TALLAHASSEE — Floridians will be able to grow fruit and vegetables in their front yards without fear of local government fines under a bill passed by the Senate on Thursday.
The legislation was inspired by a court battle after Miami Shores told a homeowner to dig up a vegetable garden or face a $50-a-day fine. An appeals court upheld the ordinance.
Republican Sen. Rob Bradley said the city's front-yard garden ban is a "vast overreach," and that being able to grow your own food is a basic property right. Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell argued that it is an overreach to prohibit every local government from regulating gardens because of one local ordinance.
Bradley noted that there are so-called food deserts in many areas of the state where fresh fruit and vegetables aren't readily available.
"The world's changing when it comes to food. ... There's a big interest in locally sourced food, organic products and folks growing their own food," he said. "The idea that a government would intervene to prohibit someone from taking matters into their own hands and growing their own fresh fruits and vegetables to take care of their own family and their own nutritional needs, much like our forefathers have done, I think that is an action by local government that goes too far."
The bill passed on a 35-5 vote. All no votes were cast by Democrats, including, somewhat ironically, Sen. Gary Farmer.
Farmer said he lives in a Broward County city where there's a large iguana problem and unrestricted front-yard gardens could make it worse.
"Having a vegetable garden in a front yard would just attract more iguanas as well as rats and similar stuff," Farmer said after the vote.
He said local governments should be able to restrict the size and locations of homeowners' gardens.
A House version of the bill has been approved in the first of three committee stops.