Ron Finley wants to make gardening sexy. He is convinced it can rebuild neighborhoods into spaces where healthy food and inspiration are cultivated instead of obesity and ill health, crime and gangs. Considering the city of Los Angeles owns 26 square miles of vacant lots (equal to 20 Central Park's and enough space to grow 725 million tomato plants), there is plenty of opportunity for Finley's vision. But it doesn't come easily where the city is concerned. With the first patch of guerrilla gardening, a single complaint set in motion a bureaucratic process that demanded removal of the edible space. When he refused, a citation was issued as well as a subsequent warrant for his arrest. Finley fought back and won through media exposure along with a petition on Change.org that gathered over 900 signatures.
The greening of South Central
Out of Finley's fledgling act of rebellion, L.A. Green Grounds was born -- a thriving organization staffed entirely by volunteers who have planted over 20 gardens throughout the city with more "Dig-ins" on the way. What's more, it also provides an avenue for learning new skills and developing pride and honor in beneficial, community inspired ways. Instead of gangsters with guns, they have shovels -- the 'weapon' of choice in this South Central green revolution. Finley is dedicated to getting kids of color off the usual track in society by providing a healthy alternative. He has witnessed children in his neighborhood transformed by the gardens with an awakened sense of purpose and mastery. After all, "growing your own food is like printing your own money," enthuses Finley. It just doesn't get much better than that.