Letters to the Editor

Watch out, Michelle! Gardening can be risky

Dear First Lady Michelle Obama,

Thank you for your efforts to draw attention to healthy food.

The purpose of my note is related to your planting of a “Victory Garden.”

Your quotes, along with (those of) well-known and respected restaurateur Alice Waters, basically claiming benefits of homegrown food, caught my attention because frankly — with the burgeoning government regs that suffocate American food production — I have real concerns about the reality of “backyard farms.”

For examples:

• The EPA slapped Massachusetts cranberry farmer Charlie Johnson with a court fine of $75,000 and more than $1 million in mitigation costs, claiming he’d “shored up some bogs on his land, and built some new ones — without seeking federal approval.” Johnson, 78, had farmed there since birth, as the cranberry farm has been in his family operation since 1920.

• Washington State resident Paul Hiatt has served 63 days in jail, been fined thousands and faces more incarceration for simply trying to “clean up” and prepare his newly purchased three acres ... for planting of an organic garden.

Review of the court dockets and case chronology did not reveal legal justification for Mr. Hiatt’s incarceration. The only possible excuse for incarceration, might be attributed to his self-defense, which resulted in the judge slamming him with contempt of court. Ex post facto, Pierce County claimed Hiatt’s property “a wetlands,” and that his “cleanup” efforts violated said designation. On April 14, 2009, Mr. Hiatt solicited a plea for pardon from Gov. Christine Gregoire. I pray she will smile fairly upon him, and release him and his good name.

Michelle, since 2006, I’ve been the volunteer editor of www.GoodNeighborLaw.com. Mr. Hiatt and Mr. Johnson’s cases are not unusual. With escalating rapidity, I receive notices from all over the United States regarding government’s taking control of farms and ranches, regardless the size.

In Colorado, several cities are allowing people to have chickens in their yards. It’ll only be a matter of minutes before the complaints start coming in, and they, too, will be shut down for violating some obscure, unnecessary, constitutionally breaking or ex post facto regulation.

Please take heed when you encourage people to have backyard gardens; for any alteration of water (including capture of rain), use of herbicide, insecticide or fertilizers — whether natural or chemical and their subsequent disposal, animal mortality, disease and so on — will expose them to risk losing everything because of federal government’s bigger strategy to seize control of all land and water in America.

Please take the time to study our nonpartisan, fact- and truth-based Web site, www.GoodNeighborLaw.com.

Because I know you want to teach children the importance of having food, and the connection to growing it, please join with us to fend off those who seek to destroy us.

We look forward to working with you on the most critical of matters, “American food production.”

Roni Bell Sylvester
La Salle