Armed with a shovel, some soil and seeds, Ron Finley has come to be known as the “Gangsta Gardener” and his unexpected tactics have made him one of L.A.’s most widely known artivists.
Frustrated by his community’s lack of access to fresh, organic food, Finley inadvertently started a revolution when he turned the parkway in front of his South Central L.A. home into an edible garden in 2010. When the city cited him for his plantings, Finley started a bureaucratic battle, gathering signatures and working with local officials until city ordinances were altered to include edibles.
Ron’s goal was simple; bring healthy food to an area where there was none. Ron decided he did not want to live in a food prison anymore so he began to plant his own food. This simple logic inspired Ron’s mission to turn food prisons into food forests.
With donated tools, saplings and seeds, he organized volunteers and led “dig-ins” citywide, planting edible gardens in resident parkways and yards, schools and homeless shelters. Eventually Finley’s work earned him an invite to the annual TED conference, an event where innovators share their ideas through storytelling. Finley’s TED Talk is a testament to his passion for the work. It has been viewed by nearly three million people to date on YouTube. Countless phone calls, emails and website messages have told. Finley that his words and actions have affected people from Kauai to Qatar.
With so much momentum behind him, he began to focus his energy on The Ron Finley Project, an organization which is changing culture from the ground up. Finley now speaks at global conferences and in classrooms regularly, spreading his gardening gospel wherever he’s invited.