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)