Hostility towards individuals who grow food in their suburban or semi-rural backyards appears to be on the rise, this time in the New Jersey township of Chatham. Officials there have twice cited Mike Bucuk, a 24-year-old organic farmer, for the crime of growing vegetables in his backyard and giving the surplus away to his neighbors for free. The town has even ordered Mike to stop attending to his three-acre plot of crops, thanks to a concerted legal effort spawned by a disgruntled neighbor.
It all apparently started when the Bucuk’s neighbor Richard Erich Hamlin lodged a complaint with the town, alleging that Mike was operating a commercial farm in his backyard in violation of local zoning ordinances. Even though Mike’s “commercial farm” is really nothing more than a backyard organic garden with a small, moveable greenhouse, the town ultimately ordered that Mike stop cultivating his crops until the issue is resolved one way or the other.
“We’re not building a farm so large it needs a crop duster,” joked Tom Bucuk, Mike’s father, to theDaily Recordconcerning the ordeal. After all, Mike’s goal has always been to simply use his land to grow fresh, organic produce that he would then sell at the local Chatham Farmers Market. And as a sign of good intent, the Bucukfamilyhas even opened up theirgardento neighbors, allowing them to pick fresh produce for free.
Naturally, many of the Bucuk family’s other neighbors are outraged over the fact that Hamlin and the town are treating the Bucuks as criminals, having noted in various discussion forums that the Bucuks garden looks great, and is not a nuisance to the neighborhood (http://chatham.patch.com/articles/f…). And because it is an organic garden, it does not involve the use of harsh chemicals or other harmful polluters as has been suggested by those targeting the Bucuks.
Ironically, Green Village, the unincorporated area of Chatham where the Bucuk garden is located, was historically afarmingarea. Much of the land there continues to be eaten up by residential and commercial development, but its rich farming history cannot be ignored in light of the current battle, especially as it concerns the very low-impact nature of the Bucuk garden.
“I feel like this guy [Templin is] harassing us. The police have been at our house numerous times … I feel like every time I turn around, this guy’s calling somebody on us,” said Debra Bucuk, Mike’s mother, toChatham Patch. “We’re going to make hardly any money on this. We’re trying to do this to be able to be part of the Chatham Farmer’s Market, to bring our organicvegetablesthere … and something that we think is awesome for the town. And all we’re doing is being harassed.”
The Bucuks are currently working to pass a local “Right to Farm Act” that would allow backyardfarmersto grow produce without the threat of zoning laws being used against them.
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