The study of economics is largely about consequences, intended and unintended. Raising prices has the intended consequence of increasing the profitability of a sale. But it may also have the unintended consequence of reducing the amount of sales and thus reducing overall revenues.
But intended and unintended consequences are not limited to strictly financial matters.
Just last week, under threats of hundreds of dollars of fines assessed on a daily basis, a local beekeeper was forced to move her bees off of her property to a more rural location.
Today, I am raising the question of whether certain ordinances have the unintended consequence of forcing lower income people to purchase, rather than produce their own food. When people of all income levels bought into the “victory garden” movement less than 100 years ago, it was a national food security issue. In less than two years, Americans began to produce 50% of their own food in their own backyards. Among other things, this productivity increase allowed for food and productivity to be directed toward the effort to win the World War II.
But in the post-war years, the “Joneses” determined that dirt belonged only under the fingernails of people who lived in rural districts. Of course, tidy kitchen gardens remained legal, but nearly anything other than dogs that made noise, defecated, or could bite or sting was forced to the “country.”
So food production was pushed to the professionals or the gentleman farmers. And it all sounded so good in the plasticized reality of the space race/Cold War era. The Joneses lived in a sterilized, picket-fenced, tenth of an acre. And they picked up after their dog.
But if the Joneses wanted to have fresh eggs or goat milk, they could drive to “the country” and buy some. Or they could spend weekends in “the country” and produce their own. Since everyone knows that bees sting, the Joneses could easily buy honey from beekeepers in “the country.” Since bees pollinate vegetables, fruits and flowers, the Joneses could buy their food, and as for flowers, they could get newer varieties that did not require pollination. And they could buy pesticides so that by spraying, everything that moved on their property would die.
Except hopefully their dog and themselves.
But we all know that it’s not just the rich who live “in town.” So the unintended consequence of making “the country” the legal source of food is that the Joneses’ neighbors cannot afford to feed themselves in town, although they cannot afford to live in “the country.”
Back to bees. The local beekeeper had no place on her property that was 150 feet from any property line. (What city-dweller does?) Bees only sting when threatened, and fly up from their hives. So they only need an eight-foot setback.
But the ordinances from Plasticville remain nonetheless.
Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified municipal specialist, Clarks Summit’s municipal arborist and an operator of an organic lawn and landscape maintenance business. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.