Cultivating Backyard Gardens

Maryland has a “Right-to-Farm” law that is designed to protect agricultural operations from nuisance suits by those who may move next to a farming operation.

The law offers protection/defense against nuisance suits derived from both private and public suits against a farm operation. Frederick County residents may remember Charlie Cline methodically blocking traffic on Boyers Mill Road during rush hour while protected by the 1997 “Right to Farm” Ordinance (96-23-175).

As farms are converted to subdivisions, the right to farm does not convey with the land. Landowners in many major subdivisions are subject to a homeowner’s association (“HOA”) rules and regulations, which may expressly limit their right to have a vegetable garden and grow some of their own food.

My community in Frederick County (Spring Ridge) budgets $177,000 per year for common-area lawn maintenance, including pesticide applications.

grow_bkyd_bedOn the other hand, according to the HOA regulations governing townhouses, “Vegetable Gardens must not exceed ¼ of the rear of the lot” and “be screened from public view.” Spring Ridge spends a bundle on cultivating grass, but limits the ability of townhouse owners grow food, even in their back yards. It’s maddening.

Consider some of the benefits of having a backyard vegetable garden:

• Save money
• Eat more healthy vegetables
• Reduce your impact on the environment
• Make food preparation and meals a more personal and interesting experience
• Great learning opportunity for your children
• Wholesome family activity

Does it make sense that growing lettuce, cucumbers, green beans, or zucchini in your back yard can be an illegal activity?!


Frustration about this caught the attention of State Senator Ron Young last summer. Young has now introduced Senate Bill 62, a bill establishing a prohibition on backyard gardening restrictions.

California Governor Jerry Brown approved similar legislation in 2014 with Assembly Bill 2561, providing for “personal agriculture” on owned and rented land. (California AB-2561 guarantees tenants and members of homeowner’s associations rights to grow food for personal consumption by voiding contrary language in lease agreements or homeowner’s association agreements.)

ronyoungA hearing on Senator Young’s bill is scheduled for January 24, 2017 at 1:00 pm. Please join me in Annapolis to support this commonsense bill.

Or you can show support by contacting Senator Ronald Young (by email or phone) to let him know you think SB62 is good for Maryland.

Click here to send an email to Senator Young:

Download a copy of the bill here (853KB pdf file)

Sustainable Economies Law Center
Governor Brown Signs the Neighborhood Food Act!
by Christina Oatfield
September 26, 2014

Eat, Drink Better
California’s Neighborhood Food Act is in Effect
October 1, 2014

Download a Maryland Right to Farm Fact Sheet (1.149MB pdf file)