Woman Faces Jail Time for Planting Organic Vegetable Garden

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A Michigan woman is being charged with a misdemeanor offense and is facing up to 93 days in jail. Her crime? Planting a vegetable garden—in her own yard. Her front yard, that is.

Like many consumers today, Julie Bass, of Oak Park, Mich., appreciates the taste and healthfulness of organic vegetables, but isn’t much of a fan of how much going organic costs at the store. So, like many health-minded consumers, she planted a vegetable garden on her property.

But Bass chose to take the unusual step of installing neatly arranged raised beds of vegetables in her front, rather than back, yard. Bass explained her unorthodox garden location (and showed off how neat and organized it is, for those curious) to a local TV station:

“We thought it’d be really cool to do it so the neighbors could see. The kids love it. The kids from the neighborhood all come and help,” she said.

Front yard or back, it’s her property, and she’s allowed to do with it what she pleases, right? Wrong, say the local authorities, citing local codes that require front yards to have only “suitable” live plant material. City planners say that vegetables, for some reason, don’t qualify for the standard, even though they are certainly alive, and certainly are planted. To some, this sort of code enforcement makes the restrictions against drying clothes on a clothesline seem reasonable.

(Q&A: All the Dirt on Gardening With a Small Budget)

Bass was given a warning, then a ticket, and now she has been charged with a misdemeanor for violating the City of Oak Park’s planning code. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for July 26, and Bass is facing up to 93 days in jail.

For growing vegetables.

On her own property.

Bass isn’t giving in, however, and it looks like she has plenty of support on her side. A thread at Reddit with information on rallies and petitions to stop the prosecution has already generated 299 comments (and counting).

Bass does have a backyard, but she has no plans to uproot and replant her garden back there any time soon:

“They say, ‘Why should you grow things in the front?’ Well, why shouldn’t I? They’re fine. They’re pretty. They’re well maintained,” said Bass.

(MORE: Vegetable Garden Controversy Revelation: Front Lawns Are Useless)

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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