HEALTHY LIVING
03/08/2013 10:27 am ET

Ron Finley, "Gangster Gardener" Delivers TED Lecture On Neighborhood Gardens And Health (VIDEO)

Ron Finley is a successful clothing designer and artist from Los Angeles whose life got a little dirtier when he realized something strange about his neighborhood.

He found that South Central, Los Angeles was overwhelmingly filled with "Liquor stores. Fast food. Vacant lots,"but had no great place to get fresh, affordable produce. "People are losing their homes, they're hungry, they're unemployed, and this area is so underserved with nutritional food." Finley was quoted in an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Since he'd just taken a course on gardening at the Natural History Museum, he decided to put his newfound knowledge to good use and planted a garden in a small strip of grass by his house with the help of his teacher, Florence Nishida and some friends.

Even though Finley used a small plot of land -- about 10 feet wide, 150 feet long according to the Los Angeles Times -- the city still gave him a citation, which eventually turned into a warrant. His garden, filled with tomatoes, peppers and chard, celery, kale and herbs, had been deemed illegal.

Luckily with the help of LA Green Grounds, a charity he co-founded to help spread gardens throughout Los Angeles, Finley managed to overcome the citation, with the additional encouragement of his councilman, Herb Wesson. LA Green Grounds continues to help communities acquire gardening skills and grow their own produce, "And it always amazes me how planting a bunch of seeds or plants really can change someone's life as they watch it grow, and then harvest it. I've seen people light up and literally change before my eyes." Finley explains.

"Growing your own food is like printing your own money," Finley said in his TED talk. He has educated his community in the importance of gardening as a sustainable, cost-effective and healthy activity in the hopes the can help turn these "food deserts" into "food forests."

Finley perfectly sums up the significance of his gardening movement with this very promising observation: "If kids grow kale, kids eat kale!"

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