A South Dakota based Internet rumor? Truth or Fiction?

I was flipping through Facebook this morning, and saw yet another tale of government run amok. However, this one enticed me enough to cause me to read, as it promised to provide anecdotal evidence of the federal government picking on a little South Dakota girl:

In this latest crackdown on citizens simply trying to provide for themselves using the most basic of skills – gardening – the USDA’s Rural Development Agency is forbidding Rosie, an industrious 4-year old girl in South Dakota from using a small, unused area outside her subsidized housing unit to grow green vegetables.

Rosie’s mother, Mary (names changed to protect the child’s identity), is single and severely disabled. She and her daughter live on a fixed income disability payment of $628/month. The garden vegetables growing just outside her backdoor lovingly tended by Rosie provide a fresh and healthy addition to their diet that they could not otherwise easily afford.

Rosie started the garden in May 2013, but now the property management company has ordered the garden be removed this week!

The reason?

Gardening apparently goes against the rules set by the USDA’s Rural Development Agency which forbids residents to have structures of any kind within landscaped areas. It seems to me that the practice of growing vegetables by the most needy in our society would take precedence over landscaping, wouldn’t you agree?

Read that here.

The only problem? This story is not readily or reliably sourced. In fact, the source website for this latest case of government outrage cites another website. Which interestingly enough, if you try to search for the story, just isn’t there.

And of course, the source website for the tale, cites the fact that a child is used in the story as the basis for changing the names. Absent news organizations having internal rules over identifying the victims of sex crimes, I’m not aware of anything preventing the aggrieved adult gardener from being identified.

That is, if they exist.

I did got a note back from the cited source who claims it’s all true, so quickly at the crack of dawn on Sunday it seemed to be automated …

On Aug 25, 2013, at 6:55 AM, Roger Doiron wrote:

Dear Pat,

It’s not a rumour. The mother in question does not want to be identified in the media and has shared her story with me directly. We’ve added some details to our petition here: http://www.causes.com/save-rosies-vegetable-garden

As more info becomes available, it’s becoming clear that no one- the USDA, the property management co, the owner – feels any moral or legal obligation to let this well-meaning mom grow her own food. As she is poor and powerless, she is now resigning herself to losing her garden.

Thanks,

Roger

But I’m still left with more questions than answers.

As I replied back,

I read the petition, and see no more detail than was provided in the story. I must say that this has all the hallmarks of appearing to be an Internet rumor.

Is there a letter from the property management company? Or anything that shows that yes, this happened, and yes, this person exists?

I quickly thereafter received this curious reply.

The story is true, Pat. How people decide to interpret and spread the story is something else.

Best wishes,

Roger

How does one ‘interpret’ a supposedly factual story? Especially one lacking any evidence that can be tracked to a source?

I’ll leave it at that this morning, as the sun starts to creep over the neighbor’s home out front. But do I count myself as a believer of this unsourced Internet yarn?

Well, they can’t put it on the Internet if it isn’t true, can they?

11 Replies to “A South Dakota based Internet rumor? Truth or Fiction?”

  1. MC Post author

    I read this as well. I wondered if it was real, or just another anti-government spoof.

    Unless something can be verified, like a letter or statement from the mom, it is rumor.

    Reply
  2. PP at the SDWC

    The source website seems to be getting so much traffic from it I question whether or not they’re interested in the truth, especially when I get an answer like “How people decide to interpret and spread the story is something else.”

    Reply
  3. Charlie Hoffman

    This is not your normal character PP. Whatz up? Posting a goofy Internet myth on a Sunday morning based on a FB page covering a little girl who is taking care of her mother by growing a garden in the climate of government food for all just does not add up.

    Where are you going with this PP?

    (Or were you feeling guilty for that second double Angus cheeseburger last night when you glanced upon the FB story this morning?). (:

    Reply
    1. PP at the SDWC Post author

      You’re funny. I felt like chicken last night.

      Today, I’m actually immersed in veggies (things that food eats), as I make roasted tomato salsa. Our jumbo sized garden is over abundant this year, and going nuts!

      Reply
  4. duggersd

    A four year old girl lovingly tending a garden? I don’t buy it. I used to get my kids to “help” me with my garden when I planted it, but they certainly would not have taken it upon themselves to maintain it. I call BS on this one, too.

    Reply
  5. mhs

    It’s Bull. RDA does not own properties, they’re merely a lender. The owner can be a private party, local housing authority, etc., not the federal government. The USDA sign in front of the thousands of these projects around the country memorializes lending, not ownership.

    The ruling against the garden he’s quoting is made by the local owners interpreting common structural covenants in any multi-family loan agreement.

    Reply
  6. MC

    Here is an update:

    UPDATE 8/25/2013: Roger Doiron, Director of Kitchen Gardeners International, has provided more details on this emerging story. The USDA has claimed in email correspondence to Mr. Doiron that it has no written rules preventing Mary and Rosie from having a garden (despite the property management company’s insistence to the contrary).

    http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/4-year-old-girls-vegetable-garden-must-go-says-usda/
    I believe what we have here is case of incomplete fact checking.
    As I see it there is three or four different stories here.
    1) Is the Housing Authority using USDA RDA (non) rules to stop this little girl from gardening?
    2) Are blogs/facebook and bloggers considered creditable news sources, what responsibility do bloggers have to check the facts?
    3) Should the USDA allow well-kept vegetable gardens, do they have that authority?
    4) What responsibility do bloggers have to protect their sources?
    I know there is a little girl involved in this, and I can understand Roger wanting to protect her from the media (they can be ruthless). Maybe this takes some digging from a ‘real’ news reporter.

    Reply
      1. watcher

        They published a photo of the pallet gardens (3 of them) where they had been “relocated” while the landscaping was being completed. Not saying I believe it all–but just wondering why they would fabricate that story.

        Reply
  7. watcher

    with the property management company handling the 8-unit rental property where Rosie and Mary live and the property owner has agreed to build a new raised bed vegetable garden for them and the other tenants next spring. It’s a small victory, but hopefully one that will motivate local and federal decision-makers to make sure that others living in subsidized housing can enjoy the benefits of home-grown foods too.

    Reply

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