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Your Asparagus ??

Date posted - June 2, 2014

Ok..Its that time of year again when people just feel they can drive down the road and harvest a farmers ditch. Particulary, I am talking about the Aspargus. I for the life of me don’t understand where people think they can just walk into a farmers ditch, -(who by the way, pays taxes on that ditch), and harvest whatever they feel they want. For those of you who feel it is your “right” think again. Are you allowed to go into a farmers ditch and mow it and bale it? Do you feel you can pick a persons flowers they plant around a mailbox, or on the fenceline. How about you go along and control the weeds for us! So….Stay out of the ditch…unless you ask.

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39 Responses to “Your Asparagus ??”

  1. Lee Ann says:

    I never thought of it that way. I always thought of the ditches as similar to the area in town between the sidewalk and the street. Its yours, you pay taxes on it, but it is a right of way. People can sit on it (for parades, etc), city trucks and freight companies can back up on it or drive on it. Its a right of way.

    I know that while the farmer pays taxes on it, they can’t bale it unless the county okays it. The way they used to survey back in the 1800s, they said your land went to the middle of the road, but you had to allow right of way.

    I guess you could put out signs saying, “No trespassing for asparagus, as it is mine.” but trespassing signs must be put up on the fence line, not on the edge of the road. So I would consider the ditch an easement that can be accessed by anyone. Does that make sense?

  2. Not exactly says:

    Actually this is not true.

    Call your county assessor, you do not pay real estate taxes on your ditches, they exclude the road right-away from your real estate taxes.

  3. Not exactly says:

    To quote the article above in case you don’t want to complete the survey to read it:

    “WATERLOO — When it comes to roadside ditches, don’t believe everything you read.

    The abstract to your property may list you as the proud owner of the trench between your yard and the road.

    Don’t believe it, say county officials, who have grown a little weary of answering folks’ questions about ditches, while understanding the confusion. Road ditches are public property, though plenty of people apparently don’t realize it.”

    “The clue can be found in your tax bill. If you’re not paying taxes on it, it’s not yours.

    “We all get the same questions,” said Galen Eilers, the county’s road maintenance superintendent. “A person’s abstract might say they own the property to the center of the road, but they don’t pay taxes on it. People will say that (they own it), and I’ll tell them, ‘No you don’t. It’s off the tax rolls, and it’s our right-of-way.”

    “According to Dick King, County Engineer, farmers can’t drain fields into a ditch that wouldn’t naturally drain there….. Depending on when a road was built or the type of thoroughfare, ditches are public property either by right-of-way or deed. Either way, private ownership of land ends at the fence or where the fence should be.

    • Tim says:

      If that be the case…and you may be ‘legally’ correct, then according to you, I can mow and harvest my neighbors nice grass hay in his ditch, makes awesome horse hay, and its free. (but I best wear a bullet proof vest, correct) Or why does the county ask a farmer to control the weeds in that ditch? Or why, when you rent a peice of ground, do you pay rent all the way to the center of the road? How many farmers on here ask the county if they can mow and bale his own ditch? State highway right of way is different, I understand you need to ask permission from the state to harvest that. I totally agree it is a right of way, however then, using your logic does a town person own the tree he plants in the right of way between his sidewalk and the street? I should be able to go dig it up according to your thinking.

      • TM says:

        Your right ive had people pull the trees up in my right of way i did not konw i was not alowed to plant there and i live in town. why dont farmers plant corn in there ditch.

      • Not exactly says:

        Legally, if you asked the county permission and they gave it to you, you probably could mow and harvest your neighbors ditch…the bullet proof vest….well that would depend on your neighbor.

        On the weed issue, common sense would say that weeds left uncontrolled spread and most likely spread into the precious crop fields….I am not a farmer but I would assume the county may ask you to control weeds as a public courtesy….I know counties do not have the resources to spray thousands of miles of ditches, but you as a landowner you don’t want the weeds in your field either, so its a win-win for both.

