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Ron Finley The Gangsta Gardener.jpg
Ron Finley The Gangsta Gardener.jpg

South Central LA's 'Gangsta Gardener' is fighting eviction to keep his community garden


Street Poets uses the power of poetry to help at-risk youth channel their voices for good

WATCH | Ron Finley, who has become famous as "The Gangsta Gardener," has a free community garden on his lawn in South Central Los Angeles. Anyone who wants fresh, healthy food is welcome to take it from his garden, no questions asked. But right now, Finley's garden is in jeopardy. 

Ron Finley garden from corner.jpg

The garden is in Finley's backyard, but also covers an area where grass used to grow along the parkway between the sidewalk and the street. He planted it in 2010, and today it's a very mature, food-bearing garden.

South Central LA neighborhood.jpg

The surprising part, for most people, is the location of the garden. Finley describes South Central as an area where it's easier to get drugs and alcohol than healthy food. The only nearby food is fast food. 

(For complete clarification, the city of Los Angeles officially changed the name of the neighborhood from 'South Central' to 'South LA.' But, for many people the name hasn't stuck, and so colloquially it is still referred to as South Central L.A.)

Artichoke sprouts.jpg

But in Finley's garden, there are tangerines, pomegranates, all kinds of lettuce, sweet potatoes, squash, herbs and more. The tiny sprout of an artichoke plant grows in this pot. Ron gently planted it by the curb. 

You can design the life you want to live, rather than the life that's been designed for you.
Ron Finley

The Ron Finley Project was created to address what Finley saw as a big problem in his community: people were disconnected from food, and they lacked inspiration to build a better life. He wanted to change how people living in inner cities think about and approach building a better life, starting with the food they eat.  

But now, Finley may lose his garden, and he's turning to crowdfunding for help.

Ron Finley garden and sidewalk.jpg

A company called Strategic Acquisitions purchased the house and served Finley an eviction notice (he had been a long-term renter from the previous owner). He said this is something that's been happening all over his neighborhood. 

The simplest way for Finley to keep the property would be to purchase it from Strategic Acquisitions. But they're asking $500,000 for it, which is more than he has. 

Finley's Go Fund Me page is flooded with support from people who believe in his movement, or have been inspired by the garden. So many in the community don't want to see it lost. 

Strategic Acquisitions has yet to respond to a request for comment on the garden. 

Ron Finley hands with seeds.jpg

Finley won't surrender his garden without a fight, but he says his movement will continue no matter what happens. He will always be "The Gangsta Gardener," changing his community one seed at a time. 

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