Session spotlight: Greenbuild master speaker Ron Finley
Ron Finley is a man who will not sit still and watch a problem take root. Having grown up in the South Los Angeles food desert, Ron is familiar with the area's lack of fresh produce. He knows what it's like to drive 45 minutes just to get a fresh tomato.
In 2010, he set out to fix the problem. Outside his front door, that is. Ron planted vegetables in the curbside dirt strip next to his home. And quietly, carefully, tenderly started a revolution. More than being a guerrilla gardener, Ron is a community leader. Determined to change South Los Angeles from food desert to food forest, he wants his actions to be educational, inspiring, and nutritious. He wants kids to grow up with the option of healthy food, instead of fried, fattening staples. He wants to sweep up and transform his street, his hood, the city of LA and communities everywhere.
Our Greenbuild 2013 master series session with Ron Finley will discuss how gardening can become a tool for community transformation and describe how training kids to garden can empower them to be engaged in their communities and lead a sustainable life.
Chair of our Greenbuild Special Program Working Group, Annette Stelmack (Principal & Owner at Inspirit-llc), picked this as her favorite session to attend at Greenbuild. Check out her preview below!
What interests or excites you most about this session?
Annette: I love that Ron is a 'gangsta gardener,' a renegade with a mission and his tools are the earth, seeds and a shovel!! A man after my own heart. Ron is a dynamic inspiration transforming desolate, vacant lots in South LA into thriving, food and life giving forests of vegetation. I love that Ron is bringing 'life' back into his community through the Ron Finley Project. He is transforming people, especially kids — the next generation of sustainability natives — with the soil which in turn nurtures the community! How awesome and giving is that!
Why is the topic of this session important?
Annette: Ron is BEING the difference! He's a perfect role model that will inspire us to be respectful renegades following our passion to make a difference in our communities. He is transforming the lives of people in his community by giving them free money in the form of healthy, delicious food!! Brilliantly simple. In a place where many go hungry or eat toxic fast foods Ron is planting gardens in slices of unused and uncared for land, between the curbs and the sidewalks and vacant lots, to grow free food for any one who walks by. It's a vegetation violation of the best kind! (Ok, you have to hear Ron to get that one.)
Why should Greenbuild attendees attend this session specifically?
Annette: To learn and be inspired. To be challenged to think outside the box! To see first hand how we can BE the difference by engaging others in our passion and BEING the change we want to see in the world! Listening to Ron's TED Talk, I can't wait to meet him in person! He's an awesome example of grassroots restorative and regenerative design! (Ok, enough exclamation points already.)
How do you interface with this topic or issue in your work or home life? Have you had an experience related to this issue or topic that you would like to share?
Annette: Gardening is one of my passions and truly a lifeline to multi-generational values handed down to me by my great grandparents, grandparents and parents. I love getting my hands dirty, they actually long to be in the soil and connects me back to my immigrant grandparents. I have their roses, garlic, chives, maggi-kraut, perennials, tomatoes — yes I save the seeds like my grandma did — blooming shrubs and trees in my garden and my heart is happy when I feel their love smiling back at me through a thriving rose blooming or delicious roasted garlic. Its magical watching the vegetables and perennials grow everyday and they too feed my spirit. Mother Earth never ceases to amaze me how she bounces back, year after year even through late season freezes or flooding or draught. She's a great role model for resiliency in my life. She feeds me literally, figuratively and spiritually!
What’s the most interesting non-green building related fact about yourself?
Annette: I'm a first generation American who can play the accordion, dance a mean polka and make some delicious German strudel!