Don’t ask Jason and Jennifer Helvenston of Orlando how their garden grows. The answer — “At a cost of $500 per day” — is too painful for the couple to contemplate.
The website clickorlando.com reports that the pair have been given until Thursday, two days from now, to uproot the 25-by-25-foot veggie patch in their front yard and replace it with a lawn or beginning paying the fine.
The garden is not in compliance with the city's code, but the Helvenston’s argue that the statute interferes with their constitutional right to use their property to grow their own food. Jason Helvenston told reporters:
The greatest freedom you can give someone is the freedom to know they will not go hungry. Our ‘Patriot Garden’ pays for all of its costs in healthy food and lifestyle while having the lowest possible carbon footprint. It supplies valuable food while being attractive. I really do not understand why there is even a discussion. They will take our house before they take our Patriot Garden.
Helvenston should be careful what he wishes for.
In the meantime, he and his wife have organized a formal protest of the law under the rallying cry "Plant a Seed, Change the Law." They are also asking other residents to plant a “Patriot Garden” of their own, which the Helvestons will finance: “Please email us at email@example.com,” writes Jennifer Helvenston, “and we will send you a free packet of radish seeds and a small sign for your front yard.”
A legal advocacy group, Institute for Justice, has joined the cause. Ari Bargil, an attorney for the group, says, "We are seriously interested in taking a look at [suing the city of Orlando]. We're focused on helping the Helvenstons get the word out, encouraging the city to reach a sensible compromise here."
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