In the Wake of the Shutdown, a South Central LA Resident Advocates for Inner City Gardens

Cultivating change.

They call him the “gangsta gardener.” After a successful career in fashion, Ron Finley turned to gardening. Ten years ago, he planted a vegetable garden between his South Central home and the street. When he was told it was illegal to plant within the footpath and curb, he fought to get the law changed. Since then, Finley has helped create dozens of community gardens in his neighborhood. He’s also done a TedTalk and appeared in the 2015 documentary Can You Dig This? To Finley, having accessible fresh produce is essential to the health of a community.

According to The Guardian, “Finley lives in what he calls a “food prison”. South Central Los Angeles is a predominantly black and Latino neighborhood known for liquor stores, vacant lots, drive-thus and drive-bys. Due to its favorable climate this should be the market garden of America but homegrown produce is an alien concept to many.

“Since lockdown, gardening has turned into a survival impulse. All over the world, seed suppliers are running out of stock—when it comes to panic-buying, carrot and courgette seeds are the new toilet roll. Even live chicken sales have spiked. The Good Life is back in fashion.

“For most people self-sufficiency will always remain a dream, but that hasn’t stopped improbable gardens sprouting up in window boxes, back yards and balconies since lockdown. ‘Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do … There are so many metaphors in that garden – we’re cultivating ourselves, we’re learning how to take care of things, we’re learning that nothing is instantaneous,’ says Finley.”

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