        Again not a farmer, but I did work in the legal field and I know that the majority of cash leases are for tillable acres, and if they are for total acres, if your land owner is charging you rent on the road right-of-way then I’d say you’re being taken advantage of, but that’s just my opinion.

        I don’t have any experience in the municipal right of ways, so I can’t comment on trees in the city right of way, but as the poster below indicates the city may control that as well.

      • Speed says:

        Don’t know what the argument is here; the ditch on either side of any county road is public property, period. However you want to twist it or make it sound otherwise is fine, but the fact remains the same. The whole “I pay taxes to the middle of the road so it’s mine” argument is ridiculous and the logic is actually backwards (by the way, you don’t pay taxes on the road or the ditch). By your reasoning you should be able to do whatever you want with anything you pay taxes on. That makes no sense.

        “Not exactly” below is correct; crop rent is paid on tillable acres and if your arrangement is different then I’d say you are getting hosed.

        If it’s planted in a ditch it’s fair game, plain and simple. Why don’t you just dig up a bunch and plant it behind your barn or garage like everyone else and eliminate the problem?

  4. I think you are all wrong, it belongs to the bird that put it there!!

  5. Tim says:

    As I understand it, an abstract (property legal description) says the owner does own all the way to the center of the road. However, the county has all the rights to the right of ways. (usually 66′)…..Iowa Code 306.3:
    7. “Public road right-of-way” means an area of land, the
    right to possession of which is secured or reserved by the state or a
    governmental subdivision for roadway purposes. The right-of-way for
    all secondary roads is sixty-six feet in width, unless otherwise
    specified by the county board of supervisors of the respective

    Interestingly enough…. Check out #3…. and especially the last sentence!…you all better get a permit to harvest aspargus from a ditch:
    * Iowa DOT Form 810050 – Harvesting and Mowing Permit Application covers three types of operations: (1) mowing only; (2) harvesting hay in large or small bales; or (3) harvesting plant material other than hay with machinery, by hand or with hand tools. This form is also available from any of the representatives listed below.
    It is necessary for abutting property owners to sign off on all permits before department approval.

    • Not exactly says:

      I doubt the DOT has ever received an application or issued a permit to pick asparagus, however, the point still being, ditches are public property and the landowner has no more right to the asparagus than anyone else.

      • Tim says:

        According to you then…..
        I have the right to pick your flowers in the ‘right of way’ between your sidewalk and the street…it is public property… gosh darn they are nice….be ready…I am coming for them and there is nothing you can do to stop me…right?

        • Lee Ann says:

          I don’t know about flowers, I see very few flowers in that area. However, I do know in Sheldon if branches fall off of those trees, the city will take care of getting rid of the branches. If the tree begins to get too close to an electric line or something like that, the city cuts them back.

          One of my neighbors had a freight truck deliver to their home, and the truck, to get turned right, drove up onto one of our neighbor’s grass in that area between the sidewalks and the road. The neighbor was really angry, yelling and cussing at the truck driver. The truck driver just ignored him, and later told me “That is the city’s right of way, that neighbor cannot stop us from using that area if we need it to turn.”

        • Not exactly says:

          Yes, if you wanted to be a jerk and pick the flowers that I purchased, planted and care for and foolishly planted in a right-of-way then technically you could. The difference being that asparagus grows wild. If someone was silly enough to plant the asparagus on public property then they shouldn’t be surprised when someone else picks it. Like a previous poster said if they are so worried about it plant it in your yard or on your side of the fence.

        • Just Facts says:

          I would never plant flowers on the public right of way between the sidewalk and the street. Anyone who does should know that they are on the public right of way…and yes I have to mow it and keep the trees on it trimmed. However it does not belong to me. Just part of living in a civilized society I guess.

  6. legalbeagle says:

    The county road right of way is an easement for road purposes only – all other rights (other than use for road purposes) remain with the land owner who continues to own to the center of the road way. When a county vacates a road then the road use is gone
    and the land owner can use it again for all other purposes. The original roads were meandering trails that were vacated and place on the section lines in the 1890’s – go to the courthouse and you can find them in the auditor’s office – that is why some farm places are an eighth of a mile from the road, but some were moved to their present locations near the road.

