The Symbolic Garden: An Intersection of the Food Movement and the First Amendment


What is communicated when a neighbor raises raspberries instead of roses on the porch trellis, grows lacinato kale rather than creeping bentgrass in the front yard, or keeps Buckeye hens rather than a Bulldog? This essay asserts that these and other urban agricultural practices are expressive, that they are not just ends in themselves but are communicative acts. These acts are intended to educate neighbors, assert a viewpoint, establish identity, and are widely viewed as symbols of support for a social and political movement, what Michael Pollan has dubbed the “Food Movement.” And, as symbolic acts, they deserve protection under the First Amendment.

This article will first examine the recognition of the Food Movement as a social and political movement. It will then look at how gardens and other urban homesteading practices, like raising chickens and bees, are broadly asserted and accepted as symbols of the Food Movement. Finally, it will assess how First Amendment principles will apply to these urban agricultural practices and the degree of constitutional protection they should receive.


Food Policy, First Amendment, Constitutional Law, Planning and Zoning, Municipal Policy, Land-Use Policy

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65 Maine Law Review 425 (2013)


COinS Jamie M. Bouvier Faculty Bio