A Chicory in Every Plot – Urban Gardens By
We were sitting on a friend’s porch in the Fan District recently and saw the darndest thing: A hawk. We were minding our own business when a commotion across the street captured our attention. Five or six little, black starlings started flitting around and raising a ruckus, and we suddenly became aware of an ominous “whoosh whoosh” sound. A shadow passed overhead and an enormous red-tailed hawk swooped down and alit on the railing of a neighbor’s front porch. After hearing about the black bear in the West End it made us realize just how close we always are to wilderness.
After watching the starlings chase off the much larger bird we headed out for a bite to eat (we don’t eat all of our meals at The Urban Farmhouse, contrary to popular belief). After dinner we headed back to our friend’s house, and it was suggested that we cut through the alley to avoid walking all the way around the block. As we neared the end of the alley, we noticed an oasis opening up before us. In the center of the block facing everyone’s back yards was a perfect courtyard with tables, benches, grassy areas, and plants galore. Even more beautiful to us was the fact that many of these neighbors, not content to share this urban oasis, had turned their back yards into compact vegetable gardens. We saw root vegetables, leafy greens, hanging vines, composters, and more.
If you happen to be enjoying some time on Strawberry Street, go west across the street towards the Boulevard. Use the alley, please.
The next morning we were browsing through the headlines and saw an article that really raised an eyebrow. A woman in Tulsa, Oklahoma was suing her city for cutting down her vegetable garden. Huh?
Denise Morrison was out of work and struggling with diabetes. She decided to turn her yard into something more productive than grass and lawn gnomes, so she planted stuff that she could eat. She had vegetables, herbs, mint, flowers that kept away bugs, berries, fruit and nut trees, and more. She used these plants to feed herself and nurse her ailments. One of her neighbors complained about the “look” of her yard and a code enforcement officer stopped by to check it out. The city has a code that says that all plants must be less than 12 inches tall – UNLESS they are used for human consumption. Denise felt that her Tulsa oasis obviously met that criteria, so she asked for advice. She was told to ask for a citation that she could then argue in court in front of a judge. The next day she visited the police department, who kindly issued the citation, and a trial date was set. The NEXT day, she awoke to the sound of heavy machinery, and went outside to see city workers removing all of her plants, save a few flowers.
They even cut down her darned fruit trees. How evil is that?
She later went to court, was issued a ticket for having an inoperable truck in her driveway, and all other charges were dropped. She is now suing Tulsa. She wants her veggies back. We think that Tulsa should strap on some big-boy pants and start seeding.
The City of Richmond currently has a number of “official” urban gardens where you can grow vegetables and share with your neighbors. You can certainly join in at a number of existing sites, or you can apply for any one of several designated “vacant” sites. You just have to be a city resident and fill out the necessary paperwork…
Oh, by the way: The City will have to review your paperwork, it has to go through City Council, you have to pay a non-refundable fee of $50 for the first year and $25 per year after that, and you need to carry a $250,000 insurance policy on your plot of previously unused property that is now growing healthy, nutritious food. And the City reserves the right to change the rules as they see fit.
Great deal, don’t you think?
If it’s a vacant lot, don’t you think that growing food would be a great use for it? Kind of like the nice lady in Tulsa, we kind of need more people out there growing their own food. We’re certainly not suggesting that there isn’t a good reason for VISITING US, but a little urban gardening would seem to be a good thing. There would be less driving to the store for produce, fewer chemicals going down the drain, a little more green in our city, etc, etc, etc. Many of our friends have little planters hanging on the kitchen windowsill that provide herbs for cooking. We know plenty of apartment dwellers that have traded in geraniums and pansies for tomatoes and peppers in their back-deck-pots. Our friends with the itinerant hawk have a fruit tree in their little back yard and grow fresh strawberries along their fence. The great thing is that many of these urban farmers are proud of their growing acumen and like to share.
The City is currently reviewing ordinances covering the raising of backyard chickens within the city limits.
Squawk! Don’t get us started on chickens!