Although I didn’t initially blog about this, last summer a big, urban-gardening related brouhaha — complete with Change.org campaign and several stories in the Los Angeles Times — went down in South Los Angeles’ Crenshaw district. All the fuss was over the unlikely location of neighborhood resident Ron Finley’s lush, edible garden: a neglected, 10-by-150 foot stretch of dirt and weeds located in between the sidewalk and the street. The city, up in arms over Finley’s unorthodox parking strip gardening techniques, moved into action and a battle to preserve the vibrant urban oasis located in the middle of a legitimate “food desert” began.
Finley created the garden after enrolling in a University of California Cooperative Extension gardening class taught by master gardener Florence Nishida and picked the location because it was unused, convenient and, well, extremely ugly. The location is also incredibly public, but that’s kind of the point: Finley isn't just growing veggies to feed himself, but to feed and inspire the entire community. Of course, the city technically owns the strip of land and ordered Finley to remove his garden as it didn’t follow established "residential parkway landscaping guidelines” which only allows for — with a $400 permit — drought-resistant plants under 36” tall.
Writes Steve Lopez in an Aug. 20 article in the L.A. Times: “In other words, you can plant turf and pour untold gallons of water into keeping it green, as thousands do in our state, despite its history of water shortages. But heaven forbid you plant fruits and vegetables that require less water and actually feed people. And in Finley's case, he collects rainwater in drums and uses it to irrigate his garden well into the summer.”
Long story short, the fight to keep the garden went all the way to city hall and, with the help of Councilman Herb Wasson and a small army of activists and neighborhood supporters, Finley was allowed to keep the garden. As displayed in the beautifully produced video from Health Happens Here that I’ve embedded below, Finley’s curbside mini farm is doing quite well after the controversy. Finley’s story — and the video itself — is incredibly inspiring stuff. Take a look.
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