In 2018, a friend who owned a nearby garden store connected Virgil with a state senator. That introduction planted a seed of an idea: what about a bill at the state level to protect home gardeners in Illinois? To begin exploring that concept, Virgil started working with organizations including the Illinois Environmental Council, the Citizen Advocacy Center, and Advocates for Urban Agriculture.
But the real breakthrough came, said Virgil, when she joined forces with the Institute for Justice. The public interest law firm, which has a history of working with citizens-turned-gardening activists, provided an enormous outpouring of expertise, knowledge, and support, said Virgil. “It’s a team that I never had before.”
The Institute for Justice helped craft what came to be known as the Illinois Vegetable Garden Protection Act. After passing by an overwhelming margin in both the Illinois House and Senate, it was signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker in July 2021. The Act stipulates that: “[A]ny person may cultivate vegetable gardens on their own property, or on the private property of another with the permission of the owner, in any county, municipality, or other political subdivision of this state.”