When Julie Bass planted a vegetable garden in her front yard, the last thing she expected was to be visited by city enforcement officers, ticketed for a code violation, charged with a misdemeanor, and facing jail time for refusing to remove the plants.
The Bass story began in the spring with the replacement of a sewage pipe in front of the home owned by Jason and Julie Bass in Oak Park, Michigan. Instead of replanting grass Julie decided to grow a vegetable garden to be able to feed her family quality organic vegetables while giving the neighborhood children something interesting to look at instead of a grassy lawn.
She had five large vegetable planter boxes built in the area and filled them with herbs, tomato's, cabbage, cucumbers, peppers and more. While most neighbors seemed to enjoy the new garden, a few didn't and neither did city code enforcement officers who soon arrived to give the homeowners a warning to remove the vegetable garden or face a ticket from the city for not planting 'suitable' plants.
City code requires home owners to plant grass, ground cover, shrubbery, or "suitable materials" in all unpaved portions of the front yard, according to WXYZ, Action 7 News.
“They warned us at first that we had to move the vegetables from the front, that no vegetables were allowed in the front yard. We didn't move them because we didn't think we were doing anything wrong, even according to city code we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong. So they ticketed us and charged me with a misdemeanor,” Bass said.
"That's not what we want to see in a front yard," said Oak Park City Planner Kevin Rulkowski. "If you look at the definition of what suitable is in Webster's dictionary, it will say common. So, if you look around and you look in any other community, what's common to a front yard is a nice, grass yard with beautiful trees and bushes and flowers," he said, reports Fox News.
Bass now faces a jury trial and up to 93-days in jail for her green thumb, and her desire to feed her family healthy vegetables in a time where reports of E.Coli and Salmonella contamination of produce are common reports on the nightly news.
She has started a Facebook page, Oak Park Hates Veggies and a blog detailing her crime, where she is "trying to make sense of the city's war on vegetables."
A petition "Stop the Prosecution of the Bass Family for Growing Veggies" has also been created to gather support for the Bass family. The petition has over 5000 signatures in just a few days time.
The blog calls for supporters to contact city officials and express their concern for the prosecution of Julie Bass. Bass's attorney said those in support of her family should come to court and let city officials know by their presence that they do not agree with ticketing and prosecuting a woman for trying to do what's best for family.
Bass said she is a regular mom with several children who has never been in trouble, she abides by the laws, has no record, has committed no crime, and doesn’t cause trouble. "I didn’t do anything wrong," said Bass, and she does not understand why the city is wasting its resources prosecuting her for her urban homesteading.
Her husband, Jason Bass, told WXYZ, "“The city is so strapped for cash right now that they have gone from a five-day work week to a four-day work week. They’ve canceled the fireworks to save money. City resources are really strapped and now we want to go on a jury trial for our vegetables in our front yard.”
Bass said her on her blog, homes with overgrown weeds and poor landscaping are attracting less attention then her neat, well-kept small garden plot.
"In an ideal world, I would shop exclusively at farmer’s markets, or better yet, go to u-pick farms with my family and pick all our own food. I would have a cow for milk and make my own dairy products, and a hive full of bees for our own honey. But this is 'reality island', we live a busy life in 2011, and we try to juggle our resources and our responsibilities with our aspiration to do our best. We planted a garden. We wanted some fresh vegetables that didn’t require an hour’s drive to get to a farm. We thought it would be a nice thing."
"We checked with the city, we checked with the neighbors, and we planted a garden. that’s it. We now find ourselves in a storm of controversy worthy of some high level mischief, seriously? It’s a garden, it’s not a high crime or treason or murder," said Bass. "It's vegetables."
Bass is scheduled to appear in court July 26.