Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Hermine Ricketts, R.I.P.

The valiant Miami Gardens lady whose legal battles against unjust zoning laws won the right for all Florida residents to grow vegetables in our front yards just died on August 24, 2019.

Our Florida legislature struck down such laws, agreeing with our City's namesake, Saint Augustine, an African bishop, who wrote that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Here's an article and radio interview from the Canadian Broadcasting Company:

As It Happens

Florida couple finally enjoying front-yard veggie garden after 6-year legal battle

In 2013, Hermine Ricketts had to dig up her beloved garden due to a municipal ban 

Homeowners Hermine Ricketts, right, and Tom Carroll held a ceremonial replanting of vegetables in their front yard on Monday. (Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press)

Update: Hermine Ricketts died on Saturday, Aug. 24 after a long illness. She was 63. Read our July 4 story below about her legal battle to grow a front-yard vegetable garden.

For the first time in six years, Hermine Ricketts is able to have peppers and tomatoes in her front-yard garden at her Florida home. 
"Being out in the sunshine always feels good," Ricketts, 63, told As It Happens guest host Susan Bonner. 
Since 2013, the village of Miami Shores has banned vegetable gardens in front yards. They were punishable by a daily fine of $50 US on the grounds they were unsightly and violated zoning codes.
That prompted Ricketts and her husband Tom Carroll to challenge the ban in court, locking them in a battle that ended Monday when a new law legalizing the gardens statewide came into effect.

'It's a relief'

Under the state law, local governments can no longer regulate where residents plant vegetables on their property. 
"It's a relief that it's over," Ricketts said. "Six years of uncertainty and stress is over." 

Carroll and Ricketts stand in their front yard in 2013 after having to dig parts of it up as they faced fines. (Walter Michot/The Miami Herald via The Associated Press)
For 20 years, Ricketts carefully tended her vegetable garden. She planted everything from jalapeno to parsley, sharing the space with the many butterflies and bees. 
But then, in 2013, the Miami Shores Village Council told Ricketts that she had to dig up her garden after the zoning law was amended. 
Since her backyard is too shady to grow vegetables, she wasn't able to move her garden. She had to remove it, or risk a daily fine. 
According to the Miami Herald, the amendment was about "protecting the distinctive character of Miami Shores Village." 

'A legacy you leave to your children' 

Ricketts takes that to mean her local government believes a garden takes away from the value of a home.
"They believe that you should be able to come in, buy a house, lay down some grass, flip it and sell it for more money," she said. 
This, she argues, is "utter nonsense." 
"To them, value is money," she said. "Not a legacy you leave to your children, not preserving butterflies, bees, insects." 

A monarch butterfly lands on a penta plant in Ricketts' Miami Shores, Fla., garden. (Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press)
When the couple decided to challenge the ban in court, they teamed up with the Institute for Justice, which at the time was campaigning for more freedom for people to grow food on their property. 
The long legal battle was hard on Ricketts, and she links the stress to her many health problems.
"It took all of the fun and the healing that I ought to get from my garden," she said. 
But in the end, she won — though not in court. 
An appeals court backed the village, but then the Florida Legislature stepped in to legalize the gardens. 
"Someone was wise enough to see the folly of the arguments by the lower court and the village and I'm very grateful for that," the longtime gardener said. 

Garden celebration

On Monday, neighbours, friends and lawyers from the Institute for Justice were out in the garden planting vegetables in celebration of their hard-fought battle. 

Ari Bargil, right, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, helps Carroll, left, plant a pepper plant in his front yard. (Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press)
Ricketts isn't healthy enough yet to help, she said, but she loves just being out in the garden. 
"It is very healing to be touching the ground, touching the grass, you know, watching the butterflies," she said. 
"I wish more people would take the time to do that."
Written by Sarah Jackson with files from The Associated Press. Produced by Allie Jaynes. 

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