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Last week Morrison fought back, filing a civil rights lawsuit against the city.
Kelli Otting’s garden on her one-acre property hasn’t run afoul of the county, but her wish to raise chickens and goats on her farm—located in a rural, unincorporated part of downstate Illinois—has met opposition from the county land commission.
While Otting’s struggles raise the sometimes controversial issue of backyard chickens clucking in urban areas, the general hurdles faced by Otting, Morrison, Katzoff, and Bass—and by thousands of others around the country who simply want to grow their own food—can be blamed on local zoning boards run amok.
Zoning is intended—say its proponents—to prevent nuisances from arising. But when zoning itself becomes the nuisance, and when it gets in the way of people using their own property how they’d like--and exactly no one is made better off, save for the bureaucrats who make and enforce the ordinances--then that piece of zoning must fall.
Decades before First Lady Michelle Obama planted a highly visible garden on the White House back lawn, then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s efforts to plant a similar garden met with resistance from her own husband’s Department of Agriculture, which Time magazine reported (subscription) at the time was “skeptical of amateur farmers.”
That attitude—having spread like a weed through zoning and code-enforcement rules that stretch across America—is one worth combating.
Baylen J. Linnekin, a lawyer, is executive director of Keep Food Legal, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that advocates in favor of food freedom—the right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, cook, eat, and drink the foods of our own choosing.