Oakland Cracks Down on Backyard Lettuce Farmers

By Matt Baume
|  Monday, Apr 4, 2011  |  Updated 5:52 AM PDT
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Oakland Cracks Down on Backyard Lettuce Farmers

Joe Rosato Jr.

It took a decade to turn a disused lot in Oakland into a productive garden, but city ordinances may uproot the growth.

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Crime in Oakland is apparently at such an all-time low that the police finally have time to go after one of the city's worst scourges: the backyard lettuce farmer.

Urban homesteader Novella Carpenter turned a blighted lot into a thriving farm over the last decade. But when the city noticed that she occasionally sells some of the produce to support the operation, they decided that she needed to be shut down.

The only other option: a special permit that will cost thousands of dollars, according to the Gate. The farm itself only brings in about $2,500 a year.

City officials admit that their laws are embarrassingly out-of-date. They'll debate changes later this year, but the glacial pace of city bureaucracy may be unable to keep up with the comparative rapidity of growing grass.

San Francisco is in the midst of correcting a similarly antiquated regulation. Because of their adherence to the laws, Oakland may lose a thriving garden and gain yet another squalid lot.

Urban gardens have been on the rise in recent years. Although they don't produce enough food to feed an urban population, they're a fun hobby and they attract wildlife such as birds and butterflies that contribute to the health of a neighborhood.

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