Longwood front-yard farmer stands by his permaculture plot
Despite distraught neighbors and mounting fines, Shon Law says he’ll continue to grow food not grass
Published: March 5, 2014
Kathy Ettman, who lives kitty-corner from Law’s house (seen in the background of this issue’s cover photo), breaks into tears as she discusses the situation. She says that she’s seen a noticeable spike in rats and pests as Law’s unruly yard has grown out of control. She recently had flooding in her bathroom caused by rats chewing through pipes leading into her house. Her husband is unable to repair the problem, so she says she’s now saddled with an expensive bill and a daunting construction project that’s going to cost her money she says she doesn’t have. Ettman, who has several containers of pineapple starters in pots on her patio, says she’s not opposed to gardening.
“It’s not about growing food, it’s about doing it responsibly and being a good neighbor,” she says, wiping away tears. “Everyone here grows their own food.” She points out a neighbor who has a citrus tree growing in the front yard and a house across the street where papayas line the fence.
“Growing food is something we all have to do here to make ends meet,” she says.
If you look up gardening or urban farming on Pinterest, it makes the result look trendy, cute and easy. But the reality is that it’s sometimes more messy, unsightly or difficult than people realize. Chickens can end up wandering the neighborhood (or in animal shelters) and weeds can take over your veggies in a week. What was once an exercise in sustainability and emancipation becomes an eyesore – and that’s what scares neighbors and city officials.
Ettman and the other neighboring families are all poised on their stoops, staring down Law’s corner-lot experiment, hoping for an act of God or Ty Pennington to make things normal again for them, but it seems like that won’t be happening any time soon. The city has a lien on Law’s property, but he says he isn’t looking to move or sell any time soon. When asked recently about any possibility for third-party mediation or a happy middle ground, nobody seemed ready to concede defeat. Though Law’s recent appeal was rejected, he doesn’t want to give up; nor does he really have much interest in pursuing further communication with his neighbors.
“We’re all facing an irreplaceable planetary collapse and these people are all worried about tall grass,” he says. “They’re conditioned puppets. And you’ll never free your mind until you shoot the cop in your head.”
Correction: Shon Law did not sell his social-media website, Nebber, to Facebook. The story has been changed to reflect that correction.
> Email Brendan O’Connor