Let us introduce Ron Finley, a man who will not sit still and watch a problem take root. Having grown up in South Los Angeles, in what Finley aptly describes as a ‘food prison’, Ron is familiar with the area’s lack of fresh produce. He knows what it’s like to drive 45 minutes just to get a fresh tomato. In 2010, he set out to fix the problem. Outside his front door, that is. Ron planted vegetables in the curbside dirt strip next to his home. And quietly, carefully, tenderly started a revolution. “I wanted a carrot without toxic ingredients I didn’t know how to spell” says Ron.
His was an exceptionally creative, cost-effective and simple solution; however, it was also an act of spirited rebellion that led to a run-in with the authorities. The City of Los Angeles owns what are euphemistically called “parkways”, the neglected dirt areas next to roads where Ron was planting. He was cited for gardening without a permit. This slap on the wrist did little to dissuade his green thumb. So Ron fought back. Hard. He started a petition with fellow green activists, demanding the right to garden and grow food in his neighborhood and then, the city backed off. This caught the eyes of creative leaders and media voices that lauded his courageous act of ebullient defiance. Ron has continued to share his story and vision with the world, giving a TED talk and planning ways to continue his involvement in mitigating Los Angeles’ food prisons.
IGNITING A HORTI-CULTURAL REVOLUTION
More than being a gangsta gardener, Ron is a community leader. Determined to change South Los Angeles from food desert to food forest, he wants his actions to be educational, inspiring, and nutritious. His organization, the Ron Finley Project, has been working tirelessly to shift local paradigms in order to create lasting change. The organization focuses on building alliances with individuals, community members and businesses to form a network that connects people, land and funding.
You see, Finley wants kids to grow up with the option of healthy food, instead of fried, fattening staples. He wants to sweep up and transform his street, his neighborhood, the city of LA and communities everywhere. He envisions a world where gardening is ‘gangsta’, where cool kids know their nutrition and where communities embrace the act of growing, knowing and sharing the best of the earth’s fresh-grown food.
A FRUIT AND VEGGIE OASIS CALLED ‘HQ’
As part of this effort, the Ron Finley Project is planning to build an urban garden in South Central LA that will serve as an example of a well-balanced, fruit-and-veggie oasis called “HQ”. Inspired by the idea of turning unused space such as parkways and vacant lots into fruitful endeavors, this garden and gathering place will be a community hub, where people can learn about nutrition and join together to plant, work and unwind. HQ aims to create a myriad of jobs for local residents, and the plot of land will be a self-sufficient ecosystem of gardening, education, cooking, business learning and management. You can help them win a Seeds of Change Grant for HQ by voting for them here until April 18th, 2016. The community will get their hands dirty together, shovel together, work together and be healthy together. To learn more about the Ron Finley Project and how you can help, visit the Ron Finley Project.