Justice Unserved

Months after failed drug raid, Garden of Eden owners still seek answers

Months after failed drug raid, Arlington farmers still seek answers

Garden of Eden in Arlington
No weed was found on the organic farm property. Garden of Eden/Facebook
police, Garden of Eden in Arlington
Arlington police say they had reason to believe Garden of Eden was growing marijuana.  Garden of Eden/Facebook
Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden practices sustainable farming. Garden of Eden/Facebook
Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden set up shop at the Arlington Eco Fest in September.  Garden of Eden/Facebook
Garden of Eden
The garden offers free classes and also sells food and crafts to the public. Garden of Eden/Facebook
police, Garden of Eden in Arlington
In addition to police officers, members of Code Compliance and the narcotics division set up camp in the Garden of Eden on August 2. Garden of Eden/Facebook
police, Garden of Eden in Arlington
Code Compliance hauled away multiple loads of "nuisance materials" from the farm. Garden of Eden/Facebook
Garden of Eden in Arlington
police, Garden of Eden in Arlington
Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden
police, Garden of Eden in Arlington
police, Garden of Eden in Arlington

It’s been nearly two months since Arlington police raided a sustainable farm called the Garden of Eden looking for an extensive marijuana enterprise. They didn’t find any weed, but the city still won’t release documents explaining why it erroneously believed the property was a drug empire.

In a warrant to search the premises, Arlington police cite a host of tips that the 3-and-a-half-acre farm was harvesting marijuana. That intelligence was unreliable, however, and Arlington police aren’t disclosing the reports that led to the warrant and August 2 raid at 7325 Mansfield Cardinal Rd.

The city claims those documents are privileged and not subject to a Freedom of Information Act request. CultureMap is awaiting a ruling from the Texas Attorney General to obtain those documents.

 “They think I’m a lazy dope-smoking hippie, and they are completely wrong. We will destroy them in court. Everything is on our side.” — Garden of Eden founder Quinn Eaker

In the meantime, the city did provide 68 pages of correspondence and citations with the Garden of Eden dating back to February 2013. (Inexplicably, the city also handed over an audio recording of a public hearing on code violations at the garden that was titled “Lady VIP: Dare to be rich.”)

Property owner Shellie Smith vigorously denied many of the minor code violations, saying what she did on her property was none of the city’s business — provided no one was harmed by her actions.

On August 2, code compliance officers took matters into their own hands, aggressively remedying high weeds and grass, improper outside storage of materials, hazardous wiring, and “the misuse of an extension cord.” Smith was also cited for running a home business without a permit.

It’s a laundry list of violations to be sure, but it hardly calls for tactical and narcotics detectives to be on scene.       

In the process of hauling away scrap wood, furniture and other items, Garden of Eden founder Quinn Eaker says authorities destroyed 17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants, and numerous native grasses and sunflowers.

“The primary inhabitants at the Garden of Eden have spent hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours of attention to the matters brought upon them by the City of Arlington, none of which have been honorable in any way,” Eaker says. “It has been a very heavy burden and has slowed down the progress of community and sustainability growth in many ways.”

For now, the issue appears to be at a bit of a standstill. Eaker says the city is attempting to recoup around $20,000 in fines, but the garden has no plans to pay up. In fact, Eaker has submitted his own bill to the city in the form of an affidavit of damages.

“They have no idea what they are getting into,” Eaker says. “They think I’m a lazy dope-smoking hippie, and they are completely wrong. We will destroy them in court. Everything is on our side.”

Eaker says he’s spent thousands of hours studying the law since the ordeal began, and he’s prepared to defend the rights of himself and his family, who also live on the farm.

“The issue is that we have been following due process of law since February,” Eaker says. “We have established that they have no jurisdiction. They have no authority to tell us what we can and can’t do with our land.”