Sean Law is proud of the natural garden that he has grown over the past few years, but his neighbors are less than thrilled with the looks and effects of what they see as a messy yard. According to the Orlando Sentinel, in the past year Sean has amassed nearly $130,000 in Longwood, Florida code-enforcement fines for his yard garden because of trash, debris, weeds and overgrown grass. Sean told the station, “The city of Longwood’s been fining me for a while. The basis in city ordinance for that is what’s called the high grass and weeds ordinance and the debris, trash and debris ordinance.”
Sean explained, “This is an adaptation of natural farming, shizen noho. We adapt it to a garden environment so it’s natural gardening.” The natural farming method developed by Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer and philosopher, is also known as “Do-Nothing Farming.” Mr. Law says that in the method, grass is grown then allowed to die. Later diverse clay seed balls are spread and the farmer sees what grows to identify what works well in the environment.
The natural gardener has quite a diverse offering from his yard and has grown arugula, pineapples, sugar cane, avocados, broccoli, watermelon, and bananas. He even produces household items like luffa used as a scrub for the body and dishes, soap nuts and soap berries he uses to clean his clothes, and he uses beautyberry plants as an alternative to toilet paper.
Sean Law’s natural efforts to live off the land may be eco-friendly, but fellow residents say that his methods cause foul odors and have led to a pest problem, attracting snakes, rats, moles, fire ants and mosquitos to the area. His next-door neighbor Bobbie Corbitt told WOFL Fox 35, "We have all kind of weird animals, rodents and stuff, and bugs. I have bugs that I've never seen before come in my house." To which Mr. Law responded, "There are ants in the world. I'm not God I didn't put ants in the world." Another neighbor Kathy Ettman said, "If he wishes to live that way, which is his choice, go to an area that accepts that. That means you go out to ranch land."
Due to the violations Sean was slapped with a fine of $300 per day and a lien was placed against his home. Sean fought the case in district court but lost. His appeal was also unsuccessful. The gardener is pushing on and said, “Right now a notice of appeal has just been filed through the Florida Supreme Court.” He is waiting to see if his case is accepted and hopes for a fair judgment, “…especially with regards to Florida-friendly landscaping wherein it is written, local ordinances may not be written or so enforced so as to prohibit a property owner from implementing Florida friendly landscaping on his or her land.” He feels that the condition of his yard is protected under the standards of the Florida-friendly landscaping law from 2009, which encourages homeowners to have yards which are chemical-free and conserve water.
Still, Sean does not hold malice toward his neighbors, telling WOFL, "I don't blame the people because people are tricked by the TV no offense to you guys.” Commissioners in Longwood plan on discussing the case this week and will potentially take further action.