Property Rights

After 6-Year Fight, Florida Couple Wins Right to Grow Veggies at Home

Local governments can't outlaw home vegetable gardens under a new Florida law.


Vegetables are ugly. Or at least that's the view of the officials in Miami Shores, Florida, who implemented a ban on front-yard vegetable gardens at residential properties in 2013. The ordinance forced Hermine Ricketts and her husband, Laurence Carroll, to uproot the garden they'd maintained for nearly two decades.

Now they can start planting again: The Florida legislature has passed a bill shielding vegetable gardens from local prohibitions. "After nearly six years of fighting…I will once again be able to legally plant vegetables in my front yard," Ricketts said in a statement. "I'm grateful to the Legislature and the governor for standing up to protect my freedom to grow healthy food on my own property."

The Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit on Ricketts' behalf in 2013. Florida's Third District Court of Appeals upheld the ban, and the state's Supreme Court declined to hear the case. So Ricketts and the institute lobbied the legislature, and it passed a law effectively invalidating the local ordinance. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it last week.

How were city commissioners able to pass the rule in the first place, much less get it past an appeals court? It was billed as a zoning regulation, which cities have near-unlimited power in implementing. The Florida League of Cities opposed Ricketts' efforts until the end, arguing that code enforcement is an essential tool for maintaining a town's aesthetic. They also didn't like the idea of a state government preempting measures adopted at the local level.

Ricketts now uses a wheelchair and has suffered from a litany of health issues in recent years, which she blames on stress induced by the legal battle. She's hoping that a little gardening might be the medicine she needs.

"You're down on the earth, touching the soil, kneeling on the ground….It's a healing process," she told the Miami Herald. "I'm hoping to get back in the garden and spend time outside doing things I love. The healing things in the sunshine."