Here is the town of Sugar Creek, Missouri’s dilemma
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

April 10, 2016

Above, Nathan Athans’ front-of-house vegetable garden in Sugar Creek, Missouri. Looks pretty good I think. Below, my own front-yard garden in Toronto before we moved West. No one complained about it to us anyway!




Sugar Creek, Missouri just passed a new ordinance—no “vegetation” less than 30 feet from street. This, in essence, means that Nathan Athans and his family cannot have their vegetable garden any more. The Athans backyard does not get nearly enough sunlight.

He believes it’s important for his family. “I want my family to know where their food is coming from, I don't want to have to go to the grocery store and worry about what was done to that food.”

But some Sugar Creek residents are not impressed.

The city’s building official, Paul Loving, argued otherwise. “I don't know that there would have been a problem with them had the gardens been well kept, they weren't.”

On reading this item on the Web, several readers wrote in and commented, I shall reprint some of the more pertinent comments here:

Correspondent, ZenTrainer, on reading about this wrote the following: “Easily fought and won. They tried that here in Nashville. It took one very informed citizen who was cited and fined to fight it and overturn it. But we really need to pay more attention and make sure these ordinances don’t get passed in the first place.”

Another correspondent, Indycam, looked at the topic from another point of view: “I’ve seen some front yards covered by very unnatural pebble/crushed rock coverings. I consider them unsightly while this families’ garden looks wonderful to my eyes”.

Jayden, another reader, wrote the following: “Science. The guy had all kinds of info on the harm mowing your lawn does. Not even the mower with the gas or electricity. Seems something not so good is released into the environment when you whack a blade of grass in half. [?!?!] Ecosystems played a big part in the argument too. Not at all the direction I would have expected the case to go. I figured it would be civil liberties but it was pure science. Pretty cool.”

NV Vegan offered a lengthier comment: “Similar ordinances have also been created and applied in Ferguson, MO; Oak Park, MI, and the Village of Miami Shores, FL, among others. The couple targeted in Miami Shores turned to The Institute for Justice. The lawsuit is part of the Institute’s National Food Freedom Initiative, which is designed to overturn regulations that limit small scale food production.

“In the US, suburban lawn grass is hit with nearly 70,000,000 pounds of active pesticide ingredients every year. Researchers estimate that nearly 17 million gallons of gasoline are spilled each summer while re-fueling lawn-care equipment in the US, which is about 50% more than that spilled from the Exxon Valdez. Lawns are monoculture and non-native, so biodiversity suffers, and inorganic fertilizers and pesticides end up in the water.

“As an aside, I can’t imagine why cities use decorative fruit trees in public spaces when trees bearing edible fruit have roughly the same requirements and residents would happily make the tree ‘litter’ of the latter disappear. Some villages have also created public gardens to serve those without adequate growing space. It’s like Sugar Creek’s council can’t stand the sight of food out of its package.

“As a further aside, many fruit trees on privately-owned land bear too much fruit for those people, and many then offer their fruit for free picking through”

[Ed. Note, many municipal parks departments are extremely reluctant to plant trees that pro-duce fruit (crabapples for example) because residents complain about the fruit falling and becoming a hazard for walkers.]

Here is yet another negative comment about lawns (and positive recommendation for vegetables) from Grace Adams 830: “Lawns started as conspicuous consumption by English nobility commenting on sheep displacing vegetable gardens that less prosperous English commoners nearby really needed to feed their families. Better something that makes sense considering local climate and need for food. Well-groomed vegetables look much nicer than neglected lawns and bushes.”

Finally for this week, here is one more negative comment about lawns in general from CwV: “I am personally affronted by high water usage, chemically treated lawns that require frequent mowing with gas engines that are loud and smelly. And every leaf that dares to fall, MUST be blown off onto a neighbor’s property or onto the public road to maintain that ‘perfect’ lawn.”


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