Ron Finley: The Urban Gangster Gardener

Ron Finley is a man who will not sit still and watch a problem take root. Having grown up in a South Los Angeles food desert, Ron is familiar with the area’s lack of fresh produce. He knew what it’s like to drive 45 minutes just to get a fresh tomato.

“The depression of 2008 hit my business really, really bad,” explains Finley. “I went to a grocery store in my neighborhood and I’ll never forget — I picked up a tomato and it said ‘May be coated with shellac.’ Shellac? That’s the stuff we would put on wood in woodshop.”

But when he went into other nicer neighborhoods, that wasn’t the case. They had clean, fresh vegetables. It was then that he saw that in Black and Brown neighborhoods, this limited access to healthy food was by design.

The parkwayway portion of the sidewalk is public area, it’s between the street and sidewalk. The homeowner but for years it was left vacant or with trash, broken down toilets, etc. So when Finley decided to make it a garden, he was given a citation — a ticket?!

“You didn’t give a sh– when it had trash and toilets on it, but as soon as I tried to beautify it, there was a warrant for my arrest? I figured it was time for this to change.

So Ron, along with a city councilman, fought the government in order to change the law. And it worked! Now the law states that you don’t need a permit to create your own garden. Awesome!

(Photo credit: The Local Rose)

“Gardening. Growing your own food. That’s gangster.”
“Being educated. That’s gangster.”
“Building a community. That’s gangster,” Ron says proudly.

Now the whole community is involved. Ron is teaching others how to grow their own food, share resources and…

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