Permaculture farm threatened by "weed" violation 

It can be scary when you get a letter in the mail from a government agency stating you have six days to be in compliance with an ordinance. It is even more terrifying when that letter threatens more than 20 years of careful work.

Kay Grimm and Sue Spicer of Fruit Loop Acres experienced that exact fright when they received a letter from the Department of Code Enforcement from the city of Indianapolis. The letter indicated their property on North Hamilton Avenue was in violation of the "weed" ordinance and as the property owners, they had less than one week to bring the property into compliance before contract crews mowed for them.

"The letter was postmarked June tenth and it was delivered on the eleventh," said Spicer, "But one of our helpers got the mail and put it on a table that we normally don't check so we didn't see it until the twelfth."

That began a wave of panic and interaction with city officials in the effort to save their work.

Slideshow: Fruit Loop Acres
Slideshow: Fruit Loop Acres Slideshow: Fruit Loop Acres Slideshow: Fruit Loop Acres Slideshow: Fruit Loop Acres Slideshow: Fruit Loop Acres Slideshow: Fruit Loop Acres Slideshow: Fruit Loop Acres Slideshow: Fruit Loop Acres

Slideshow: Fruit Loop Acres

Fruit Loop Acres is a permaculture urban fruit farm two miles from the heart of downtown. Their goal is revitalize their neighborhood and make a more sustainable city in the process.

By Leeann Doerflein

Click to View 10 slides

Fruit Loop Acres is a permaculture fruit farm that covers six lots on a city block less than two miles from downtown. The property yields an impressive list of berries, apples, peaches, pears, grapes, and other fruits. It is also is completely self-sustaining.

"Everything out here has a purpose," said Grimm. "Every plant is designed to foster the life and growth of every insect and plant out here for our things to grow naturally."

Grimm and Spicer use ducks to control invasive bug populations, have a their own bee hive to pollinate the fruit bushes and trees and produce honey, and other plants and insects that work together in nature. To someone who doesn't understand permaculture or know what is going on inside the gated property, it could look like an uncontrolled mess of vegetation. But Grimm says there is a structure in the apparent disorder.

Grimm purchased four lots in the 300 block of Hamilton Ave. 20 years ago to begin her experiment in sustained permaculture living. What started out as individual plant cuttings and a lot of research has since grown into a thriving habitat covering six lots that produces bushels of organic fruit. The land is also located in an area of the city that over the years has been riddled with drugs and violent crime.

"When I first moved in here there were lots of drugs and crime and stuff in the neighborhood," says Grimm. "I like to think that what we are doing here is a bright spot for the community and shows what can be done."

Grimm and Spicer are doing more than just growing organic fruit in a permaculture environment. They are also trying to educate their neighbors and community on what they do. Both women hold offices on their neighborhood association board. (Spicer is the president and Grimm is the secretary.) Grimm said with the number of abandoned homes in the area, she would like to see others buy those empty lots, fix up the houses, and try their own self-sustaining gardens to grow the community and the culture in the area.

So what happened with the city that prompted a code violation letter?

"We were told that the citation was complaint-driven," Spicer said. She speculates someone complained to the city about the property, prompting the Department of Code Enforcement to issue the violation.

Spicer and Grimm went to the Sustainability Office immediately after opening their violation letter. After filling out some paperwork and talking with someone in the office, the mandatory "mow" by the city, originally set for June 16, was delayed, pending an inspection of the property which was supposed to take place today, June 20.

NUVO was there to talk to the Code Enforcement official to ask why the violation had been issued and what the next steps would be in their investigation of the property. However, the Public Information Officer was not there to answer questions and the enforcement officers present thought it best to postpone the inspection until a PIO was available to answer media questions.

Shortly afterward, Spicer was on the phone with someone from the Sustainability office who informed her that Fruit Loop Acres would be put on a list for emergency registration in to a program that would essentially protect their work and their fruit from demolition by a Code Enforcement team.

Spicer and Grimm were relieved, but somewhat leery of the whole process and the emotional roller coaster they had been on for the last several days.

"We were never told whose roles would do what," said Spicer. "I don't understand, why be so heavy-handed? Go after the absentee landlord who only mows after they go after him to mow."

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About The Author

Amber Stearns

Amber Stearns

Amber Stearns was born, raised, and educated right here in Indianapolis. She holds a B.S. in Communications from the University of Indianapolis (1995). Following a 20-year career in radio news in Indiana, Amber joined NUVO as News Editor in 2014.

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