Yes, Your Home Garden Is Against The Law–If You Try to Sell Any of It


Here's one for my left-libertarian brothers and sisters, who like to emphasize how government crushes potential self-sufficiency and forces us into the heartless maw of wage slavery and corpocracy.

Bob Dylan, prophet for his generation: even your home garden absolutely is against the law–at least if you dare let any of its produce exchange for cash with a fellow inmate in the open-air prison of America.

From Sfgate with bad news from Oakland for those who seek self-sufficiency, in food or anything else:

Novella Carpenter took over a vacant lot on a hardscrabble corner of West Oakland eight years ago and turned it into a working farm of vegetables, goats, rabbits and, sometimes, pigs.

Carpenter milked goats, made cheese and ate much of the produce. She also wrote a popular book, "Farm City," about the experience and became an icon of the Bay Area's urban farming movement.

But the future of her Ghost Town Farm is in question. This week, Oakland officials suggested it may need to close. The reason: She sells excess produce and needs a costly permit to do so…..

The news stunned the region's urban farmers and their supporters, who questioned how a fundamental human task that goes back millennia could become illegal…..

The city planner who visited Carpenter's 4,500-square-foot plot at 28th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way said he sympathized with Carpenter, but the rules are clear.

Carpenter "is raising these things for a profit," said Chris Candell, a planner in the city's building department. "If you're doing this for your own home consumption, this would not be applied."

Though his report is not final, Candell said Carpenter probably has three options: pay for a conditional use permit, shut down the farm, or not change anything and face sanctions from the city.

The permit would probably cost several thousand dollars, Candell said, and Carpenter also would have to pay penalties for operating without such a license as she is now. Carpenter works about 25 hours per week at the farm and takes in only about $2,500 a year, before expenses……

Oakland is considered the center of the urban farming movement, with numerous nonprofits and individual farmers devoted to the cause. Sunset Magazine featured Oakland last year as a "town of the future" because of citizens' passion for the movement. Carpenter's farm was featured in the article.

But zoning regulations haven't quite caught up, planners and urban farmers say.

A conditional use permit might make sense for 40-acre farms, Finnin said, but not when the farm occupies one-tenth of an acre and beets sell for $2 a bunch.

Candell agreed that the zoning is outdated. But he said the rules nonetheless have to be followed.

"We've had (these rules) for 50 years or so, but we're stuck with them until they're changed," he said….

It pays to stay underground:

Carpenter said it has all been a learning experience. After starting out as a "squat farmer," she bought the plot for $30,000 in December. The previous owner sold it to her as a favor.

"It was so great squatting," she said. "I didn't have costs. I was a total renegade doing something totally illegal, but now that I'm a property owner, that's when they actually come down on me.

See for more on this kind of crap Reason magazine's April feature story on the war against food vendors.