Los Angeles: urban agriculture and garden graffiti

And another fabulous TED talk on urban agriculture, can you tell I am excited for the spring? :) Guerilla gardener Ron Finley lives in South Central Los Angeles: the home of drive-thrus & drive-bys.  According to Finley, drive-thrus kill more people though, due to obesity & food-related diseases. Some 26.5 million Americans live in food deserts (i.e. no fresh food) such as South Central LA… So Finley & some friends started thinking the problem was the solution: they needed better food.  Founding LA Green Ground, they plant along roadsides & in vacant lots.  While the city government was originally opposed (and a warrant even issued for Finley’s arrest) it soon came out in support of the project.  As Finley notes, why wouldn’t they? “LA has 26 square miles of vacant lots; that’s 20 central parks… enough to grow 725,000,000 tomato plants.”

An artist by trade, gardening is his graffiti. “I grow my art. I beautify lawns, parkways… I use the garden like it’s a piece of cloth… You’d be surprised what soil could do, if you let it be your canvas.”  Urban gardening is also a tool for education, especially in inner-city neighbourhoods.  While challenges persist, Finley emphasizes that to change the community; you have to change the composition of the soil. “We are the soil.”  Moreover, gardening can influence & build healthy eating habits. “If kids grow kale, they eat kale; if they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.”

Equally, we have to make gardening sexy: becoming eco-lutionaries.  Finley wants to flip the script on what it means to be a gangsta in LA’s tougher neighbourhoods: “If you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta… get gangsta with yo’ shovel; and let that be your weapon of choice.”

Next time I head to my garden and pick up the shovel, I may just feel a bit more gangsta myself.  In the meantime, enjoying this TED talk!

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