Title: Gangsta Gardener
Organization: The Ron Finley Project
“Ron Finley helps communities fight the oppression of health and well being by empowering them to create their own access to fresh and natural foods. I feel that empowering our most vulnerable neighbors in this way is one of the truest forms of heroism there is in modern times.” –Nichole Curtis, Nominator
- Having grown up in South Central Los Angeles’ food prison, Ron Finley knew what it was like to drive 45 minutes for fresh vegetables. In 2010, moving into a rental home on Exposition Blvd., Finley decided to do something about it by planting a vegetable garden on the dirt strip of public land between his house and the curb.
- When the City of Los Angeles, which owned the land, cited Finley for “gardening without a permit” he fought back by starting a petition, signed by other green activists, for the right to grow food and garden in his neighborhood. The City of Los Angeles eventually granted him permission to garden in the public space. Media attention followed, and Finley leveraged it to establish himself as the “Gangsta Gardener,” a food activist who has become a champion for community gardens and a catalyst for education around sustainable eating in underserved communities everywhere.
- His goal is to change South Central LA from a “food prison to food forest,” so kids can grow up with the option of healthy, nutritious food.
- Finley has turned his property into a thriving community garden, creating a source of free organic produce for a neighborhood where the obesity rates are said to be three times higher than those in West Los Angeles. In 2017, with the help of funds from such organic company supporters and individuals who admired his work such as Nell Newman of Newman’s Own, Bette Midler, Annie’s Organic, Clif Bars and Dr. Bronner’s, Finley bought the property.
- Finley is an advocate for the urban (aka“gangsta”) gardening movement all over the world– gardening on unused land that gardeners don’t have a legal right to cultivate such as parkways and vacant lots – in order to transform them into community gardens where people can learn about nutrition and join together to plant, work, and socialize – and be healthy together.
- The current goal of The Ron Finley Project, which began as gardening on the median strip in front of his house and expanded to the abandoned empty pool in his backyard, is to build an urban garden in South Central LA to be named “HQ.” Plans for HQ to be a self-sufficient ecosystem of gardening, education, cooking, business learning and management that will also create jobs for local residents. “Having knowledge of how systems work and being able to support yourself,” Finley says. “That’s gangsta.”