Garden Pardon 

Nutbush man gains groundswell of support, gets to keep garden.

At least 9,000 people from across the United States and around the world were waiting to see what would happen to Adam Guerrero's residential ecosystem last Friday.

After being found guilty of code violations at his home on Townes Avenue in Nutbush, Guerrero returned to court last week for a progress report. Environmental Court judge Larry Potter applauded Guerrero's efforts to bring his garden into compliance with city code.

"I've always encouraged environmental activism, sustainability, going green, and blight reduction," Potter said. "I never said you could not have a garden. That's inaccurate."

On August 19th, Potter ordered that Guerrero clean up his property after neighbor Levi Dowdy complained Guerrero's worm bins and rainwater barrels attracted rats and emitted a foul odor.

Guerrero's attornery, Farris DeBoard of Burch, Porter & Johnson, was brought on just two days before Guerrero's court appearance last Friday. In that short amount of time, he counseled Guerrero to make strides toward following the judge's orders: trimming his front-yard garden, installing a pond bubbler to reduce water stagnation, introducing mosquito-eating fish into his backyard pond, reducing the number of on-site worm bins, and installing mesh covers on his rain barrels to keep mosquitoes out.

Potter seemed pleased with the progress. "I think there will be a resolution to this," he said. Attorneys from both sides will meet within the coming weeks to sort out any of the judge's remaining concerns before Guerrero's next court date on October 21st.

"I'm pleased I get to keep the garden," Guerrero said. "And I'm very pleased that [Potter] is going to work with me."

Guerrero brought along the three young men who volunteer at the garden — Jovantae, Jarvis, and Shaquielle — to witness the proceedings. The three said they're eager to get back into the garden. Their work has been stalled since Guerrero has been so busy with the case.

"We've put so much time into it. We'll be back at it tomorrow," Jovantae said.

Potter also ordered Guerrero to reduce the volume of compost and the number of worm bins by at least half. Guerrero was also asked to donate half of his rainwater barrels to other urban gardens. In return for these adjustments, Potter advocated finding a blighted property in Guerrero's neighborhood to run a larger-scale educational garden.

Patrick Dandridge, a representative from Potter's court, is working with the Division of Housing and Community Development and the Shelby County Land Bank to identify properties suited for a training program in urban gardening.

"We're moving to find a property right away," said Onzie Horne, deputy director of Community Enhancement for the city of Memphis. "This division has a history of support for urban gardening. We've done so with vacant lots in the past."

So, what of those 9,000 (or more) people who caught wind of Guerrero's story?

After reading of Guerrero in the Flyer two weeks ago, Memphians Kristen Heath and Hannah Giles created a Facebook page titled "Save Adam Guerrero's Garden!" The page sparked a gathering at Overton Park and an online petition on Change.org, which garnered nearly 9,000 signatures.

"I printed off the petition, and there were 201 pages. On each page, I would see [someone from] a different country and tons of different states," Giles said.

Sarah Parsons of Change.org said stories like Guerrero's are popping up all over the United States, creating a groundswell of support for small-scale gardening efforts.

"We're seeing a lot of campaigns about urban gardens or people who want to sell the produce that they grow," Parsons said. "These stories are very compelling. It's a classic David-and-Goliath struggle."

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