Liquor stores, fast food chains and vacant lots is how Ron Finley describes his neighorhood and he continues by saying he lives in a place known for drive thrus and drive bysâ€”only the drive thrus can do more physical damage in the form of obesity and disease.
According to Finley, LA leads the United States in vacant lots, some 26 square miles of them or the size of 20 Central Parks and he wants to turn those lots in landscapes that nourish the body and soul. He started by planting on a strip of land next to his house, which brought him tickets from the city, but he fought back, started an online petition and ultimately gained the support and the ground for community gardens and green spaces.
Finley believes we can and should turn food deserts into food forests and he has been doing just that for years in and around South Los Angeles. He calls himself a designer, a gardener and a collector. He is also a visionary, an activator and an executioner (as in someone who gets the job done).
Working with a group called L.A. Green Grounds, Finley has been involved in dozens of projects called "dig ins" that get people started growing their own food as well as beautifying their surroundings. They also help educate about the importance of cultivating healthy eating habits. They have issued a "Grow Your Own" challenge, encouraging anyone with interest to organize a dig in in their city or town.
Do you know someone who is helping their community raise their food standards? Nominate them for next week's AmericanTown's Heroes.