South L.A. Gardening Renegade to Speak at TED 2013 in Long Beach

Local gardening renegade Ron Finley will be one of the speakers at this February’s TED2013, themed “The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered.

Finley is one of the co-founders of L.A. Green Grounds, an informal organization dedicated to transforming South Los Angeles front yards into edible gardens.

At his inspiring TEDx talk last year in Vancouver, he discussed the origins of his interest in gardening as stemming, in part, from the lack of access to fresh food in South L.A. and encouraged attendees to just go out and “plant some shit.”

He had done just that in late 2010, digging up the 10-by-150 foot parkway (the strip of turf between the sidewalk and the curb) next to his home off Exposition Blvd. and planting tomatoes, peppers, chard, melons, squash, pumpkins, onions, broccoli, eggplant, celery, kale, and herbs.

While the spot quickly became popular among neighbors and people who needed access to fresh healthy food, the city wasn’t so impressed.

Finley hadn’t gotten a permit to do the work ahead of time and was soon issued a citation. The city wanted him to either remove the “obstructions” and all “overgrown vegetation,” according to the L.A. Times’ Steve Lopez, or seek a costly landscaping permit. Finley, with help from the other founding members of L.A. Green Grounds, resolved to do neither. Armed with a petition signed by several hundred people, they took the city on. Finley finally earned a reprieve in late 2011, when the hearing on his case was postponed indefinitely.

Since then, Finley and the other founders of Green Grounds (including Master Gardener Florence Nishida, Craig Dietrich, and Vanessa Vobis) have gone on to help empower other South L.A. residents to plant and care for their own gardens at monthly “dig-ins,” where volunteers are always welcome. For more information about Green Grounds, see a write-up of a dig-in I visited last summer or visit their website to see posts and photos from past events.

Finley’s own garden continue to thrive; this past fall, 10-foot tall sunflowers guarded over a riotous mixture of vegetables and herbs. If you can’t make the TED talk, be sure to hop on the Expo Line to check out his pièce de résistance — it is visible from the train just east of the Farmdale stop.

  • UrbanFoodForest

    Thanks You Sahra for shinning the Light!

  • Anonymous

    A draft ordinance to create regulations allowing parkway gardens was presented to Council President’s Wesson’s office (at his request) and now appears to be dead due to lack of commitment from CD10 and the mayor’s office.

  • Anonymous

    If you are going to try urban gardening, you might want to test your soil, or at least find out about the history of your neighborhood. Some people in Brooklyn have found lead contamination.

    The idea that you should need a landscaping permit to do this is ridiculous. You shouldn’t need a permit to do any landscaping.


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