USDA to four year old gardener-“Your illegal garden must GO!”

USDA to four year old gardener-“Your illegal garden must GO!”

Of all the silly things I have heard over the years about government intervention, this took the cake. A four year old girl is being told by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to rip out the small garden that she uses to grow healthy produce to supplement her and her mothers meager income of $628 per month. You see she and her mother live in subsidized housing in South Dakota and the government has determined that since this garden doesn’t fit in with what they deem “landscaping” due to the “structures” in the garden-it is a pallet garden like the one below- they are telling her to rip her garden out.

A pallet garden, like Rosie’s in South Dakota

As if this is not troubling enough, lets think about what kind of a message this sends to this child and her mother. Being raised by a single mother who is also severely handicapped, this child took it upon herself to help her family. Frankly home and community gardens are a growing trend across the nation, even in my well heeled urban neighborhood. Many of our neighbors are ripping out portions of their manicured lawns and planting gardens that resemble the Victory Gardens from World War II. In fact this is a trend that is sweeping the nation according to the National Service Learning Clearinghouse. One would think that the government would smile on anyone on public assistance of any sort taking the initiative to decrease the burden on the state-but not in Obama’s America.

My blog sisters here at Victory Girls and I  have discussed this topic at length. We are confounded as to why the government would not take some hints about self sufficiency from not just this child, but those children who attend Montessori and Waldorf schools across the nation. Both Montessori and Waldorf schools frequently have gardens on their campuses that are used to teach the children science and to provide fresh produce for the cafeterias. In other words, these schools are practicing self sufficiency through gardening-much like little Rosie in South Dakota.

Garden for grades 1-5 at Waldorf School of the Peninsula

Think about how many tax dollars could be saved if the USDA encouraged schools to plant and maintain their own gardens. These numbers from the USDA school lunch program might resemble the numbers from the 1960’s instead of the 2012 numbers, which reflect that 68.2% of the school lunches served in the program were “free” as opposed to “reduced price”. The waste that could be saved is also staggering. Forcing fruits and vegetables on kids, as Michele Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign does, went over like a lead balloon in one PNW school district. Many kids decided to simply trash the 1/2 cup of fruit or veggies forced on them by the USDAResearch published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association in 2009 supports the idea that children who garden are more likely to consume more fruits and vegetables. So why wouldn’t the government encourage citizens to practice self sufficiency?

The establishment of school based gardens would also be a great way to bring back one of the best classes in High School, Home Economics. It would beautifully illustrate the question “Is it more cost effective to buy the heirloom tomato start for a garden for $4.99 or is it more cost effective to pay $3.99-$5.99 per pound multiple times at the grocery store for heirloom tomatoes?”.

We could sit around and mull this one over forever, but I ask you to take action instead. This is a link to the petition to save Rosie’s garden, I encourage you to sign it and share it with all your Facebook friends. This is a link to the original article referenced earlier in this posting from Kitchen Gardeners International that gives you not only the emails to the USDA employees involved in this debacle, but a template as well. I ask you to reject this statist insanity, and to encourage others to do the same.

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8 Comments
  • Maggie Goff says:

    Great post! Thank you so much. I was sharing about this on Facebook the other day, but this post is very thorough.

  • Thank you, Girls!! I’ll share this, for sure!!

  • Jennifer says:

    Thank you Maggie and Penny! Please feel free to share this and encourage folks to reject this statist insanity-and maybe plant their own gardens!

  • Volley #1. This is why our family does not live in a Homeowners Association neighborhood and prefers to live in an Unincorporated Area of San Diego County. We chose to live in the country so we could have our homestead.

    Volley #2. The “structures” referenced in the USDA regulations are intended to describe “shanty towns” and not gardens.

    Volley #3. It is clearly stated in multiple articles that it is the property managers that want the garden removed and they are using USDA “loosely” as their justifications. Shame on them! If the property management/ tenant agreement forbids gardens or specified where gardens are allowed that should be legally sufficient. Most likely the agreement does not prohibit gardens and they just don’t like it.

    Break Break!!
    The gardens at the Waldorf Schools, Montessori Schools, and some San Diego City schools are very effective teaching tools for science, health, English, math, business, etc etc…..

    There is a growing movement that was started here in San Diego called Edible Lawns. http://www.ediblelawns.net/
    More and more people are converting their lawns into sustainable and yummy gardens.

    I am a Waldorf parent and teacher…. please feel free and read the difference between Montessori and Waldorf. http://suburbanhomesteadersd.blogspot.com/2012/05/waldorf-vs-montessori.html

  • Kate says:

    Great post, Jen!

  • Jennifer says:

    Why thank you Kate!

  • Need to promote this in our schools:
    http://www.ourcommunityourkids.org/domains–committees/schools-and-after-school/healthy-works-school-gardens.aspx

    http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/hhsa/programs/phs/documents/CPPW-SchoolGardens.pdf

    Many cities are starting these programs not just to supplement their meals but to teach students about healthy choices. They have found that if children grow their own food they will more likely eat it as well. My own children will not eat fresh peas or tomatoes once they cross the threshold of my house. In the garden they will eat them straight off the vine.

    It is discouraging that we still have people like this Property Management Company who want to use dictatorial attitudes to continue to kick families like this one when they are down.

  • Jennifer says:

    Thank you Viking Mom SD for your excellent information! My own little man relishes our grape tomatoes off the vine-they never make it to our house! I concur with the point you made about the property managers too, it is insane. Thanks for reading and engaging!

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