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A Front Yard Vegetable Garden In Ferguson Missouri

In July one modest house in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson got the attention of many:

A Ferguson resident has won a battle with city officials that could be considered a matter of taste.

The resident, Karl Tricamo, had been feuding with the city for months over the vegetable garden he had planted in front of his house in the 300 block of Louisa Avenue.

The city saw the garden as a blot on the landscape and issued Tricamo a citation demanding he uproot the corn, tomatoes, sorghum, peppers and other crops sprouting there and, instead, seed the yard for grass. The garden measures 35 feet by 25 feet. (stltoday.com)

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Numerous pictures were circulated on Facebook & Twitter as front yard gardening advocates celebrated this victory. But all the pictures concentrated tightly on the garden, I wanted to understand the context. I went to Google Maps but no streetview was available just an aerial.

The 45 degree view of the house in Ferguson, before the lawn was replaced with the garden. Click image to view in Google Maps.

I knew I wanted to see the garden and street in person but it’s a 12+ mile drive — and I don’t have a car. So I caught a bus at the North Hanley MetroLink station and I was within blocks.

ABOVE: The MetroBus dropped me off at Suburban Ave and S. Clark Ave, this is looking north on Clark
ABOVE: Looking west on Louisa St from Clark., nice but well-maintained homes. No manicured lawns.
ABOVE: Continuing on Louisa looking for the house & garden on the right.
ABOVE: I’m visiting on Monday August 20, 2012. The garden looks good to my eye given how dry it has been and how late in the growing season it is.
ABOVE: Lawn remains between the sidewalk and driveway
ABOVE: Another view

In an older neighborhood with mature trees locations for a vegetable garden are often limited, most vegetables need full sun.  I applaud Tricamo for fighting the City of Ferguson so he could grow food for his family.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Rules prohibiting front-yard vegetable gardens are no good, so long as the gardens are kept neat and seasonally-appropriate. Lawns are a real environmental problem, between the lawnmowers (HUGE polluters), chemical fertilizers, and non-native species needing tons of water. Veggies make much more sense!

  2. JZ71 says:

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder . . . what is this going to look like over the winter? Sure, grass turns brown, but the typical suburban lawn looks fairly neat and tidy over the winter. This guy may very well be responsible and till the soil once his harvest is complete, but other gardeners may just leave their gardens fallow, with dead vegetation up to two feet tall.

    • moe says:

      Agreed….While the garden looks nice now, what is to say Joe Blow the next block over plants one and lets it go to weed, claiming a garden. People do eat dandelions and such. Rediculous? Sure, but it it possible. That’s the problem with one size fits all restrictions and allowances.
      We have melon plants in our front yard, but they blend in with our landscaping and our neighbors appreciate the look. I don’t think they would be so appreciative if we planted a plot of corn, or a rice patty.
      But how do you allow for responsible home owners well blocking out the irresponsible ones?

      • andkdkdk says:

        So who’s to say someone isn’t going to take care of their landscaping? If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, why should you get the right to say what someone else thinks is beautiful? Some think vegetable gardens are beautiful, others think fully landscaped front yards are.

        What it comes down to is maintenance. Just like with a yard, if you keep it maintained what’s the problem? There are plenty of people who let their grass grow tall and have questionable landscaping skills, but you’re telling me just because they’re not planting vegetables it’s ok?

        I don’t really get the discrimination against a vegetable garden vs. more traditional landscaping. I’m all for front yard gardens, or any kind of garden or landscaping, as long as it’s maintained.

        Let people live a little, sheesh.

        • moe says:

          But that’s my point….maintaining. I can recount where a subdivision was built next to a farm and one of the new home owners years later decided to sue the farmer because of the odor. The farmer lost and had to close yet he was there first. Look at that house (was in in U City?) where the owner had artwort in his front yard….a sculpture “garden”….which to many looked nice, but to those one or two…out of place,etc. Or the woman that donated the bee hive to a community garden only to have it evicted because some didn’t like it.
          I think what is missing from this story and part of my point is: What relationship did/do this couple have with their neighbors? Who is the squeaky wheel and why? That will be very telling.
          But for the record, I’m all for gardens of any type. Sorry if it was misinterpreted. But they are only successful if 1) there are good relations with neighbors and 2) well-maintainted to at least the community standards.

  3. Maybe cities could institute some basic regulations to protect neighbors from overly unsightly gardens. For example, cities could require that tall dead plants be cut down in the fall. Growing your own healthy food should be encouraged as much as possible. Often, the front yard is the only spot not totally shaded with trees. Also, if cities made a much bigger effort to provide nearby space in neighborhoods for community gardens, this would be very positive.

  4. JZ71 says:

    One, bing gives a better aerial view and allows you to rotate around the property: http://www.bing.com/maps/?FORM=Z9LH2#JnE9LjMwOSUyYkxvdWlzYSUyNTJjJTJiRmVyZ3Vzb24lMjUyYyUyYk1PJTdlc3N0LjAlN2VwZy4xJmJiPTQ5Ljk3Njc1MzQ5NTUwODIlN2UtNjEuNDE5ODUzMjA5NSU3ZTI1LjEyMTU0MzAyODMwNTQlN2UtMTE5LjE2Mzk5MzgzNDU=

    Two, a related zoning issue (but not specifically here) is solar access, primarily for solar panels. While one obviously has control over the trees and structures on one’s own property, who controls what happens on adjacent parcels? If you invest in solar panels (for either generating electricity or for heating purposes [water or space]), can/should you be able to limit what your neighbor does or does not do that may limit or block your access to the sun? http://www.greatstreets-stl.org/content/view/332/517/

  5. GMichaud says:

    So much for rugged individualism. What I find amazing is that apparently many people think the rest of the yards on the block epitomize success.
    Just a little side note: you were not far from the 40 acre Mueller Organic Farm on Dade Ave. (just a few blocks due West). Young organic farmers run the farm now, (not sure if the name is the same) the old man died and I’m not sure his wife is still alive (she moved, I think to Moscow Mills).
    Old man Mueller used to go to East St. Louis when the stockyards were in existence and collect manure, which he would then pile around cold frames to heat them up in the very early spring, getting a jump on healthy vegetable starts. He would later turn the manure out into his fields.
    Mueller Farm speaks to the rural nature of this area in the recent past and even today.

  6. tpekren says:

    Yep, everybody wants freedom and big government out of their lives……….. until the guy next door does something they don’t like. Couldn’t help with a political dig on an issue that people created a mountain out of an ant mound, or in this case, turned a bean vine into a tale involving Jack and a Giant.

    Agree with overall sentiment, its about having a reasonable ordinance that is about maintenance of your property. If it is a vegetable garden, weed and water during the growing season, knock down the old plants and plant a winter cover in the fall, which will only help the soil and therefore the garden next year. If it is grass, mow once in a while. Anybody with some sense will get the point.

  7. James Haney says:

    The irony I see is that “Big Gov’t” wants us all to have these “victory gardens” yet the “Little Gov’t” wants to control what you do with your own property. From my understanding about the parcel not being zoned for agricultural use is what the problem is. However, agriculture implies that harvested material will be sold. The owner of this property states implicity that this is going to be their own food.
    People aka nieghbors should really take a moment and think, if they did something with their land; how would they feel if someone who has no stake/interest in that parcell would tell them what to do with it. I would hope “those” people would turn around and go home and take their prozac and go to bed.


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