Ron Finley: A Guerilla Gardener in South Central

This video is awesome.   It’s about Ron Finley, a guy from South Central LA who began starting gardens all over his impoverished neighborhood.   He mentions some of his head-butting with the municipal government of LA and some of the reasons why he does what he does.

As a middle class white guy with tentacles reaching out to both the high brow and the low brow world, I get to hear armchair quarterbacking from all sides on issues of poverty.   Usually one segment has something to say along the lines of “fuck ’em, make them get jobs, no one ever gave me shit” and the other segment usually offers something along the lines of throwing more money at the problem and vague calls for more “education”, without really specifying what that even means.     On this specific issue of “food deserts” (places where nutritious food is scarce and junk food is abundant) and everything around it, usually the discourse ranges between anecdotes about people using food stamps to buy cheetos and grape soda or lofty ideas about how they should just put a Whole Foods on Crenshaw Boulevard or if they would just throw a bunch of organic vegetables on kids’ trays at school to solve the problem.      Ron Finley isn’t waiting for the “them” to solve the problem or spending a lot of time talking about it, he’s going nuts planting things all over South Central LA and sharing it with his community.

I like the idea of taking those used shipping containers to make farmer’s market kiosks or cafes serving healthy locally grown food.   There’s probably a ton of them nearby due to the LA/Long Beach ports and well, there’s a little bit of an imbalance between the amount of things we’re importing from the Orient and what we’re actually exporting, but that’s another story.   It kind of reminds me of the impromptu farmer’s markets that sprouted up in The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil and I suppose the situations really aren’t that different from each other:  poor people that need food and grew it themselves.   I’m sure the jobs that would created by the sale of produce are ones that people would really take pride in – it’s one thing to collect a check to work at the cell phone kiosk, but manning a local farmer’s market stand is probably something that someone really feels good about doing.   Plus it would most likely keep everything within their own community.

Now here’s a little bit of my middle class armchair quarterbacking:   No one is really taught how to do things anymore.   As a society we imply to kids that building things, growing things, fixing things, etc. is below them and anything other than four years of college and an office job means you missed the target.   We get too wrapped up patting kids on the head and telling them they can be astronauts, cure cancer or be the president that we often forget to teach them how to do things that will be valuable to them in their adult life.   For example, if kids were taught how to grow food like this guy is doing, that’s a great life-long skill and like Finley says “it’s like printing money”.   I think this lack of emphasis on true life skills hurts the poor the worst.

I like the finale of this video.    “Grab a shovel and plant some shit”   They should make bumper stickers that say that.