It’s illegal to grow your own

When Joel Salatin wrote that Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal, it opened a lot of eyes. Who would have guessed that raising his own meat would turn out to be a big bad no-no as far as the government is concerned? Who imagined before Mr. Salatin’s revelations that Big Brother wants us to eat processed meat-like substances instead of pasture-fed animals? Who was crazy enough to think that sharing homegrown and home-cooked jams and jellies would get us thrown into the slammer?

Certainly not Steve Miller, the Georgia man who is facing $5000 in fines for — get this– growing a vegetable garden. I’m not making this up. DeKalb County has come down on the man for growing too many vegetables. He’s got moral support from Besha Rodell and other neighbors who enjoyed the fruits and vegetables of his labor, but apparently his local government finds self-sufficiency and real food to be a threat.

A threat to what, one must ask? I dunno. Maybe they are heavily invested in the Soylent Green factory?


Related post: It’s also illegal to grow your own in Michigan

75 thoughts on “It’s illegal to grow your own

  1. Pingback: It’s also illegal to grow your own in Michigan | Notes from Dry Creek Farm

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  3. This is why people will often break the law. They genuinely don’t feel they are doing wrong. In a society where everyone thinks the government should handle everything from teaching children how to think and behave to making some person we don’t know not have stuff (read junk) in their yard, this government behavior is expected. It is impossible for a governing body to control nearly every aspect and occurrence in every citizen’s life without controlling everything they do. Also, this costs money which must be obtained through various taxations. This is exactly what America as a community has demanded for generations. If we don’t like it, we will have to sacrifice services for freedom and responsibility.
    That last part ensures it won’t happen.

  4. I don’t understand why they are considering it as a threat. Wouldn’t be growing your own vegetables a million times better than stealing?…I just got irritated..

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  6. I agree with the basic irritation that he should be allowed to garden his own property. I think the hang up that the local government has though, is that he had “unpermitted employees on site” (if you read the article). If he is paying persons to help him farm, and in turn selling his produce, then his gardening could be construed as a business. And apparently, he was not in a zoned business area. The town may have considered his exuberant gardening as “AG” and he was not zoned accordingly.

  7. That is really sad. I wonder if it has anything to do his location, which still doesn’t make it right. I live in Pittsburgh and urban farming and community gardening is encouraged and even supported by the city. It does help clean up the city, but it also provided fresh produce to people in certain neighborhoods.

    I hope Mr. Miller is able to fight this.

    Congrats on FP!

  8. There seems to something incredibly wrong with our country when we let BP get away with all of their shenaniganizing and Steve Miller, who SHARED his harvest gets spanked for having too many veggies. What a load of crap.
    (p.s. read the Soylent Green reference and shot coffee out of my nose from laughing! nicely done, sir!)

  9. I’m writing this from my basement, illuminated by a grow light. Don’t try to trace this IP address, because I’m using a high-tech routing method that will foil even the most diligent county zoning inspector. Right this moment, I’m…I’m…. I can’t even type the words let alone say them. Must be brave. Must take a stand. I’m…I’m…I’m growing a tomato plant! There, it’s out in the open. My secret, anti-American activities revealed. Arrest me! If you can find me with your tomato tracking enforcement hounds.

  10. Whoa…I had to click on the link to believe it, and it’s frightening. My parents grew their own everything on our family farm, including our own meat. Everything they did not long ago is a crime in DeKalb County at least. Thanks for linking.

  11. Just one thing to say: SAD!.
    I think that what we are given to buy from grocery stores can harm us even more than raising our own food!, and they call Raising our own food is ILLEGAL? or maybe they could have other plans for us, I surely don’t know what’s on their mind, but it’s surely something that they have no sight in it and never have seen what good it can always do and/or it could be just a way to put smiles on bigger traders!

    This is Just Sad!

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  13. I have heard of this happening before, but I still am shocked that the government gets away with regulating what foods we grow in our own backyards. These big shots are so greedy, and any activity that takes away from their paycheck sends them after the innocent. I am disgusted with this.

  14. Unbelieveable! A classic example of “government run amok”. Thanks for posting it, and I’m glad you were Freshly Pressed today. I shared the story on my Facebook to help spread the word. I imagine if the County starts getting flooded with emails and phone calls in support of this poor citizen they might realize they’ve become the laughing stalk of America and apologize.

    • Thanks for spreading the word. I hope everyone who hears or reads about Mr. Miller’s situation will immediately start growing their own food.

  15. I’m not too surprised about this, though it is absolutely ridiculous. It’s their property, their money that they pay for to own it, they should be able to do whatever the heck they want to with it.

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  17. Wow. Just, wow.

    When I first read this post I thought “No way. This has got to be an exaggeration, or a misunderstanding at the very least”. I’m truly in awe of the depths of stupidity to which a system can sink when left to it’s own devices.


  18. That is unbelievable! It also seems communistic. Hmmmm. I think that this has inspired me to do my next “What If.” Thanks!!

