Ron Finley, Guerrilla Gardener and Food Desert Hero

Ron Finley, Gangsta Gardener

Ron Finley, Gangsta Gardener and Community Leader in South Central LA.

It’s rare to find an individual who is as raw, independent, and direct in his willingness and tenacity to solve a significant problem as Ron Finley. I’m thrilled that Ron took the time for this interview for, and hope that he’s as inspiring to you as he is to us.

Visit his website:


Ron illegally grew vegetables (?!) in between the sidewalk and the street in front of his house in South Central LA food desert. Refusing to cave in to law enforcement, he worked to change the laws. Since, he has been gardening steadily and helping others do so. He’s given a viral TED talk, and he’s now the focus of an award winning documentary,  Can You Dig This, trailer, below. I can’t wait to see the film!

Ron’s TED talk was a great inspiration to me when shaping’s mission. For all the seed balls we put to market, we’re also donating supplies and educating about the value of gardening within our community and online.  When you start breaking the frost in your garden this spring, think about Ron’s efforts, and consider how your gardening can help the community around you to grow as well!


Ron Finley reflects stoically in his garden.

Ron Finley reflects stoically in his garden.

Blake Ketchum: You’ve been on the frontline of urban agriculture for some time. What is working? What are the critical challenges?

Ron Finley: People. People are the challenges and people are what is working! This it’s not just about growing food. It’s about changing culture. People don’t touch shit anymore, we have to change that. Everything is in cyberspace and not based in reality. The fact that feeding yourself and your family has become abnormal is a testament to our time.

Blake: When people are introduced to growing their own food, how do they feel?

Ron: Some people are intimidated. Some people celebrate it. Some are transported to a place in time where their family grew their own food. But once they are introduced, it changes their entire view and the trajectory of the way the relate to food. It empowers people, it’s like reestablishing purpose.

Blake: I’m the kind of person who loves growing radishes in November even though I don’t live in a food desert. What can I do to help promote the benefits and joys of vegetable gardening?

Ron: Just that. Share what you feel and how it makes you feel. Share how simple and how complex it is at the same time. Share the alchemy of nature. Get on your soapbox and confess your love and how you have embrace gardening and profess how it has changed your life and how it has become your solace. Tell people how the soil seduces you and how everything comes from and goes back to the soil. Tell them that the soil represents life itself.

Blake: Urban areas are distinct from agrarian landscapes in so many ways. What are the most valuable rewards of bringing agriculture to urban centers?

Ron: The most valuable rewards are change in the eco system, help, proximity to the population, less resources and energy used to get the food to the people in underserved areas, but most importantly, a greater understanding of the food system and where food comes from and an appreciation for the process. If we’re gonna get gangsta about something, we have to get gangsta about Mother Earth.

Photographs sourced from


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