Ron Finley describes himself as an artist. His canvas is unused city-owned land and his paints are fruit and vegetable plants. Inspiration for his work came from looking closely at his ‘own backyard’ and realizing that the problem and the solution are one and the same: food. What he saw was a food desert where the only food available was fast food, and he also saw the declining health of the South Central Los Angles population, and a city that has almost 26 square miles of city-owned vacant land, enough space to grow approximately three-quarters of a million tomato plants!. Finley’s solution for his neighborhood’s problems is to engage in guerrilla gardening and to grow healthy and accessible food in what he names a ‘food forest’.
Guerrilla gardening is growing food on unused land that is often an abandoned site or other area not being maintained. Guerrilla gardening is a form of political activism – nonviolent direct action or constructive program – and it is intended to create positive social change – specifically, the dismantling of the domination system in our food system. Where gardens such as Finley’s food forest spring up, amazing things begin to happen. Community gardens work to reduce the impact of poor nutrition by improving access to healthy food. Yet they empower us to do so much more than simply that:
- They can improve our health through exercise, fresh air and sunshine in addition to providing us with fresh and nutritious locally grown food.
- They build community through the formation of community garden clubs.
- They act as education centers that teach about gardening and the environment, plus exercise, healthy food choices, how to work together in community, and how to bring about positive social change.
- They provide us with a new hobby to enjoy, and one that pays benefits instead of costing money.
- They improve our environments and help us to save limited natural resources.
- They provide for more nutritious meals while spending less money so that we may reach out and help others too.
Guerrilla Gardening is a fine example of living more-with-less.
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