Can guerrilla gardening save the world? One green renegade is on a mission to do just that - a single edible plot at a time

"If kids grow kale, they eat kale," Ron Finley, a famed guerrilla gardener, asserts during his 2013 TED talk. He also believes that food gardening is a revolutionary move with the ability to change the world. In an act of rebellion against the food desert of South Central Los Angeles, he began converting a small strip of city land into a free organic vegetable patch. To most, this may seem like the simplest of feats, yet the outcome brought a community together, roused children to make positive choices and launched a new movement of renegade gardening that transforms neighborhoods and lives.

Speaking out

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 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.

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