City of Memphis Cites Front Yard Vegetable Garden

From Mr. Brown Thumb via Kitchen Gardeners:

“This week Adam Guerrero, a math teacher at Raleigh-Egypt High School in Memphis, TN., along with three students became lawbreakers after they continued to tend to a garden after it was deemed a neighborhood nuisance. Guerrero was cited for violating city ordinances 48-38 and 48-97. His crime, as reported by the Memphis Flyer, consists of failure to maintain “a clean and sanitary condition free from any accumulation of rubbish or garbage” at his Nutbush home.

Yet another city bureaucracy has decided to crack down on a front yard vegetable garden. What makes this particularly annoying is that the homeowner is a teacher who is using the front yard garden to show his students how to grow food.

The folks at Kitchen Gardeners put together the following ways you can help:
1. Write to Judge Larry Potter at [email protected] in support of Adam Guerrero’s garden. Please be respectful. You are an ambassador for the kitchen garden cause.
2. Join the Facebook page called “Save Adam Guerrero’s Garden,” where you can show your support and receive updates about his case.
3. Sing your outrage from rooftops on Twitter using the #WarOnGardens hashtag.
4. Sign an online petition at in support of the garden, which will be sent to the judge hearing Guerrero’s case.

Update: Memphis Root Simple Reader Bridgmanpotery sent a link to a local article that has more details on this story. It all started with a neighbor dispute involving a cat and a scratched 1991 Cadillac Seville!

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  1. It is far too often that I read stories like Adam’s. It is a shame to know that someone can be fined or jailed for a small and kind act such as growing food and sharing the experience with others. However, it is uplifting to see the amount of people that are willing to stand up and speak for what they know is right in moments like this.

    Thank you for sharing and for providing ways to help.

  2. The excerpt you posted and attributed to kitchen gardeners is actually from Mr.BrownThumb. If you look at the post on Kitchen Gardeners they’re quoting the blogger who brought the story to their attention.


  3. Yes, this is mostly about the guy with the cadillac not liking the cat enjoying the warmth of the engine’s hood. BUT on the other hand, animal claws do scratch paint and regardless of how old or new that car is, it behooves neighbors to pay attention to that stuff. Also, compost in wooden bins on the ground will be an attraction to critters. My compost is in rotating barrels off the ground and its brought everything from Javelina to Bear into the yard to investigate. On the other hand, what ever he’s growing in the backyard should not be an issue. Most city laws are about the visible, unless the back yard is causing a nuisance. And tell me about the neighbors!! We have one in our neighborhood who just loves to pit us against each other. Its her biggest entertainment and she keeps just enough truth in her stories to make people distrust each other. ANd she just walks through the neighborhood with a HUGE smile on her face when she’s just created an issue – like having her next door neighbors taken to court . . . .

  4. I am from Memphis, originally. My mother’s house was a very small home in a working class neighborhood but all was neat in the neighborhood. She died in 1993. I have had no reason the return to Memphis often as I did before both parents died.

    I went back to her home on Knight Arnold just east of Parkway Village and west of 278 when I was showing a friend from CA the sights in Memphis. Her home is now in shambles, fence falling down, awning hanging, weeds in 99% of yards in sight of her home and all through the neighborhood. I know weeds, and none of these are deliberately grown for food, herbs, or ornamentation. So, it makes me wonder how anyone in Memphis can go after vegetables.

    It would take too long to describe the trash in the yards. You imagine it; it’s there.

    Neighbors who harrass with complaints should be charged with harrassment and nuisance complaints.

  5. I saw this on boing boing this morning and I do find it slightly surreal.
    In a country where you’re allowed to carry concealed weapons people get their knickers in a twist about vegetables in the front garden?! Extraordinary.
    We have developments with covenants in the UK but generally nothing quite as comprehensive as those that appear to be common in the US.

    Also, another issue in this case seems to be that the judge decided that one person complaining constitutes a nuisance. That means anyone with a grudge or personal agenda can make anybody else’s life hell. Having spent last summer trying to pacify complaining neighbours, my life would have been even more miserable if the local council had not been determined to be fair to both parties.

  6. We went through the same sort of evolution in Sacramento, Ca. It took some community push to have a similar ordinance in Sacramento changed to recind an antiquated that required front yards to be covered by lawn among other non-edible plants. An edible yard is far more water efficient than anything short of xeroscape! I’d like to see how the city can support the claim that this yard qualifies as a ‘failure of being clean and santitary…’

  7. This is about a lot of things, and one of them is perception. I am an urban (Baltimore City) community garden and if someone “perceives” your garden is a mess, than it suddenly becomes a citation.

    The guy with the garden should have aggressively responded (to a point) by keeping the yard mowed or mulched, and making the “water garden” appear to be the landscape feature he claims it to be. When we had a pond, I kept guppies in it to keep out the skeeters, and I landscaped all the way around it.

    Urban homesteading is awesome – but a sure way to rankle a crazy neighbor is to make your homesteading look (to the untrained eye) as if it is accidental, and not maintained like the urban farm it is.

    Hope this gets resolved correctly!

  8. HEY! I just wanted so share with you a group who are working hard to fight blight in Memphis The North Memphis Farmers Collective is a group of urban farmers tackling the issue to blight by turning blighted and vacant properties into productive urban farms! Adam Guerrero and two other North Memphis farmers have come together to fight blight and to help Memphis grow!

    They are currently raising funds to continue fighting blight by purchasing much needed farming equipment and more properties from the city/county! Please support! Donations start at just $1!

  9. Pingback: Kickstart the North Memphis Farmers Collective | Root Simple

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