Growing your own food is hard work, but Nicole Virgil knows that there’s no healthier or more affordable way to feed her family. So when Nicole started gardening, she expected the weather, our short growing season, and pests to be a hurdle. She didn’t expect the biggest hurdle would be her city’s government. The City effectively banned the hoop house structure she uses to grow food year round. Proposed legislation protects theRight to Garden (HB4704) with simple season-extension structures you need to grow in our hardy conditions.
Nicole’s concerns over the meals being served at home began in the early 2000’s. At that time, rumblings over genetically modified foods and pesticides had begun. “We just wanted food in our food,” she said.
To grow more and save money, Nicole learned all there is to know about gardening. In her modern day “victory garden,” Nicole used several raised beds to expand her growing space. With the brief Illinois growing season though, she knew to feed her family over the winter, they would need to find a way to protect their vegetables from the cold.
After more research, Nicole determined a hoop house was the best fit. A hoop house is a temporary structure made of a metal or plastic frame covered in plastic, which holds in heat from the sun and protects vegetables. The hoop house allowed two of their raised beds to continue producing through the winter months.
The difficulty started when the city effectively banned the hoop house.
Nicole and others have been advocating for a change to allow season-extension structures for a few years. She worked with the Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Advocates for Urban Agriculture, NAACP and hundreds of local supporters to introduce legislation and advocate for the Right to Garden Act.
You can help.Join us at Local Food Lobby Day on April 2nd in Springfield. Together we willeducate lawmakers that when planning a garden there are many factors to consider; what crops to plant, the soil you create, the sun’s path, how to maximize water, and how to protect your investment. Or as Nicole put it, “The person best suited to know if the shoe fits, is the person wearing them.”