Georgia farmer fined $5000 for growing too many veggies

By various sources

DeKalb County is suing a local farmer for growing too many vegetables, but he said he will fight the charges in the ongoing battle neighbors call “Cabbagegate.”

The law was supposed to stop large commercial operations in residential areas, but is being used against a 2-acre farmer who sells to neighbors and farmers markets.

From WSBTV News

GEORGIA: DeKalb County is suing a local farmer for growing too many vegetables, but he said he will fight the charges in the ongoing battle neighbors call “Cabbagegate.”

Fig trees, broccoli and cabbages are among the many greens that line the soil on Steve Miller’s more than two acres in Clarkston, who said he has spent fifteen years growing crops to give away and sell at local farmers markets.

“It’s a way of life, like it’s something in my blood,” said Miller.

In January, Dekalb County code enforcement officers began ticketing him for growing too many crops for the zoning and having unpermitted employees on site.

Miller stopped growing vegetables this summer and the charges were put on hold as he got the property rezoned.

Two weeks after approval, however, his attorney said the county began prosecuting the old charges, saying he was technically in violation before the rezoning.

“It should go away. I think it borders on harassment,” said Miller’s attorney Doug Dillard.

Miller faces nearly $5,000 in fines, but he said he plans to fight those citations in recorders court later this month.

A county spokesperson said officials can’t discuss the matter while it is in court, but neighbors were quick to come to his defense.

“When he moved here and I found out what he was doing I said, ‘Steve, you’re the best thing that ever happened to Cimarron Drive. And I still say that,” said neighbor Britt Fayssoux.

####

More on Steve Miller:

By Besha Rodell
Creative Loafing Atlanta
….
On his Clarkston farm and on land in Decatur, Miller grows vegetables that many other local farmers pass over. When asked why this is, he replies, “Because I don’t listen to anyone. I came from Dayton, Ohio, and when I arrived I just planted the things I used to grow there. And it worked!”

His independent spirit is part of why, in the midst of his field of English peas and cauliflower, a crazy tropical plant sticks up out of the earth. “It’s papaya!” Miller exclaims. He hasn’t harvested any fruit from his young papaya trees, but he pauses to admire their leaves and flowers.

Miller learned to garden from his grandmother, whom he describes as his “best friend.” He planted his first garden when he was 7 and hasn’t gone without one since. As he ambles around the Clarkston property, he seems as delighted as he must have been when he was that little boy learning from his grandmother. “There’s nothing like a garden,” he says, “Look at this – it has beauty, function, and you can eat it!”

But Miller’s story proves that even the most innocent undertaking can attract trouble. In recent months, a woman from DeKalb County Code Enforcement has visited him to say that he can’t have a vegetable farm. Research into DeKalb County codes, as well as calls to district Commissioner Burrell Ellis’ office, reveal that the closest Miller comes to a code violation is in the use of land for commercial gain. The problem isn’t the growing, it’s that he sells his vegetables at an offsite farmer’s market.

According to the DeKalb County Office of Planning and Development, the law is vague and in place to prevent large commercial operations in residential areas. Sanctioning Miller would be like punishing an eBay-based home business. Miller has hired a lawyer.

“You’d think they’d be excited to have someone here doing something in the green direction,” Miller says. “This is something I’d like to pass on to my neighbors, to teach the community about. Instead they’re trying to stop me.” He pauses and adds, “People just don’t know how much beauty you can get from vegetables.”

You can find Steve Miller at the Decatur Organic Farmers Market on Wednesdays, 4-7 p.m.; the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market on Thursdays, 4 p.m.-dusk through Nov. 20; and at the Piedmont Park Green Market on Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. through Dec. 13.

####

9/17 UPDATE: Here’s a nice write up from Avalon Round Table that works this story from the privacy angle (extracts):

Steve Miller, who has sold some of his produce at local farmers markets, as well as growing food for himself, is likely the victim of an Online Aerial Invasion of Private Property. This invasion of property is probably due to the fact that unless visited or inspected by an official, there would be no way for there to be an accurate or factual accounting of what was going on at Mr. Millers property. The question is, “Does Steve Miller legally posses a reasonable expectation of Privacy on his own Private Property?

Recent reports of Local & State Officials and Bureaucrats using online mapping software have now become mainstream tools for assessing fines and generating money for cash strapped local & state budgets. Does it seem right that anywhere that Google Maps & Bing Maps can go is legal to use as a source of information. If a person was bathing in their pool, with every expectation of privacy, and someone peeked over a fence, wouldn’t that constitute a criminal offense?