    Come and contribute to the “What If’s”!

  19. Pingback: It’s illegal to grow your own (via Notes from Dry Creek Farm) « Yankeebelle ~ Littleshell

  20. This is the most sad thing I’ve heard in a while. As an above commenter said, I would have to agree, Monsanto is probably behind this one. They are trying to reduce the amount of people growing their own food so they can feed their greed. Who wants to eat food grown from genetically modified seeds? Well, unfortunately most of us do.

    It should be legal to grow anything you want. I also find it ridiculous that growing cannabis is illegal, since it has health benefits. Hemp oil is very good for you, and THC, when made into an edible form, it great for people with multiple sclerosis, those who have cancer, and people who are severely depressed.

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  22. To those who mentioned rezoning…he was basically given a ‘cease and desist’ because the zoning didn’t allow the activity. He either applied for a variance or got the area rezoned (can’t find clear info either way) AND after it was granted and he thought he was in the clear, the county comes back and reinstates and starts prosecuting the OLD charges.

    Basically, he isn’t being fined for gardening…he’s being fined for zoning violations, probably running a ‘business’ in a residential area. The end result is the same, though.

    And as far as it goes, the county has probably already spent more than the $5000 it hopes to get out of this case.

      • I can see how someone might look at the zoning violation and phrase it “prosecuted for gardening”. Probably a newspaper or such. It seems reasonable that Mr. Miller can not make money off of someone else’s property. Unless of course he has permission from the neighbors.

        I’m curious, deborahadams, what does it lead to?

        Thanks crazy chicken lady for spreading the word.

      • So far as I know, all these veggies were grown on Mr. Miller’s own property. I’m a big fan of guerilla gardening, though!

  23. Wait, what? I mean, I sorta get the part of not allowing people to cook and sell on a large scale without a licence/controls due to health reasons, but growing it? The US sure is a weird place..

    • Urban farms make so much sense, don’t they? Everyone should have access to fresh food and even the tiniest plot of land can grow a lot of veggies if it’s planned well. Being able to feed ourselves is not only healthy, it’s empowering, it sets an excellent example for our children, and darn it — it’s the American way!

  24. you wonder why 2/3rds of adults are overweight… we don’t grow our own food anymore! My parents had a huge garden, which my brother and I had to work on everyday – we only shopped for fruits and veggies in the dead of winter if we had to. I’m trying to slowly grow more foods each year, testing my conditions with different veggies, hopefully pass along gardening to my kids too.

  25. Good news, though – the new food safety bill is going to reach the senate soon ( ! It includes a lot more provisions to help small family farms through these times. There’s also been a lot of interesting articles on about small urban farms as well as this restaurant out in California where you can trade in surplus veggies you grow for meals!

    They can only keep down the home garden for so long. What he should do is start referring to his backyard garden as a Victory Garden, and paint those who are working against him as unAmerican!

    • YES! Every true patriot would have a Victory Garden. If you aren’t growing your own food … what’s the rest of that slogan?

  26. excellent post and so great that it got freshly pressed! more people need to be aware of the issues facing the future of our food! has anyone heard of the government stepping in saying people can’t consume raw milk? i mean seriously, if the source is good, the product is good… so obviously the source is bad enough that we need to modify it just so we can eat it!

    • I highly recommend a book I’ve just read and will soon be reviewing — Deeply Rooted. It explains in detail why small family farms are dying out.

  27. @#%! I almost can’t believe this, however sadly I can. All I really want in life is to be self-sufficient, and to think that aside from the financial and time constraints prohibiting it I might also have to deal with a government that doesn’t want any of us to do anything that they can’t monitor and regulate…well, it’s just a lot to take in I guess. I hope this guy doesn’t pay his fines, take this to the Supreme Court goddamn it!

  28. Pingback: It's illegal to grow your own (via Notes from Dry Creek Farm) | trial & error

  29. With the world food shortage issues, I feel much more secure knowing that there are local produce suppliers who are allowed to sell in my area. I understand that the FDA wants to keep us safe from infected food (remember the egg scare not that long ago?) but not all food distribution should fall under governmental infrastructure.

    Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. Hopefully public scrutiny will bring about the correction of overlegislating gardening commerce.

  30. wow. I hadn’t heard about this article until now. Like everyone is saying. It is crazy how far we have NOT come along. Sure we have internet and can blog from our phones, but we aren’t able to feed ourselves. Crazy world we live in. Great post.

  31. One of the issues that gardeners like myself are dealing with on a wider scale is that there are more and more governmentally appointed interests who are using their authority to “safeguard” as a means of control. I’ve recently heard that there are groups that are pressuring for regulations that would make it impossible to grow food unless it was first inspected by the FDA. This would turn basic gardening into a licensed business and taxable.
    Personally, I call it horrendous. For my thoughts on gardening check out my article “A Special School” where I talk about how important basic activities like gardening teach us some of the most important things in life.
    Michael Bowers – The Character-Quest Project!

