In this installment of ‘In the city with:,’ urban gardener Ron Finley redefines city spaces as edible gardens.
You know that skinny stretch of grass along the sidewalk? That lovely patch is called a parkway, but in many urban areas, there’s no grass there at all—it’s just dirt. Ron Finley couldn’t help noticing the stretches of brown canvas in his South L.A. neighborhood, so he decided to turn it into something appealing, at first to simply freshen it up: “just some lavender, jasmine, and rosemary.” But this fragrant foray became a momentous beginning for Finley; soon his palette would grow to inspire surrounding communities.
Finley saw his gardening as a personal mission to address a real problem, on a number of levels: 26.5 million Americans have limited access to fresh food, and often what’s readily available is fast food. This is a big part of the reason why people living in certain communities develop heart conditions, diabetes, asthma, and other health problems.
To help his ailing neighbors, Finley planted urban gardens, not only to provide produce but also to educate people about where their food is coming from, how to take care of it, and how to create new, healthy eating habits.
“I don’t even want to call it an urban community garden. I want it to be a food forest,” he says.
Today the Ron Finley Project is helping people in his community and beyond. He has given TED Talks and been on radio programs, educating a greater audience about the serious problem of food deserts and how people can reconnect with their food through their own initiatives. Beyond just parkways, Finley and his volunteers also target large, unused plots of land, including an acre behind the oldest library in L.A., where he is dreaming big.