[151] Ron Finley - Famous Farmer

4m | Nov 22, 2023
  • Ron Finley grew up in the Harvard Park area of South Los Angeles, the middle child in a large family. 

  • Everyday, school was a battle. Toward the end of high school, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and finally learned to read.
  • When Ron was a teenager, he felt frustrated because “I wanted to have the kind of clothes you see in the movies, but nothing fit right.” With $15 he went to a tailor and got his pants altered. They fit great, but he couldn’t afford to keep going to a tailor. When he was 15, he used the family sewing machine to make his own clothes.
  • At 16, he was making clothes for family and friends; when he was 17 he got a scholarship to enroll in the Los Angeles Trade Technical College fashion design program. He bought his first power sewing machine, and in 1984, created DropDead Collecxions, tailored clothes in natural fabrics for men and women that were sold in high-end stores. By 1998 he had completed a 12-week entrepreneurial training class at USC to grow his business, but in 2008 when the recession came, the sales stopped.

  • During that time he Went to the store and saw a tomato with a sign that said “may be coated with shellac” and started noticing a pattern.
  • Ron Got tired of seeing people dying of curable diseases. Got tired of seeing the obesity rate in his neighborhood 5x that of beverly hills, only 8-10 miles away
  • Finley, who studied gardening in a UC Cooperative Extension class taught by Florence Nishida, later hooked up with Nishida and a couple of other folks to address what they call the food desert in South Los Angeles, where healthful options are in short supply. The group is called L.A. Green Grounds.
  • So he Planted food in the parkway in front of his house, 10ft x 150ft
  • Its owned by the city, but you maintain it
  • Someone complained. City issued a citation. Then a warrant followed. Because he grew some food in his yard. Think about that.
  • Someone started a petition and got 900 signatures. Issue was dropped and the law changed.
  • In 2017, The house that Ron rents and has established this jam packed garden had gone up for auction and the new owner had tried to evict him. There was a fundraising campaign and over $500,000 was donated for the Ron Finley Project to own the home outright

  • In his 2013 TED talk, he explains that
  • Over 20 million people in the US have to travel more than 3 miles to get fresh food, something not from a can
  • It’s unclear if he started the phrase “Growing your own food is like printing your own money”
  • But I’m pretty sure he Coined the term “plant some shit”
  • So ron started a “plant some money” campaign
  • He and his group marched a planned route, 3 miles and stopped in front of the Federal Reserve building, and planted some custom made dollars with ron finley’s face on it
  • At you can get your own kit to grow your food at home
  • Theres a little shovel on one side that has seeds attached to it.

  • Probably what he’s known best for is turning an old dresser drawer into a small garden. Got lots of replies and pictures on instagram and facebook
  • He can’t afford to fill the swimming pool in his backyard, so instead of it sitting empty, it’s used for growing more plants, teaching classes, hosting presentations, and even some lunches and dinners.
  • He doesn’t like using the term guerilla gardening because that implies secrecy and neglect. He wants to garden out in the open and care for it
  • Ron tells a story of a mother and her child taking food from his garden around 10:30 at night. He talks with the lady saying that he purposely put it on the street for people to come take and eat
  • That’s the kind of community he’s building by making gardening sexy. Becoming a Gangsta Gardener. Not drive thrus and drive bys
  • Ron has traveled the world encouraging people to grow their own food that’s healthy and free of harmful chemicals.
  • He still resides in Los Angeles

FarmHopLife website

FarmHopLife #20x23project

FarmHopLife Linktree

source 1, source 2, source 3, source 4, source 5, source 6, source 7, source 8

image credit: Theo Jemison

Audio Player Image
FarmHopLife Podcast