Food fight: Orlando family's battle to keep front yard garden continues



ORLANDO, Fla. - A grass-roots effort to turn some lawns into vegetable gardens could be winning over city leaders in Orlando.

The issue came up last fall when someone complained to the city about a front yard garden in College Park.

The city planning board has drafted a list of proposed changes to a lawn ordinance. While the changes would allow homeowners to have gardens, the property owners at the center of the fight said it's not feasible.

So they've started a petition, and their fight over food continues to growing.

"Our goal is to produce 75 percent of our food on site," said homeowner Jason Halvenston.

He and his wife, Jennifer, are living off their land.

"We want to utilize our own property and grown our own food," said Jason Halvenston.

Their property just happens to be in an urban neighborhood in College Park.

For the Halvenstons, their effort has been a hard row to hoe.

"It is not easy to be sustainable in the city of Orlando," said Jason Halvenston.

A neighbor complained to city hall about the couple's front yard back in October.

"The property was not in compliance with the landscape code," said Jon Ippel, who oversees Orlando's Goal to Go Green initiative.

Initially the city of Orlando told the Halvenstons they needed to remove the entire garden from their front yard. Now under a proposed compromise they could keep a quarter of it.

"This was a good opportunity to take a look at what our standards were in relation to gardens so we're not pursuing actions against the Halvestons," said Ippel.

But Jason Halvenston said the food fight is not over.

Next week, the municipal planning board will introduce a new set of guidelines which Jason Halvenston calls restrictive.

"They've squeezed the property back so much that the garden will be cast under the roofline of the house or in the shadow of the house," he said.

Ippel said it is an effort to ensure the entire city is environmentally savvy.

"We're not in a place to force people to rip up gardens, but instead go through a process in what the community desires," said Ippel.

The Orlando City Council is expected to vote on the proposed ordinance by March.