Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Crime of Growing Too Much Broccoli

I didn't think much about the cost of food, until I had two boys that are steadily wearing a path in and out of the kitchen. I now spend twice as much as mother did to feed a family of five, for the four of us. This is something I am grateful that I am able to do and is absolutely a reflection of my class privilege.  Gardening has been something that I have not had to dedicate myself to beyond a hobby, which believe me is a good thing because after ten years of trying, this year we finally had edible tomatoes.  The unhusband reminds me yearly that I have Black thumbs for a reason.

Even the fact that I have access to fresh fruits and vegetables is a luxury, as many are forced to eat canned goods at an exorbitant rate.  Many communities including my own are starting the push towards community gardens.  Detroit is rebuilding with the idea of integrating agriculture into their urban development. This is a case of working old ideas into our current modern lifestyle.  It is far healthier, less expensive and will increase access to those who live in vegetable/fruit free zones.  This is going to require zoning changes in urban centers.
Steve Miller has grown organic veggies on his property for nearly 15 years. The Clarkston, Georgia man churns out figs, broccoli, cabbage, and other produce on his two-acre plot of land, selling the veggies at nearby farmers' markets or giving them away to his neighbors. "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,'" Miller's neighbor, Britt Fayssoux, told WSBTV. "And I still say that."


Growing cool veggies may seem innocuous, but it's landed Miller in some hot water. Back in January of this year, DeKalb County Code Enforcement officers cited Miller for growing too many vegetables and having unpermitted workers on his property. Apparently, according to city zoning laws, Miller broke the law when he started producing that many organic veggies on his land. Miller responded by putting his garden on a hiatus this summer while he got his property rezoned. But here's the kicker: The city is still suing Miller. "It's a passion that I have and unfortunately, the passion has gotten me into trouble and I can't understand why," Miller told a WSBTV reporter.


It's bad enough that a city would go after a guy for growing organic produce and giving it away to his neighbors (oh, the horror!). But to add insult to injury, code enforcement officers are still trying to slap Miller with $5,000 in fines even though he took the necessary steps to get his land rezoned. According to WSBTV, officials believe that they should throw the book at Miller because his infractions occurred before the rezoning. (source)
I could understand if he had a hog farm in his backyard, but I cannot for the life of me understand why broccoli is so criminal, that it deserves a 5000 dollar fine.  This is exactly the kind of behaviour that we need to encourage and it is an absolutely wonderful use of space.  We need to regain our connection with the earth, as well as promote the eating of whole foods.  Have we become so addicted to preservatives and ingredients that we cannot even pronounce that growing broccoli has now become a criminal endeavor? I understand that there are ways of farming that are absolutely harmful.  Agribusiness daily offers us frankenstein food that is laced with chemicals, but a simple check of this mans property to ascertain if harmful chemicals were being used would have take a few moments.  When we weigh that against the gain of urban farming, I cannot possibly understand what harm is being done.

The way of life that we have become accustomed to is absolutely unsustainable.  We waste millions of pounds of food each year when there are so many going hungry.  We are grabbing fast food, shrink wrapping and microwaving ourselves into oblivion.  Obviously class plays a huge factor in this because, cooking takes time and the more poor that you are, the less time you have to actually cook real meals.  The home chef has become a yuppie fascination, because it takes money to buy good ingredients and time to cook them.  This is one of the evil results of capitalism that we seldom talk about in real and meaningful ways.

We have built a lopsided house against the shore and it is simply a matter of time before it collapses.  We look back at our grandparents relationship to food and the land and see  it is as backwards and our methods as progressive -- yet we eat garbage and barely have the time to choke it down.  Let the man grow his broccoli.  We should all be thankful that there are a few urban dwellers who still remember how, because the time is fast approaching when we are going to need all of the old skills that we now think of as antiquated.