20 Aug 2018

Ron Finley: The Gangsta Gardener

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:35 pm on 20 August 2018

Gangsta gardener Ron Finley, who once had a warrant out for his arrest for planting up his berm in Los Angeles, is in New Zealand for Wellington On A Plate and to promote his movie. 

Ron Finlay - The Gangsta Gardener

Ron Finlay - The Gangsta Gardener Photo: supplied

Finley says he realised his neighbourhood had no fresh fruit or vegetables available, and decided to do something about it. 

"I call them food prisons because you have to break out of them. 

"I look around and I could get liquor fast, I could get cigarettes, I could get fast food, all of those things that’s detrimental to your health was convenient, but trying to be healthy - that wasn’t convenient.

"What I did, I planted a garden on the street. You guys over here I think call them berms but we call them parkways … it’s that piece of grass in front of your house on the street. 

"That’s when I got an arrest warrant, one of my neighbours called on me, and I love to say ‘embrace your haters because they make you famous’. If it wasn’t for somebody literally trying to get me arrested and in trouble I wouldn’t be here on Radio New Zealand."

He says the garden was full of all sorts of fresh fruit and vegetables. 

"I had bananas on the street, I had blackberries and blueberries and artichokes. So many different kinds of food that it’s amazing to even think about, from apricots to plums to oranges to figs, right there on the street.

"It’s 150 feet (45m) long to maybe 9 1/2 feet (~3m) wide, and to me it’s basically a demonstration of the possibilities about how we can change our environment, and not wait for someone else to change it for us." 

Since then, the law has been changed and Finley has done a TED talk and starred in a documentary, with John Legend as an executive producer and providing some of the music. 

Finley says his food revolution is growing bigger than he ever expected. 

"From kids in India sending me pictures and calling themselves gangsta gardeners. 

"Food to me is not that much because to me it’s the act of involving yourself in the garden, and that’s how you learn … how you can change your whole life. 

"It’s common sense, so to have this happen in places all over the world, I couldn’t have imagined this nor could I have planned this. I’ve done this with very very little funding at all. 

"That it’s reached this kind of mass - just imagine if collectively we got together and I had the funding to make this happen imagine what we could do to change this planet, because it’s real simple: if you heal your mother you heal yourself and at the moment we’re kind of killing our mother. 

"You have to realise that cities are not designed for people, cities are designed for commerce, and we’re worker ants. We feed the commerce."

Finley says he's looking forward to trying some of the burgers in Wellington.