A Gangsta Gardner Empowers the Inner-City

When I went to Los Angeles this summer and had the great opportunity to check out the Ron Finley Project, a unique urban gardening initiative that is relevant to the existence of Margins. The program began by gardening in the margins of a street. I was able to meet the man behind the Ron Finley Project and here to write about his work.


South Central, Los Angeles (L.A.) now officially known as South Los Angeles is one of many communities identified as a food desert in the United States. A food desert is defined as an area in where affordable and nutritious food is hard to obtain, which may be due to  food scarcity or limited transportation resources in a community.

Ron Finley, often known as the Gorilla Gardener, Gangsta Gardener, or Renegade, Gardener, from South Central has been operating an initiative for a decade after realizing his neighborhood was a food desert, or as he would say it a “food prison.” Simultaneously he witnessed all the options of nutritional food and close proximity to acquiring it in affluent neighborhoods, neighborhoods not too far from his own. He calls communities like his prisons knowing the lack of healthy edible resources proceeds to the dependence of anything affordable and close. Fast-food, genetically modified grocery food are more abundant and obtainable in his neighborhood. Yet, consistently consuming such food often leads to long-term illness, that is more often costly and deadly. In fact, studies have proven there is a positive relationship between those of lower socioeconomic standings and acquiring cancer.

Finley, took the initiative once he knew he wanted to make a change for his community and planted a small garden in the patch of land near the street curb on his property. However, this effort was faced with a  challenge, the city of Los Angeles was attempting to restrict his efforts for creating a garden without a legal permit.


Nevertheless, Finley remained persistent. In his eyes and many others, he wasn’t doing anything wrong by changing a neglected and heavily littered space to grow food that provided not only nutrition for himself, but also his community. This led him to take legal action which resulted in a reformation making gardening in public permissible on city parkways without having to obtain a permit.

Now Finley,the leader behind the Ron Finley Project which he operates at his home, and the patch of land that received a citation years ago is now what he calls a natural sculpture. It’s filled with beautiful sunflowers, fig trees, flowers, and more. While in the backyard he makes use of just about anything to plant with. He uses his waterless swimming pool as a place to plant and store plants. He uses old bathtubs, toilets, and shopping carts as planting pots. The garden can be seen as a literal depiction of urban gardening and the unique beauty it’s capable of inhabiting . Prior to his gardening endeavor, Finley was a fashion designer and artist, and his artistic ability is well portrayed in his new work.


Operating in the busy city of Los Angeles and serving the underprivileged people of South Central, the Ron Finley Project has become globally known, due to Finley’s ambition and attitude. Finley partakes in other farming/gardening initiatives around the world. Yet, he said he only puts his programs name on his site in L.A. because of the focused dedication to empowering his neighborhood.

The Ron Finley Project garden is open to the public for volunteers and those in need of nutritious food. He believes food is both a problem and solution for his community. Further, by providing and implementing sustainable food he believes his oppressed neighborhood can count less on institutions and more on one another and the fruits of their collective labor.




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