    In some cases the Iowa DOT has taken a deed and sometimes they only have an easement (the modern way it to take a deed).
    When they widened Highway 18 by Rock Valley there was some land in trust and the DOT wanted to take a deed where they only had an easement, but they did not want to pay for it. Judge Davis had been the attorney for IPS (forerunner of MidAmerican Energy) so I went to him and he said they had to pay something to converth the easement to a deed and they did! If they vacate the highway they will still own it and the property owners will have to buy it back or someone else can buy it.

    If you are harvesting anything from the ditches you have to be the adjoining land owner
    but Sioux County has an ordinance which prevents the landowner from tilling the ditch.

    Unfortunately the supervisors have thought that the easement for a road right of way which was given so the landowner could get his (and help his neighbor’s to get theirs)
    crops to town somehow gives them the right to convey an easement for every utility that comes along, telephone, cable electric, water and a host of others that have nothing to do with roads. They refuse to explain the legal basis for this assertion of ownership – which is because they have none!

  7. Rational says:

    Taxes have nothing to do with the true definition of ownership. The basis of property rights is that you own your body and the effects of it. The state did not buy my land, plant my grass and trees, or do anything to improve my property. The Iowa Code is not the dictionary.

  8. Not exactly says:

    I was never disputing the actual ownership of the land, I fully realize that the landowner does in fact own the ditch and to the center of the road, however while the roads are in place, the ditches and roads are county road right-of-ways and not taxed to the owner, and therefore available for public use.

  9. Good Grief says:

    My three year old grandson and I were out for a walk the other day. He started to pick someone’s flowers. I stopped him and explained to him that we don’t pick other people’s flowers. In other words, if it isn’t yours, don’t take it. Is that simple enough for you?

    • Not exactly says:

      Again, to me, there is a large difference between picking someone’s flowers that they purchased, planted and care for, and a wild plant that grows in the public right-of-way that was neither planted nor maintained by anyone. Of course you shouldn’t take things that don’t belong to you, and you must use common courtesy even when asparagus hunting. If someone doesn’t want you honing in on the patch they claim as theirs, then you should be courteous and respect that. But the fact remains, the plant grows wild in the ditches and the ditches are for public use.

    • Al says:

      The USDA really needs to get going and subsidize the asparagus crop for the farmers. Make it a legitimate cash crop.

    • legalbeagle says:

      If everyone just remembered what they learned in Kindergarten it would put a whole lot of cops, parole officers, judges and lawyers out of business.


  10. Jon says:

    Yes, this issue is complex. Technically, you do own the property to the center of the road, but you are only assessed tax up to the sidewalk or the fence line. This is a compromise that was meant to respect property rights but also provide for the common public good so that we have roads that allow us to pass between properties. Perhaps if you’d like to quibble about the ownership of the road, then individual property owners can be responsible for maintaining and installing all the utilities, lines, pipes, and pavement of the roads that pass by the property. If you’re a farmer, you cannot till the area considered to be the ditch, and the county will remove any crop you plant in that ditch at your expense because it leads to unsafe and illegal road conditions that would make the county and you as a taxpayer and landowner responsible for any legal ramifications of poor maintenance and poor visibility caused by your negligence. Now, as far as the issue of asparagus or flowers or any other issue, I would consider what you would like others to do. The golden rule would go a long ways. We have asparagus growing along a few of our fences, and I would much prefer that someone ask us before assuming that they can just take something on property that they do not own. We are happy to let people pick as much as they want, but I’d rather see people be good neighbors rather than bad.

    • Rational says:

      Thank you for adding to the discussion. I am having trouble following your line of thinking so please clarify. Where is the “compromise” between the property-owner and the government when the choices are pay taxes or there will be a tax lien/tax levy/arrest? There isn’t much of a choice when the threat of force is involved.

