Disclaimer: Although this is a work of fiction, the names of the individuals involved in the events portrayed herein, have been changed to protect the innocent, as well as to hide the identity of the guilty. However; who is innocent, and who is guilty, is a matter of opinion.
Jane returned home from the grocery store carrying a pitiful quantity of groceries into the house. Prices at the grocery store had risen another ten percent this year, and the grocery dollar didn't go as far as it once did. The weird thing was that staples like milk, flour, sugar, fresh vegetables, and meat had risen the most. Canned goods, frozen vegetables, and instant meals had not risen nearly as much. It was as if they didn't want people cooking meals of their own, but eating prepackaged goods. Jane prided herself on preparing good, wholesome, home cooked meals. It was almost to the point where she couldn't afford to do that any more.
She dumped the bags of groceries on the kitchen counter. It used to be that a hundred dollars worth of groceries would take up most of the counter space. Now it barely took up half.
John entered the house and glanced over at the groceries. Smiling, he said, "I'll get the rest of the groceries for you."
"This is it," Jane said.
"What do you mean, this is it?" John asked.
"This is all I got," Jane said defensively.
John looked at the bags of groceries and frowned. "That won't last two weeks."
Jane dug through the bags of groceries until she found what she was looking for. She held out the receipt and said, "Look at the prices."
"Jesus!" John exclaimed after looking over the receipt. "Did you buy the gold plated groceries?"
"No. I bought the cheapest stuff I could find," Jane said.
"I don't believe it."
"I compared prices on everything. The fresh beans cost three times as much as the canned beans. A head of lettuce was twice as much as the pre-packaged salads. Even the dried beans have gone up in price."
"That's crazy. How can the pre-packaged salad be cheaper than the head of lettuce?"
"I don't know, but it is," Jane said with an angry frown. "It just seems to me that it costs more to cook your meals from scratch than it does to buy them already made."
"Did you use coupons?"
"They don't have coupons for fresh vegetables and meat."
John asked, "Do we still have all that canning stuff from my grandparents?"
"It's in the basement somewhere," Jane said.
"I think it is about time for us to plant a garden and store the food," John said.
Jane said, "That's a lot of work."
John said, "At the rate things are going, we aren't going to be able to afford to eat."
John said, "My grandfather used to talk about how the family garden was what kept the family fed during the Great Depression and World War II. Maybe it's time we borrowed a page out of their book. We need a Victory Garden."
"You might be right," Jane said.
When spring arrived, the Smith family spent three weekends putting a garden in the front yard. The backyard had too much shade to grow anything without cutting down three trees. It wasn't a huge garden at thirty feet long by six feet wide, but it was a lot of work. They had to remove the grass from the lawn, prepare the soil, and plant the seeds. They planted two rows of corn, a row of green beans, a row with three different kinds of squash, a small section with six tomato plants, and a row with lettuce, carrots, radishes, beets, and a few herbs.
Every evening, John would head outside and water the garden. Jane and the kids spent a little time after school weeding the garden. As each kind of plant finally sprouted, the family would gather around and look at the fragile little plants. It was a family project, and they all took a lot of pride in what they were accomplishing. While eating supper around the dinner table, they would discuss how nice it would be to eat the organic food that they had raised themselves.
One evening John was in the front of the house watering the garden when a car pulled up to the curb. A man got out and looked at what John was doing. John glanced over at the man noticing his interest in the garden. Thinking that he would have a chance to brag about all of his hard work, John watched the man approach the garden.
The man said, "That's a vegetable garden, isn't it?"
"That's right," John said.
"Why did you plant it in your front yard?"
"We have too much shade in the backyard for a garden. You know ... vegetables need lots of sun. We've got three really nice old trees back there and it's even hard to grow grass with all of that shade."
"That's a big garden."
"Not really. Next year we'll probably double the size of it," John said.
"No, you won't," the man said.
"Why not?" John asked puzzled by the assertion that he wouldn't double the size of his garden.
"You're going to have to dig this garden up," the man said.
"Why would I do that?"
The man said, "You can't have a vegetable garden in the front yard."
"It's against the law."
"Nope. You can plant flowers, but not vegetables."
"What's wrong with vegetables?" John asked.
"They aren't pretty like flowers. Your garden is lowering the property values of every house on this block. You've got to get rid of it. You can plant flowers in this space," the man said.
"Screw that," John said.
The man reached inside his jacket and pulled out a pad. He stood there for a moment and filled out a form. He handed John a ticket and said, "I'm issuing you a warning. You've got three days to get rid of this garden or I'll have to come back and write you a ticket."
