As the very first few buds appear, and sprigs of green and rhubarb shoots push through the thawed soil of my back yard, I was inspired last night by a talk in Calgary hosted by Calgary Economic Development – a series of speakers on the subject of sustainable food wrapped up with Ron Finley, a guerrilla gardener from south central LA who plants vegetable gardens in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs… anywhere he and his team of volunteers can find space. Their goal – beyond beautifying the city (“the soil is my canvas,” he says) he wants to offer an alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”
Finley’s journey began with the curbside veggie garden he planted in the small, narrow strip of dirt that divided the sidewalk from the street in front of his own house. When the city tried to shut it down, it triggered a domino effect as dozens, then hundreds and thousands joined his movement, helping to cultivate a nourishing food culture in South Central LA’s food desert.
“Growing your own food is like printing your own money,” Finley says, encouraging lower-income families and those living in homeless shelters to invest in a $1 packet of seeds, which will ultimately produce about $75 worth’ of beans. Today, Finley spends much of his time traveling, speaking, and motivating others to follow suit – to get out there and build community by growing food to feed the people you share your space with.
People often ask if he’s afraid people will steal his produce. “Hell no, that’s the whole point!” He emphasizes, “that’s why it’s out on the street.”
Whether you grow your own food or not, Ron’s TED Talk is an inspirational one – a great one to watch with the kids as our Canadian growing season begins.