      And you know that the “public good” is just an abstraction that doesn’t exist, right? Can you see the “public good?” Can you hold it in your hands? How do you maintain or monitor something that doesn’t exist outside your mind? Food for thought.

      Thanks again!

      • Jon says:

        Things are not nearly as abstract as you think. If one owns property, is it not useful for there to be roads on which to reach your property? Is it not good to have a system of providing water and eliminating waste from your homes? Is it not good that your neighbor’s sewage doesn’t drain onto your property? Now, you’re right, the interpretation of what is good is perhaps variable. Perhaps you’d rather that our state have no transportation systems, that is have no police, fire, or emergency services, that everyone would be responsible for paying for their own water purification, for their own sewer. If you don’t believe in the good that the public can do, I suggest that you experience some time in countries that lack government entities or the wealth or prosperity to ensure that there is proper sanitation, adequate roads, adequate protection. Every civilized country levies taxes for such amenities. And, as a result, we enjoy a longer life expectancy and a higher quality of life. I’m sorry that you do not see any sort of common good that our taxes supply, but if you want to move somewhere where this doesn’t exist, I think you’d be sorely disappointed with the lack of comfort, health, education, basic sanitation, and even access to water that you seem to take for granted. No, you cannot hold the “good” in your hand, but I bet you see the results of this “good” every single day, but it’s been here for so long you don’t even appreciate it as it stares you in the face. Now, it’s certainly not perfect and it is always in need of review and evaluation, but it’s important that we don’t lose sight of some of the important ways in which our taxes do accomplish demonstrative good. But, again, if you want to rip all our infrastructure out, get rid of all taxes, and then try to put it all in yourself, be my guest.

        • Rational says:

          Thou shalt not steal is a good rule, and I think it should apply to the people that rule over us, too.

          I will gladly keep the thousands of dollars that are taken from me every year, and pay individuals that provide excellent service. American society existed without an income tax for almost 140 years. The first roads in America were private. The first railroads and subways were private.

          Government is an older institution than slavery and that was abolished a while ago. Does the cotton still get picked?

    • Town Folk says:

      So then I would in turn appreciate anyone who wants to sit in front of my house during the parade, come to the door and ask. Also I would expect them to clean up their garbage before leaving. You wouldn’t believe how many candy wrappers are left up and down these streets.

      • Jon says:

        That would be a nice gesture, you’re right…to ask the homeowner before placing your chairs out. And, I would expect that people would be conscientious enough to make sure that they are not leaving garbage and wrappers around when they leave. At the same time, I’d also think that it would reflect badly on a homeowner and a community if they did not allow visitors to a town celebration to use the property along the route for the public to view the parade. However, I think a little common courtesy (and a little understanding about an event that happens once a year) would go a long ways for both the homeowners and the people there to enjoy the celebration alike.

  11. Harriet Oleson says:

    Back in Walnut Grove we had an annual spring asparagus picking bee. Once everyone had helped in harvesting all 8000+ acres of Cottonwood County we dropped all of the produce at the lumber mill and everyone split it equally. Everyone’s pee had a greenish tint and odd smell for weeks…..

  12. sue says:

    All of this argument over who owns what ground, where the ROW is, and who pays the taxes over an uproar about asparagus? Would said asparagus have been harvested if someone apparently hadn’t stepped on someones toes and took some asparagus out of their ditch first. Sounds like someone can’t share. I own farm ground, pay my taxes ect.. if someone is walking in the ditch near my property and takes some asparagus, power to them.. just means I was slower than them to get some. Does this also mean if someone throws out a recyclable soda can in the ditch by my property and I see it but come back and someone else picked it up, may I get upset cause I missed out on the 5 cent deposit??

    How about this.. go support a local farmers market and purchase some asparagus there. There are far bigger problems people face than missing out on some asparagus. Smile people.. take a breath, life is too short.

