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Wisconsin GOP lawmakers pitch ‘right to garden’ law

The idea came from Sortwell's hometown of Two Rivers, where he said the city council was trying to limit people's ability to grow food or flowers because of aesthetic purposes.

Published: September 21, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

Two Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol want to make it clear people have the right to grow vegetables and flowers in their yard.

State Rep. Shae Sortwell, R-Two Rivers, and State Sen. Andre Jacque, R-DePere, appeared before an Assembly committee to pitch their plan that would guarantee a right to garden in Wisconsin.

“Government should encourage and protect not limit the right to grow your own food on your own private property,” Sortwell said.

The idea came from Sortwell's hometown of Two Rivers, where he said the city council was trying to limit people's ability to grow food or flowers because of aesthetic purposes.

“In my humble opinion, and I hope that the opinion of this committee, your right to produce your own food should trump the preference of aesthetics,” Sortwell said. “I don't think it's aesthetically displeasing to see a tomato cage. But nevertheless, that's been the trend with some municipalities, they want a certain look.”

Some Democratic lawmakers, though, questioned if this is state overreach. Rep. Clinton Anderson, D-Beloit, said city councils are the ones that make decisions in individual cities.

Jacque said the right to garden law acknowledges that, but also acknowledges that people do have a right to use their property how they see fit.

“This is something that really strikes a fair balance between private property rights, growing your own food supplies, concern for pollinators and having legitimate community standards and public safety things like vision triangles,” Jacque said. “As long as you're not discriminating based on the use, people should have the ability to grow their own food.”

Jacques said Two Rivers had an ordinance that limited where people could grow a garden, but he said other communities in Wisconsin may have similar ordinances on their books.

Sortwell said the U.S. Constitution is clear that people have a right “to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” He said that includes the right to grow a garden, even if it is growing tomatoes in their front yard.

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