Is the expectation of privacy something the government wants to destroy altogether?

Is government today at a point where the end justifies the means? In January and February, when he received his first citations, Steve was able to get the property re-zoned allowing him to grow his garden – a right MOST AMERICANS believe he already had. The Declaration of Independence states one’s inalienable right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Isn’t growing your own personal food supply an exercise of that right to Life and Liberty? No Constitutional Government can assess any fee for exercising these inalienable rights.

####

Also see Wyoming defeats, Georgia introduces Food Freedom Act (Jan. 19, 2011)

41 responses to “Georgia farmer fined $5000 for growing too many veggies

  1. What a bureaucratic nightmare for a great guy who grows great food. I hope he wins and gets his legal fees back from the morons who are harassing him. This needs to stop.

  2. In thesr tough economic times we need to encourage people to grow their own food. Why are tax dollars being wasted prosecuting this guy?

  3. Sometimes I can almost cry at the injustices happening in our country. This is one such time. I pray that farmers such as this one are applauded and not centured for trying to make a decent living while providing us with FRESH vegetables. We need a return to the truck farmers of by gone days who brought us fresh veggies daily. By now we should be sick and tired of the pesticide-laden vegetables we buy from the supermarkets. We need a return to simpler farming. Big is not always better and here is a reason it is not. A small farmer is a threat to the big Ags? It would seem so.

    • this is the sort of article that deserves wide attention – especially with S 510 on the table. People argue that all the hyper regulation in the new Food Safety Modernization Act won’t apply to organic or small farms.

      but we know that isn’t how things work in the real world – and this Georgia case proves it.

  4. The comparison to an E-Bay-based home business is an apt one. The law itself is ridiculous and should be repealed; Steve Miller should not have been required to rezone his land in order to grow vegetables and sell them. Anyone who wants to plant a garden in their yard or on their property should have the right to do so, as well as the right to sell what they’ve grown. There is no small farmer anymore for this reason – they can’t compete withe the big commercial farms, often because they’re not allowed to. Senate bill S 510 would codify this into law! Write your senators now and ask them to vote “No” on this bill. The bill can be read at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-510 (chose either the Summary or the Full Text links) and a list of contact webforms for Senators can be found at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm – contact yours today and ask that this bill be killed!

  5. ScoringAg is the only complete recordkeeping and traceback system for the Government mandated Food-Safety Bills H.R. 2749 and upcoming S 510 and S 425
    [08/11/09]
    http://www.ScoringAg.com is the only working standardized recordkeeping, documentation and traceback system, operating worldwide in different languages, for every food-handler, with more then 1800 agriculture products including, ingredients, commingled products with GAP, GMP, SSOP, and HACCP (www.ScoringHACCP.com) records for all food-handling facilities including importer, exporter, broker, transporter.

    FDA requires now a 24-hour traceback to each person who grows, produces, manufactures, processes, packs, transports, stores or sells agricultural commodities, food, feed or feed ingredients associated with a product-safety incident.

    ScoringAg electronic recordkeeping system makes traceback seamlessly easy as the records move electronically from one owner to the next. FDA requires a standardized, interoperable, electronic recordkeeping system, that’s what ScoringAg has had for years. An archiving system for the required 3 year storage of electronic records is already built in.

    ScoringAg is the only system where PDF 417 and 2D data-matrix with or without RFID tags plus intelligent traceback codes (SSI-EID) are created in the database for every single product and easy print out as an unique identifier code, whether pallet, case, or item-level tracing is required.

    There is no need to waste companies and taxpayer’s money to build a system and put consumer’s health longer at risk. ScoringAg is working for many years, is industry proven and does traceback in seconds. Users reduce on-site FDA inspections by using ScoringAg electronic recordkeeping system and avoid fines. For unintentional violations, the maximum fine will be $20,000 for individuals and $250,000 for companies, with an overall cap of $50,000 for individuals and $1million for companies in a single proceeding (event).

    ScoringAg makes it easy – secure – fast – and inexpensive for every body in the food chain to comply with the new law.

  6. http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/rightnow?ContentRecord_id=8df5cb89-91a2-4ae3-b846-7487db0bd4f0

    Sep 15 2010
    Detailed Concerns with S.510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010
    Growing an Already Disjointed

    • thank you so much for this, Henry. i just posted it in the nick of time (on the same day as the Senator’s post).

