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The Right to Garden in Wisconsin

Updated: Mar 15

A bill being considered in Wisconsin would guarantee a right to garden. Wisconsin House Bill 379 would prevent a local government from requiring a permit for a garden or even banning gardens. The bill was introduced in 2023 and is still in the legislative process.


Debating the right to garden might seem odd, even trivial. However, there are local governments that require permits for gardening and even ban gardens.


But to divide this local squabble between pro- and anti-gardening camps would be an oversimplification. Those who oppose the bill are not against gardening, Rather, they fear the bill will prevent local governments from enacting rules involving garden maintenance and water usage. Local governments restrict plant growth that gets in the way of infrastructure like roads and sidewalks, trying to de-incentivize excessive use of an already limited water supply to grow plants in gardens. 


Those who advocate for the bill argue the importance of one's right to grow food. Food is essential for survival, and when people grow food, they don't need to rely on others for a product essential to human life. When a state has a bill that protects the right to garden, this does not mean that local governments are not allowed to enact any rules that involve gardening, but it can prevent local governments from enacting unnecessarily strict rules.


Laws that protect the right to garden are still relatively new, and most people have never heard of these laws. As of March 2024, the only states that guarantee a right to garden are Illinois and Florida. While not specifically about gardening, Maine does guarantee a right to produce food.


This does not mean that it is illegal to garden in other states, but it does mean that it is easy for local governments to enact laws that can interfere with the right to garden. Local governments can charge money for permits to grow plants, and some have even banned gardens.


It might not seem newsworthy when a local government bans gardening. But we need to look at the root of the issue: stringent gardening restrictions may mean that a local government is banning people from producing the food they need to survive.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

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