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The Government Controls Your Garden

Written By Briton Ryle

Posted August 28, 2013

Every once in a while, there comes a story that compels me to leave the business arena and step into politics. Although, really, the line between business and politics is often blurred to begin with.

Community GardenApolitical as I am, why am I now venturing where I don’t normally tread? Because a four year old girl and her disabled mother had their vegetable garden shut down… by the government.

So get your pens and notepads out and ready-up to write to your local representatives. This one will make you downright mad.

You Can’t Reap What You Sow

If there is one thing we like to teach our children, it’s that applying yourself really hard to something eventually pays off, and we can then enjoy the fruits of our labors and be proud of our accomplishment.

But little four-year-old Rosie of South Dakota has just learned that sometimes someone comes along and destroys your hard work, robbing you of the results you toiled so hard for. Seems like a pretty heavy lesson for a girl who’s too young for kindergarten.

Yet that is precisely what happened to little Rosie and her severely disabled mother, Mary. Subsisting on a mere $658 monthly disability stipend, the two decided to plant a vegetable garden in their back yard to help supplement their grocery needs.

Not only does the hobby produce tangible results in its bounty of fresh, nutritious, and free food, it also produces psychological benefits – giving little Rosie a valuable life lesson on the importance of self-sufficiency, dedication to a task to its finish, and earning satisfaction from a job well done, while giving disabled Mary something to smile about every day as she enjoys the development of both her garden and her daughter.

But just last week, only days before the girl and her mom could finally pick the fruits of their labor, along comes high and mighty, all-imposing Govie, casting its gloomy shadow over one of the few bright spots in the small family’s lives.

You can just imagine a dark cloud hovering over them all, with lightening flashes silhouetting Govie’s face as he points down to the garden, “By the authority of the USDA, I order you to uproot this garden.” The command is punctuated by a brilliant flash that lights up the sky, and a crackling thunder-clap that rips through your heart.

You see, the USDA’s Rural Development Agency has rules banning certain structures on the landscapes of rental properties, which the family’s rental manager is upholding.

Activist Heather Callihan puts it well with her outcry:

“We’re talking [about] a government agency closely dictating this family’s plot of grass, food source, and ensuring their dependence and subservience to them. Plus, ordering a four-year-old girl from a hungry poor family to uproot her summer’s work (before they can even enjoy the fruits of her labor) goes against the grain of humanity and common sense.”

Return to its Roots

Perhaps it’s time for the R. D. Agency to return to its roots and remind itself of the standards and objectives it promised to cultivate. Its very own mission statement proves the RDA has not been tending its garden…

“USDA Rural Development is committed to the future of rural communities. Our role is to increase rural residents’ economic opportunities and improve their quality of life. Rural Development forges partnerships with rural communities, funding projects that bring housing, community facilities, utilities and other services.”

The very nature of a “rural” community is centered on food cultivation. And the very mission of the RDA is – or at least, is supposed to be by its own mandate – to facilitate the residents’ quality of life and economic prosperity, not impede them.

The only thing the RDA has forged in this case is distrust, disunity, isolation, and a sense of abandonment.

Concerns are Varied

It is difficult to pin-point precisely what may be behind such bizarre laws and policies that would ban a home vegetable garden in the backyards of rural communities, and concerns dot the spectrum from mild distaste to burning outrage.

Those who tend to be more subdued will simply chalk it up to over-zealous agents of the local RDA office trying to earn a few stars by their names.

Those toward the middle of the spectrum – somewhere in the “something smells fishy to me” camp – have wondered if these quirky and often contradictory policies might be intended to give certain corporations a distinctive edge over competitors in exchange for some hefty political contributions. Kind of a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” sort of thing. America does have the most extensively lobbied government system in the world.

Didn’t the CIA back in the 1950s help the United Fruit Company by overthrowing the Guatemalan dictator Arbenz when his land reforms threatened to confiscate valuable fruit tracts from the company’s operations? Some suspect the government is helping modern-day Monsanto – a publicly traded American multinational agricultural biotechnology company – by impeding the development of small and micro scaled organic produce operations.

For example, New Jersey’s Chatham Township law stipulates that the cultivation and sale of home grown produce reclassifies your garden as a “commercial farming operation”, subject to registrations, codes, and a whole slew of other farming regulations. And New Jersey calls itself “The Garden State”? With the motto “Liberty and Prosperity”? As long as you don’t expect liberty and prosperity in your own backyard.

Then there’s the experience of Steve Miller, the Clarkston, Georgia resident who was fined $5,200 for “growing too many vegetables” in his backyard. “You there with those gardening tools. You’re becoming far too aggressive with that trowel. I’m afraid we’ll have to shut you down.”

Yet others at the “fuming mad” end of the spectrum believe that governments all over the globe are bent on keeping their populations firmly under control by permitting no one to live independently and self-sufficiently. Allowing people to simply “unplug” themselves from the “collective” of their societies would threaten the dominance of the powers that be and could, overtime, grow into a movement that might one day overthrow them.

To them, such an agenda is entirely plausible, for such “deviations” from “dependency” are what have led to every single revolution that has ever taken place in human history, from ancient Egypt to modern Egypt, and all the Frances, Russias, Chinas, and Americas in between – including the U.S.A. herself.

Perhaps this is why governments are so tight fisted with their reigns of control… because they know how often and how easily it can all slip away.

Joseph Cafariello


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