going to get fined for that. I would like to expand to more containers and wonder how many I’d have to hit before I’d get fined. I should keep adding more until I find out.

  • Melisa

    So many things came to mind reading this article. First is the apparent use of this man as an example by the authorities. Ridiculous. Second is the fact that this wasn’t exactly a commercial operation and I’m wondering what exactly the laws are in his community. Lastly, it sounds like a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation for this gentleman. He got fined for hiring workers to weed fallow ground, but there is no doubt in my mind that if he’d let it go to weeds, he’d have been fined for that too.
    I absolutely agree with you that it is nothing short of stupidity that makes it legal for fast food restaurants to slowly poison their customers yet illegal for a person to grow healthy, REAL food to not only feed himself, but his neighbors. I think providing ourselves with the foods of our choice should be one of those inaliable rights we are granted as human beings.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Well said Melisa. I think that’s the scary part. What happens next? Government is pitching a bill that will make it illegal to grow your own food and provide it to others (or something like that) and saying for safety reasons to scare people into it. That’s because factory farming and agribusiness is so safe. Scary.

  • Thecrmsnpyrut

    They have been doing that since the 1930′s. There are thousands of similar cases. Didn’t you get the memo? The government doesn’t want you to be self sufficient, they want you to be dependent on their systems. Growing a little food as a hobby is OK, but if you get too close to self sufficiency or ndependence they will smack you down.

    Look into the move over the last decade to chip all livestock. Families in the country who have a few chickens for eggs are running afoul of the Feds over it regularly.

  • Leekfixer

    Actually it is not illegal in the county where a
    steve and I both grow food in our front yards. At least according to the code enforcement officer who came to my house a couple of weeks ago when one of my neighbors complained that my garden is too big. The officer told me that the code does to specify how big a garden can be. It is illegal to sell on site. Neither of us did that. I do not understand the county’s motives in Steve’s case.
    I spoke with him this morning. His lawyers are still trying to negotiate a settlement before the case goes to trial tomorrow morning.
    Leekfixer on twitter

  • Anonymous

    I know how I know how! Just get so many containers you’re blocking that hallway there, or take over the stairs! :D

    Seriously though that dude needs the ACLU or something to help back him against the county and have those idiotic fines dismissed. And dude fined for having the land weeded?! The beautification committee should be praising his name for making sure the place is taken care of and used productively!!!

    Jeez with an attitude like that it makes me fear for families like the Garden Pool…

  • Mike Lieberman

    Makes me fear for humanity.

  • Mike Lieberman

    That’s awesome. Please keep us updated.

  • Mike Lieberman

    It’s sad. Really sad.

  • Lica Rodriguez

    The problem is the FDA. The (flawed) logic behind the law is that it’s supposed to protect the consumer from contaminated food, as seen by the salmonella spinach, eggs etc. And while, as a consumer, I would like to be protected from salmonella, the truth is that these small establishments carry the least risk of contaminated food.

    McDonalds, as disgusting and unhealthy as it is, follows the FDA protocol to the letter and therefore is golden. The FDA needs a major overhaul. Just take a look at Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, where a serving of french fries is considered a serving of vegetable by the FDA, but a stir-fry with 1 full cup of different vegetables is not.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Very well stated. I likes.

  • Melanie

    I’m with you.

  • http://lovingnaturesgarden.com Alison Kerr

    Mike, I think your balcony might collapse form the weight of the produce before you get fined for growing too much food… not pretty. I take your point though. How crazy is that?!

    There’s a local urban farmer in my area who has a grandfathered in farm and produces for the farmers market, but she’s had all kinds of zoning issues. I think she used to have volunteers work on the farm and they made her stop that. From what I heard, she considered moving out of state rather than deal with it all, but she decided she should stay and do what she could to change it. You know, spread the message on what she believes in.

    And one of my friends told me that she’s not allowed to grow food in her suburban garden, only decorative stuff. Crazy!

  • Mike Lieberman

    That’s crazy. In my sister’s old co-op, she had to get approval from the board if they wanted to grow anything. It’s ridiculous.

  • http://twitter.com/atminn Adam Minnie

    Have you encountered legality issues regarding clogging up a fire escape?

  • Mike Lieberman

    No one ever said a word to me. Though I know of others who have. Depends on the building.

  • Accidental friend

    Providing ourselves with the foods of our choice is one of those inalienable right we are granted as human beings. Flawed Laws are trying to makes us believe different.

  • Michael wetherall

    People only need one natural disaster or government controlled resession to realise that if only they had grown some small crops themselves, if only they had encouraged community growing locally they wouldnt have to just survive on micronutrients & handouts when it suits the government. Control of food/water is control of population or manipulation of population. Get planting :) take some control back.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Amen brother man. Amen.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Annie Leonard’s videos are great. I’m aware of the dangers of plastics, but have heard that the ones with 2 and 5 are safer to use and won’t necessarily leach.

    If growing in the mediums you mentioned weren’t good, then what are the alternatives? That’s what I’m struggling with.

  • Asuka Aki

    With all the supporters you have and the ability to communicate, I would definitely go for it.

    Lack of food is a world wide crisis. How can one human tell another that they are not allowed to grow their own food?! It’s the same as openely admitting people should and will continue to be dependant. It’s worst than anti democratic!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Amen to that!

  • Grizzwellgg

    Lets ALL grow more food than allowed! Try and stop us. Even if half of us did it, things would change. If everybody challenged the fine in court, it would clog the courts for years.

  • Grizzwellgg

    I am like a child going to the grocery store always expecting plenty of food to be there. Once in my life, I went to the store during a hurricane warning, and found the shelves bare. It was a wake up call.  There are world wide shortages and they are not getting better.  It just takes one natural disaster. Remember how it took forever to get food and water to New Orleans after Katrina. Everybody needs to grow some food. Even if all you have is a way to grow sprouts, you will have some fresh live food. Then there is trying to avoid GMO and insecticide foods – that will bankrupt you.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Amen to that!