I’ll take a cup of opportunity over a boatload of hope every fucking day.
“Gardening is gangster,” says Ron Finley, as I admire the mini-jungle he’s grown alongside his house. “Planting seeds is the most real thing there is.”
He levels his eyes at me and I nod in agreement. I’m not sure I know precisely what he means, but man, I like the sound of it. I’ve only been chatting with Finley for 20 seconds and he’s already offered up a handful of winning lines. Before my car was off, he gave me an impassioned explanation of the incredible lifecycle of dirt. Even in a town like Los Angeles — where soundbites are the stock in trade — he stands out.
You might have heard of Ron Finley. In 2013, he presented a TED talk in which he detailed the story of planting a garden in a barren strip running beside his property — that little ribbon of land between the sidewalk and the street — to the dismay of city officials. He spoke about shifting the paradigm in South Central, a “food desert” where dialysis clinics anchor mini-malls but fresh produce is damn near impossible to find. The talk took off. To date, it’s been seen roughly 2.6 million times on the TED site and 600,000 times on YouTube. The speech didn’t just open doors for Finley, it made him a global name in renegade gardening. He became friends with Alice Waters, he went on TV with Russell Brand, and the New York Times wrote a glowing profile.