9/23 UPDATE: Talk about a victory garden ... according to the Memphis Flyer, Judge Larry Potter will allow urban gardener and educator Adam Guerrero to keep his under-fire urban greenspace in Memphis' Nutbush neighborhood intact, provided that he trims his front lawn, limits the amount of vermicomposting bins on his property, and takes steps to prevent mosquito breeding. Potter told Guerrero at the court hearing: "I never said you could not have a garden. That's inaccurate. I've always encouraged environmental activism, sustainability, going green and blight reduction." Additionally, the city of Memphis will work with Guerrero to locate an abandoned lot where he can start a community garden.
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A topic I've covered before, and unfortunately, I find myself covering again: a homeowner using his/her yard to grow vegetables is coming under fire from local brass because said yard isn't up to aesthetic snuff.
This instance comes from the Nutbush section of Memphis, where high school math teacher and GrowMemphis board member Adam Guerrero is being ordered by a judge to dismantle his allegedly code-breaking home garden (see the garden in its not-very-offensive-at-all glory here) where he not only grows tomatoes, eggplant and peppers but keeps honeybees, harvests rainwater, composts, and produces his own biodiesel. Additionally, Guerrero opens his urban greenspace to students for both math lessons and tutorials in sustainable agriculture. The order — Judge Larry Potter of the Shelby County Environmental Court calls the garden a "nuisance" containing "rubbish or garbage" — stems from a neighbor's complaint (but of course). Ugh.
Enter Kristen Heath and Hanna Giles, two fired-up fellow Memphians who caught wind of the Guerrero garden debacle and launched a petition-signing campaign on Change.org to keep the garden in existence.
Hannah and I started the campaign because Adam is doing something amazing. Not only is he teaching his students sustainability, he is offering them an alternative to a life on the streets. Memphians are constantly being bombarded with negative stories in the news about shootings, robberies, teen pregnancy, drug use, and many other things. Adam has gone above and beyond to mentor his students and the kids in his neighborhood and should be praised for his hard work, not punished.
Heath goes on to point out that Guerrero's garden isn't an "abandoned lot where vagrants and vermin roam free. It is a very well taken care of plot of land used to teach kids skills they would not otherwise learn."
Guerrero is ordered to appear in court on Sept. 23, to prove to that he indeed followed the judge's ruling and dismantled the garden in compliance with city ordinances 48-38 ("failure to remove personal property") and 48-87 (exterior property should be "maintained in clean and sanitary condition.") As of today, he hasn't touched a thing and hopefully he won't have to if the case is overturned before Friday.
To help, head on over to Change.org to sign the petition, "Shelby County Environmental Court: Overturn the ruling that deems Mr. Guerrero's garden a nuisance." I did it myself and it takes just a quick minute. As of the publication of this post, more than 3,000 signatures have been collected. You can also show Guerrero your support (and vent about how ridiculous this whole thing is) over at the "Save Adam Guerrero's garden!" Facebook page created by Heath and Giles.
Shaquielle, a local teen who has earned himself a certified pair of green thumbs through hours upon hours of time in Guerrero's garden over the past two years tells the Memphis Flyer: "I don't understand why it's a problem if it's in the backyard. We like coming here. We don't want it to go away."