- Subject: Cabbagegate
- From: james singer <email@example.com>
- Date: Wed, 8 Dec 2010 18:44:44 -0800
Everybody's seen this, right?
(Sept. 15) -- His neighbors call it "Cabbagegate." And it cost Steve
Miller a lot of green. The Clarkston, Ga., man was fined $5,200 for
growing too many vegetables in his backyard.
Miller had been growing legumes for 15 years, selling them at local
farmers markets and giving them away to friends, before he was cited
by the Dekalb County Code Enforcement office for the first time last
September. It's illegal to garden at such a level in the zone where
he lives. Miller tried to challenge the penalty, but a reprieve was
slow in coming, and the fight's not over.
"Time went on, but no answers, then I get a letter in the mail with
more fines," he told AOL News. "Didn't get an answer back from the
county until I started getting notices from code enforcement in
October, and before I knew it I got a subpoena to go to court."
After a long legal battle, Miller successfully rezoned his land. But
despite that victory, the county is still fining him for all of his
illicit vegetables, and even for hiring workers to weed the fallow
land after he stopped working it.
Miller runs a relatively large operation for a backyard gardener --
about one and a quarter acres in production with crops like celery,
tomatoes, lettuce, Swiss chard, beets, cilantro, carrots and, of
course, cabbage. He peddles his harvests at farmers markets, but
doesn't always turn a profit. And it's far from his main occupation.
Miller is a landscaper by trade.
"It's not my source of income, it's my passion," he said. "If it
were my main source of income, I'd have to sell my house."
Miller had no idea that growing vegetables on his land was illegal
-- in fact, he purchased the plot because he knew people had grown
vegetables for profit there in the past.
While many food activists cite urban agriculture as crucial to
establishing locally sourced food systems, zoning laws present
challenges. What distinguishes outlaw tomato plants from a
legitimate commercial operation is not always clear. Some, like
Miller, become unwitting violators.
"There's a fine line between urban agriculture and backyard
gardening," said Michael Wall, communications director for Georgia
Organics. "Since this is an emerging issue, there are going to be
some gray areas.
"Most of the time," he continued, "it's the laws that need updating."
In Georgia, as across the country, many municipalities are making
compromises to encourage new, productive land uses. Earlier this
year, New York's underground apiarists scored a victory when the
city agreed to make beekeeping legal, and allowances for backyard
chickens have been enacted in many cities, such as Seattle and New
Sometimes, however, it takes a case like Miller's to motivate
change. He's glad that the county was able to help him rezone his
land, but still stung by giant fines he incurred.
The county refused to comment as the case is still pending, the
Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
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