The Fight Over the Right to Produce Your Own Food


The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) was initially formed to protect the rights of farmers and consumers to engage in direct commerce, and that remains a major focus of the organization’s work. In recent years, however, FTCLDF has spent an increasing amount of time and resources fighting for the right of people to produce their own food.

Restrictive zoning ordinances have taken away a right that should be fundamental; self-sufficiency in food production for individuals and for communities, regions, and the nation as a whole should be a policy that federal, state, and local governments strongly support, but that has not been the case. Before the 20thcentury, there were few if any zoning ordinances in the U.S.; property owners were mainly just subject to nuisance law regarding the uses they made of their properties. If a neighbor could prove in court that a use of property worked to harm, unreasonably interfered, or damaged a neighbor in the enjoyment of his own property, the court could order the use to stop on the grounds of private nuisance. If the government could prove in court the property use unreasonably interfered with rights common to all members of a community in general and was a threat to the public health, safety and welfare, the court could order that the use stop on the grounds of public nuisance.

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