"You're fucking kidding me," John said looking down at the piece of paper.
"What if I don't tear out the garden?"
The man answered, "The first fine is $250. The second fine will be $500. The third fine will be $1000. The fourth will be $5000 and a month in jail. The fifth time, we'll mow it down for you, fine you $10,000, bill you for the costs of mowing it down, and send you to jail for six months."
"Are you out of your mind?" John asked incredulously.
"That's the law."
John said, "I'll fight it."
"You can try fighting it, but you can't win. It's the law," the man said.
"I'll fight it anyway."
"You'll be fighting it from jail," the man said.
"You would actually send me to jail over a vegetable garden?"
"Yes," the man said flatly.
"Don't I have a right to feed my family?" John asked convinced that one of his civil rights was being violated.
"That's what grocery stores are for," the man answered.
Waving the ticket at the man, John said, "I don't believe this."
"Have a nice day," the man said before returning to his car.
John watched the man drive off. Once the car had disappeared around the corner, he looked down at the ticket. At least the box proclaiming it to be a warning was checked. He still couldn't believe that he had been told to get rid of his vegetable garden. He folded the ticket and put it in his pocket before finishing watering the garden.
When John walked into the house, Jane asked, "What did that man want?"
"He wants us to tear out the vegetable garden," John answered.
"He wants us to tear out the vegetable garden and plant flowers instead."
"Screw him," Jack said from the couch.
He had blisters from working on the garden. He wasn't very happy to learn that his hard work was for nothing. No one was going to destroy that garden without going through him first.
Jill said, "Who does he think he is?"
"He's someone who thinks he can tell us to tear out the garden. He wrote me a ticket."
"A ticket?" Jane asked.
John pulled the ticket out of his pocket. He said, "We've got three days to remove the garden or we'll get hit with a $250 fine."
Flabbergasted, Jane said, "You're kidding?"
"No. If we fight it, I could end up going to jail."
"That's ridiculous. I've never heard of such a thing," Jane said.
"That's what the man told me. If I fight, I'll be fighting it from jail."
"I could understand sending you to jail if you were growing marihuana or something like that, but not carrots."
Jack shouted, "He's a Nazi!"
"I'm going to call a lawyer and find out if they can actually do this," John said.
A half an hour later, John returned to the living room looking depressed. The whole family looked over at him when he sat down in his chair. If the situation wasn't so insane, he'd be proud of how much interest everyone was taking the garden.
Aware that he had everyone's attention, he said, "According to the lawyer, the city can tell you what kind of plants you can grow and where you can grow them. According to the law, growing vegetables in the front yard is a crime."
"It's a stupid law," Jack said.
John said, "According to the law, we can plant flowers, but not vegetables."
Jill said, "He said that you had to plant flowers?"
Jill said, "Beans have flowers. Isn't a plant a flower if it has flowers?"
Jack said, "That's true. Squash plants have big orange flowers."
"I think every plant in that garden will have flowers at some point in time," Jill said.
John said, "I don't know. I guess the fact that you eat it has something to do with deciding if a garden is a vegetable garden or a flower garden."
Jack asked, "What if we were to plant an apple tree in the front yard?"
Getting frustrated, John said, "I don't know. I didn't write the law. All I know is that I don't want to go to jail."
Jane's thoughts were still stuck on the idea that the government could tell them what kinds of plants they could grow in the front yard. She looked at the kids wondering what kind of world they would live in if something as trivial as a family garden was subject to government control.
She said, "No! We leave the garden as it is."
"Dear, they're going to fine us thousands of dollars and send one of us to jail," John said.
"No! This is America, damn it; home of the free, and land of the brave!"
"I'd say it more like the home of the almost free," John said glancing at his kids thinking this wasn't the kind of message he wanted to give them.
"We can plant any legal plant we want in our garden," Jane said.
"Mom is right. You've got to fight this," Jack said.
"I'll lose my job if I go to jail," John said.
Jill said, "I'll claim it is my garden. Let's see them throw a fourteen year old girl in jail."
John said, "That's nice of you, Jill. However, you're a minor and they won't throw you in jail. They'll throw your mother or me in jail. Knowing the government, they'll throw me in jail because I'm the primary wage earner."
Jane said, "If you don't fight this, I will."
Seeing the expression on his wife's face, John knew she was getting stubborn. He said, "The whole goal of the garden was to save us some money on the grocery bills. Having to pay thousands of dollars in fines won't save us any money. We can't fight city hall."
Jane glared at John. In a cold voice she said, "John Smith, you should be ashamed of yourself. You call yourself an American. No American would allow someone to steal away their freedoms like this."