      I am so glad to see some legislator support of our position!

  7. Sooo freedom to build a mosque near the 911 site, yes – freedom to grow vegetables – not so much. What a “weird” nation this has grown into. We allow enemies to walk right in then beat our own citizens over the head with their own laws and constitution. And what’s with the $5k fine? Sounds a just bit oppressive. How dare this American white man attempt to earn a living in these most prosperous times.

    But what’s the rest of the story here? Were the neighbors complaining or was it just some politician who makes enough money that he doesn’t have to spend extra time at work and instead drives around the countryside looking for those darned peasants trying to cause trouble? Because shouldn’t the local residents be the ones to decide instead of a law? (“Where the law is absolute, there is no justice.”) Is the guy growing a secret marijuana garden or something? Was he employing illegal immigrants? Has he been warned before? Maybe he was overdosing on the pesticides. Maybe his vegetables were drawing in millions of dollars a year, in which case a $5k fine means very little to him and he’ll just move his “plantation” to a more suitable location with all that extra money he’s got buried underneath the compost pile.

    I hope this story is expanded upon in the future. And if it’s found that this is really just about a guy and his garden and a law that’s been grossly misapplied, those responsible for pursuing this needs to be tossed out office for incompetence and total lack of judgment. Thieves, common and government, come knocking in bad economic times.

  8. We’re with you Steve! You shouldn’t be harassed for your passion of growing good food on your own land. I’m afraid our government wants us dependent on them for survival, and when we grow our own food we’re cutting in to there bottom line $$$. I think we should all start growing our own food and start bartering with each other! Then what can they do? We wouldn’t be making any money now would we? Kinda like the old frontier days when people would barter for most things. take that big government!

  9. Please fire somebody at the county! Obviously, they have too much time on their hands.

  10. Let me just point out that Antonin Scalia said today that there is no right to privacy guaranteed in the Constitution.

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/09/scalia-protection-sex-bias-privacy-constitution/

    It really is time for that worthless vile bloviator to go, and take his revolting viewpoints with him.

  11. Hey we are with you and will not let down the passion of growing crops ….

  12. Pingback: Anonymous

  13. Our corrupt servants of Dekalb County, Georgia have no constitutional or statutory authority to regulate the citizens, nor compel their compliance to county ordinances. Visit http://www.corruptservants.org and discover the constitutional and statutory facts. Citizens are not subjects of regulation. If this were the case, then OUR Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments are worthless than toilet paper. See my Federal suit and Superior Court Petition for writ of mandamus filed against Cherokee County Georgia exposing corruption over ordinances violations upon citizens.

  14. I grow a garden in my back yard too, just like my parents and both sets of grandparents. Let’s all grow a garden. They can’t arrest and jail us all. Power to the people and a pox on overweening government.

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  17. You mean when it’s YOUR rights that are being taken away it’s a big deal. But you don’t care when it’s someone elses rights. Not so funny now is it?

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  25. In reference to the programs they are using to look into our private lives…we “used” to own 40 acres that were under forest tax. When we bought it, it was already set up that way. We needed to agree to keep it that way or pay fines for the back 7 years, before we owned it. Since we intended to keep it that way, it wasn’t a problem. The county told us we could use the forest managment plan the old owners had in place, as there was much to finish on it. We decided to sell the place after living there about 2 or 3 years. We had an offer, that fell through due to financing issues. BUT because it went through the county office as an offer….it was brought to the assesors notice. She ran us through the new program and we got a letter that said they were taking 10 of our acres out of forest because it didn’t have the number of trees per acre they required. Now you have to understand we had aquired building permits and had the field assosor at our place a couple times already. And the land in question was front and center when you came onto our place. It wasn’t some hidden corner of the place.
    The letter said we had 30 days to pay the difference of those 10 acres being taken out of forest and put in residential, for the past 7 years! If it wasn’t paid there would be a lean put on the property. We tried to have a meeting and she said it didn’t matter that they had been the ones to not catch this before. We had to pay it or else. We did pay it. And when my husband was there paying, another gentleman was there for the same reason and his bill was over $100,000!!!
    They then also told us the managment plan we had was outdated before we even bought the place, and they could fine us for that too. It didn’t matter that we had asked them when we bought it.
    Now, on our new place, I’m sure they count our horses to see if we really do raise horses.
    Property ownership can be very scary sometimes.

  26. Ready for the Revolution yet ?

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