In Missouri, even though I was against it because of GMO invasion, The Right to Farm passed as a Constitutional Amendment a few years back. So, the citizens of the state now have a “right” to engage in agricultural endeavors. As I see it, since this has been enshrined in our Constitution, it applies to all residents of Missouri, or it doesn’t apply to any. It’s either a right, or it isn’t. A qualified right isn’t a right. Nonetheless, we have had numerous instances of people being fined, penalized and threatened for gardening in cities around Missouri since this “right” was enacted. We now have another infringement on that right in a small town in Douglas County. That city is Ava, and the person that is being deeply affected by this is Patricia Davis.
Ms. Davis inquired of the appropriate department of the city about putting up a privacy fence in her front yard several years ago. However, city ordinance prohibits fences over two feet in height in front yards. Patricia says, “The inspector at the time, Lyle Piland (now retired), suggested planting a living screen instead, and he approved of my idea to use bamboo. In April 2010, I bought some cold-hardy bamboo starts from a nursery in Brookhaven, Mississippi.”
Bamboo is a very interesting plant. It can provide food in the shoots, fodder for animals in the leaves, building materials and crafting supplies in the cane, and it is great for erosion and wind screens as well as providing shade and oxygen for the environment. It can also spread quite quickly and must be constrained through management or it can take over large areas that people might find problematic. Ms Davis said, “As I was a newbie with bamboo cultivation, it went a little out of bounds for a short time, but it did no damage and has been fully contained.” She also relayed that the neighbor’s yard that shoots appeared in was harvested for food, and then she took actions to constrain the plants and those efforts have been successful.
Now things have become contentious with Ms. Davis and the Mayor of Ava. As Pat relates it, “In early 2015 my neighbor apparently complained to the mayor, who then declared that the bamboo was “unsightly” and insisted on its removal. He lost that battle but came back at me later, calling it ‘weeds’ and a ‘nuisance’.”
There are some important legal issues with Mayor Norman’s categorization of the little bamboo forest that now inhabits a section of Pat’s front yard. Evidently, the City of Ava has written definitions that are not inclusive of the bamboo micro habitat Pat has fostered. The Ava City code defines weeds as “uncultivated vegetation over twelve inches tall”. The key word here is uncultivated. That does not apply here as Pat does indeed cultivate the bamboo. She keeps it constrained and regularly harvests the shoots for food. It also isn’t listed as a noxious nor invasive species, so it does not fit the definition of “weeds” in either the city or state ordinances or regulations. Granted, it is unusual, but unusual doesn’t convey additional definitions to existent ordinances or regulations.
Pat is going to be facing a hearing in front of Judge Craig Carter on November 7th to determine whether she may keep her tiny bamboo forest or if Mayor Norman of Ava will win and cause her to remove the plants which have not yet reached mature size.
If the “right to farm” has any actual meaning at all, Ms Davis shouldn’t have to undergo the stress and upset she is already enduring over her bamboo grove. She said that she is looking forward to good supplemental income from the bamboo when it is ready to harvest and sell the canes and crafts from the cane. She also wants to interest others in growing this plant as it has remarkable beneficial potential as both a recreational crop and as a major agricultural crop that doesn’t require chemical management.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, I was strongly against this Constitutional amendment. Some of my reasons for being against it were set forth in this article. Now it looks as though we are going to have to stridently define who is or is not a farmer, and who is or is not a rancher.
Here is the language that was passed regarding Missourian’s “right to farm”.
|Section 35. That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri’s economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri’s economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state, subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by article VI of the Constitution of Missouri.|
As for Ms. Davis, she would appreciate your help in fighting for her right to farm against the powers that be in Douglas County. You can help in the following ways:
(1) Government overreach is often curtailed when they are closely watched, so please come to the courtroom at 1:30 PM on Nov. 7th. My hearing will be near — maybe even right at — the start of the session, which goes alphabetically by defendant last name. The whole docket usually is finished by 3:00, so even if they bump me to the end, it’s still only 90 minutes.
(2) Alternatively, a short written statement of support would be useful. Be sure to include your written signature on a line with your name typed or clearly printed under that, along with your address, and email it by Sunday to: email@example.com.