    • Jon says:

      Sue: Thank you for this post. I do think that it is often better for someone to ask rather than just take, particularly if the asparagus is near a residence. However, my brother and my parents who farm fields with many asparagus patches do not particularly care who cuts the asparagus. There actually tends to be enough in the patches near the road that we get a good cutting even if others happen to pick some. I don’t believe we’ve ever experienced a time where we didn’t get any, so enjoy the asparagus, and know that if you can’t cut your own, that it’s not the end of the world if you have to go to a store or visit a farmer’s market and buy it. It’s not like asparagus is a priceless precious commodity. We do need to get a grip!

  13. Pooker says:

    I agree with Sue….what is the problem? Pretty simple, stay out of the fields, don’t go into yards, and don’t leave a mess. I was out hunting asparagus yesterday, and was wondering if I was going to be asked to leave on the dead miles I was hunting on. Jeepers..why are we so worried about it? Half the fun of eating it is hunting for it; and I figure as long as I follow the rules about personal property (see above) I am not hurting anyone. Maybe there should be a new rule….hire a vigilante group (the asparagus police, the tin can police etc.) to keep the ditches from being sullied.

    • barefoot says:

      I don’t know why you want to get it out of the ditches you dont know what its been sprayed with. Go to farmers market. Better yet grow your own.

  14. Just saying says:

    When I lived in the country, a very generous person threw an old sofa and tv in what I considered “our” ditch. So, my husband removed the trash from “our” ditch. So, my question is, who should be responsible for cleaning the ditch that goes past our farm?

  15. Dug says:

    Really? I started reading the posts and just got tired of all the legal bickering. What happened to “Please?” If nobody is around, then go on to the next “secret” picking place? I, personally, have a patch on my fence line, I don’t remember one time that I have yelled at anybody for taking SOME. And I have never ever gotten into a squabble with my neighbor about who’s is who’s. I have the ability to go many places, secret places, where there is a lot of asperagus. Is it in the ditches? Of course. I don’t always ask permission, because, like it was said, they are in the ditches. Birds and other animals have DEPOSITED the seeds, duh. So it’s like first come first serve, but if there is someone around when I go to these places, then I do ask, if not, then too bad, so sad. I do not take more than I’m going to make in one sitting because there isn’t that big of a window, culinary wise, so I want everybody to be able to enjoy. Let’s not be a bunch of screaming whining crying little kids about this? Let’s all just get along and share, come on!!!!!!!! And by the way, why didn’t anybody complain about how much the grocery stores are charging for a bunch? That’s hiway robbery!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Susan says:

    Hmmm… seems to me that town residents are responsible for mowing the area between the sidewalk and street, but yet it is the property of the city!

    • barefoot says:

      You say tbe price in the store is hiway robbery. What about the price of gas looking for it, this doesn’t make it expensive.

  17. biker says:

    Gas yes. Leisure time, out for a ride. So is it stealing picking up pop cans? Where do I send the bill when I pick up trash in ditches. Seriously already. Go pick some in the ditch, others well you just got beaten to the good picken. So be it.

  18. This week Asperagus. Next week radishes. Then tomatoes. Then sweet corn or apples. It doesn’t really matter. Respect other people’s property. If it isn’t YOURS, leave it alone. Go ahead and admire, but if you are bold enough to take it, you should be equally bold enough to ask, and mature enough if the answer is no.
    Why do some people think things are free for the taking?

  19. Fowler says:

    Well thank your for this. I understand how frustrated you are. We had something similar happen. A newly voted county surveyor who is also very rude, just came by one day and cut down our over 60years old tree line and remove our fence. Which are all situated within our property. Now, we pay taxes on that acreage meaning its not being deducted as ditch acreage from our taxes. And also My grandfather commissioned our farmer to dig that ditch in our land and paid for it. We never ever received anything from the county. And now they county surveyor proclaims that it was a public ditch and still is. Well how can that be …we still are paying all the tax on the acres and we have never been invited to a hearing or gotten a notice. Is that even legal?

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