KOTV reports that Denise Morrison grows an edible and medicinal garden of over 100 plant varieties in her front and back yard. Last August, she received a letter from the city reporting a complaint about her yard.
She took photographs of her gardens and went to meet with city inspectors who told her “Everything, everything need to go” when she asked for problem areas to be pointed out.
Upon hearing that all of her garden would have to be destroyed she called the police who issued her a citation so she could appear in court and work it out with the city. At her court hearing on August 15 the judge directed both parties to return to court in October.
The very next day, Morrison found, and photographed, city workers cutting down most of her plants-with what appears to be a bobcat and riding lawnmower- including trees that bore fruits and nuts. It is important to point out here that the city did not have permission to take action against the garden because the judge had put off hearing their case until October.
Everything that Morrison grew could be eaten. At the time the gardener was unemployed and not covered by insurance.She used her garden not only to feed herself, but to treat her diabetes, high-blood pressure and arthritis. According to Morrison, when she explained this to the enforcement officials she was told “we don’t care.” Morrison has filed a civil rights lawsuit arguing that the enforcement officials overstepped their bounds.
If this is sounding familiar to you it’s because gardens like Morrison’s are always coming under attack. Remember the story of Adam Guerrero last year that made national headlines after Colleen blogged about it here at TreeHugger?
I wish Morrison all the luck with her lawsuit because gardens are a civil right.
Self-sufficiency is a fucking crime now?
Don’t ask for help, they say
Don’t depend on handouts they say
Don’t expect shit.
And when they see what that actually looks like
They take a BOBCAT to your property.
Tell me some more about how they don’t depend on our QUIET UNOBTRUSIVE suffering again
“Urban farming” is quite hip right now in White Portland. On my block, you can make a reasonably accurate guess which houses belong to the people of color who have lived here for ages, with their well manicured lawns and purely decorative, quite conventional gardening, and which to the childfree hipsters, with their edible landscapes, rain gardens, and all-native wild-looking yards. But what the hipsters, who rant about lawns and gas mowers and wasted space, tend to forget is that self-sufficiency has not always been allowed here, much less “cool”. There were many decades, even here, when productive land-use was seen as low-class, as dirty, as foreign, as *bad*. And so people assimilated, acquiesced, learned our standards and kept perfectly lush, unused lawns — and now we deride them for it, while people all around the country, who are growing food out of necessity and resistance and not because it’s the new Thing, are still having their gardens dozed over, torn out, fined, legislated against, mocked and scorned.
I have a garden, and a flock of chickens. I want a rain garden, a grassless yard, a dozen fruit trees, the knowledge that I can feed my family and share sustenance with the people around me just from my tiny bit of land. But I also want to remember that here in Portland those things didn’t become acceptable until people who look and shopped and spent like me started to want them. I want to remember the people who came before me who didn’t look and spend like me who gardened when it wasn’t allowed, who kept knowledge alive when people who looked like me turned our backs to it. I don’t want growing food and medicine to be cool, and I emphatically don’t want it to be called “new”; I want it to be a basic right, available to all, forced on no one.
And I want Tulsa to give Denise Morrison her fucking garden back.