  32. I live in Dekalb County, city of Decatur, a suburb of Atlanta…I cannot believe county officials have nothing better to chase than a vegetable garden. Try cleaning up the lawns with 15 rusted cars in them or the old abandoned crack houses, hookers and drug dealers on the south side!

  33. There must be something more to this story than what you are telling. While county government can get stupid and crazy, there must be something else that would make officials ‘suddenly’ decide to go after this man. So what is the rest of the story?

    • There’s info available through the links in my post. If anyone lives in the DeKalb County area, maybe that person will investigate and speak to county government directly to get details.

      • I looked up as much further information as I could and found that the county is not talking as this is a current case. They made him request a zone change for his property and now are charging him for what was done before the zone change. What is strange is that they are doing this after the man has lived there for 15 years with his landscaping and gardening business.
        My thoughts are that he angered someone in the neighborhood, angered a new someone in the neighborhood or angered someone who has county board connections. This is not a simple case of stupid government trying to outlaw everything. There is something more to this and if I lived in that county, I would be digging.

  34. I wish more people would start growing their own food and raising their own livestock. Hmm… Yep, the government won’t admit it, but they detest it when people start becoming more independent. This was an excellent post about a very real actuality that is found in our country within this so-called “Democracy”……

  35. Up until recently, keeping your own bees was illegal in New York City–a law that was recently reversed. I agree, some of the over-regulation is a bit ludicrous at times, especially given the fact that New Yorkers crave the food at farmers markets (Union Squares is there 4 times a week.)

  36. It’s kind of curious that as a nation we’ve moved so far away from being self-sufficient (funny – that’s what drove the creation of the nation in the first place:) ), that now, if you want to turn back to that way of life, there are plenty of hurdles in the way. Including local/state/federal ordinances…

  37. As someone who grew up on a farm where we raised cattle and a variety of produce (not to mention a huge garden for our own use), and I feel like there must be more to this story. We never had issues with what you’re discussing–CM.

    • Depends on when and where your farm was located. My parents grew up on farms where it was common practice to raise and slaughter animals for consumption. That’s just how it was done. These days, food animals have to be processed by certified companies. I’m a vegetarian, so I don’t keep up with these regulations. As for produce — it’s okay to grow it and sell it, but only that. You can’t cook it and sell it, for instance.

  38. OMG, you’re kidding???? Is it because he’s not certified to grow or raise the meat?

    I was appalled one day to find out that our school wasn’t allowed to have bake sales anymore. Oh, you could have the bake sale, it had to be store bought items to resell. No more home made brownies, cookies, muffins..etc. That sort of defeats the purpose of “Bake” sale. The idea was to raise money, not go out to the store, SPEND money, just to resell what you’ve just bought.

    I think the government has gotten way too big for their britches.

    Geez, I grow my own corn….a WHOLE garden of it..sshhh, don’t tell anyone.

    • The government has all sorts of regulations to ‘protect’ us from real food. I highly recommend reading Mr Salatin’s book and/or visiting the Diary of an Outlaw Farmer website (see my links at left) for details of how difficult it is to get true food these days. As a vegetarian, I’m a little better off. So far, it’s still legal to sell produce (so long as you haven’t done anything more than pick it) but I can’t buy cheese made at Totty’s Bend Farm. I can’t sell my perfectly clean and healthy canned jellies to anyone, not even my neighbors.

      Will keep mum about your garden. Watch out for those helicopters flying over — they may be looking for your squash.

      • Wow, I can’t believe this story. I mean, actually I can, which is the sad part… But really. Kind of dystopian, yes?
        But it makes me want to garden all the more. I think growing one’s own food should be a basic human right.

  39. That’s crazy. I can understand it being illegal to grow certain things, I could even understand why raising one’s own meat might be questionable, as that’s nothing quite as simple as grow-pick-wash-eat, but your average fruits and veggies? Such a hefty fine, too. It shouldn’t be a problem since he rezoned…

    Thanks for the post and congrats on FP

  40. Strange. I think growing your own food is best, but that’s really weird that now the guy is fined for it!!! Hmmm. I’m not sure what to think now. If we can’t even grow our own vegetables, then what hope do we have??? Very interesting. And congrats on getting Freshly Pressed.:)

    • Thanks to all of you who commented. I’m absolutely thrilled to know that so many people are outraged by laws and regulations aimed, or so it would seem, at preventing self-reliance. Also thanks for the congrats on being ‘Pressed.’ Hate to admit it — I have no idea what that means.

      • “Freshly Pressed” —Your post is featured for the day on the main page of as a potential item to read.

        Very interesting topic overall. I knew there were funny rules about home bottling and selling the food from friends that do a bit with farmer’s markets. However, I hadn’t thought about there being limits on what could be grown and sold from a home garden. I imagine most places it would only be an issue if the neighbors were bothered by it. But all it takes is one person to get the ball rolling, especially if you were in an area that no longer has much agricultural land or production near the city.

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