Thursday, April 25, 2013

SNAP! Recap 2013: Ron Finley, Renegade Gardner

This last weekend I attended my very first blog conference, SNAP! [held at Thanksgiving Point]. For those who follow our blog, you'll likely hear more about the creative minds behind this conference, the generous sponsors, the knowledgeable and inspiring speakers, and why you should consider attending SNAP! 2014. I'll also introduce you to some of the wonderful women I met while I was there. [You may just bump into them at a future blog conference!]

I met a very impressive man at SNAP!

An inspiration to all, 
Ron Finley is a true urban farming hero.
Huffington Post

I hadn't heard of Ron Finley prior to the Opening Dinner at SNAP! Conference 2013, generously sponsored by Lowe's. Their motto: "Never Stop Improving," which made Ron a perfect choice for Keynote Speaker.

Ron is one of the founders of, an all-volunteer group based in South Central Los Angeles, California. They dedicate their time to transforming "Food Deserts" into "Food Forests" by planting food gardens free of charge across the South Central Los Angeles area.

Ron was raised [and raised 3 sons] in this area. A fashion designer by trade [and he quilts you guys!], Ron was living in a "Food Desert:" an area with little to zero access to affordable fresh food. He showed us a photo from the area of an empty fridge advertising "Fresh Produce." [Can you imagine just plain not being able to find fresh produce?] His community was suffering from diabetes, malnutrition [and under-nutrition], obesity, and other related illnesses.

Instead of waiting for someone to bring healthy food to his community, Ron was determined to be the change. He prepped the 10-foot x 150-foot parkway in front of his home, and planted a food garden to feed his neighborhood.

The soil is his canvas. He grows his graffiti. 

But, the city deemed the strip of land was not 'his' to cultivate. Ron was cited and ordered to remove the unpermitted garden [Los Angeles Times]. Even with an expensive permit, specific rules would determine the type of plants he could grow and the plants' maximum height.

"In an area so devoid of nature and healthy food it just 
seemed crazy that we couldn't grow fresh fruit and vegetables."
Ron Finley
Huffington Post

Ron declared to us at SNAP!, "We have to change the system" and give our kids a better world to inherit. "Grow your own food at whatever cost."

Ron set up a local petition. [In October of 2011] Huffington Post reported his community began to mobilize, the media began to take note, and it wasn't long before local politicians began to call for changes in the rules that would allow urban gardeners to grow food on parkways and in other vacant areas owned by the city, legally. Ron envisions food forests that span whole blocks. His "edible art" has come as a result of his love for his community.

Most impressive about Ron [and the thing that has stayed with me] is his gift to DIG IN, in pure DIY spirit. I feel paralyzed by What, When, Where, and How To Plant. His answer to weed control in an organic garden: your hands. His Gardening Basics are simple:

buy organic seeds 
buy organic soil 
plant the seeds in the soil 
water the soil 
give it love 
connect with it 
let it connect with you 

I came home feeling inspired, and pledged to stop making excuses and just Dig In this week. Then, a strange thing happened. As I gathered my boys to take them outside, I started generating a list of excuses: "I don't have.../I can't.../I don't want..." Where did this sudden resistance come from? This one little seed was causing quite a stir.

I realized, I was afraid. [To put one little seed in the ground, I know...] If I planted a seed, I could fail to help it grow and fail at gardening.

Late Show Top 10 Fun Facts About Gardening
First Lady Michelle Obama | The Late Show With David Letterman

One step at a time we dug in and planted a seed. Although my 1 and ½ year-old spent most of the time throwing dirt, my 4 year-old son had a great time and asks me if we can spend more time in the dirt. Yes we can. 

I'm grateful to the SNAP! team and to Lowe's for introducing us to Ron Finley [and for these:]

 Just the kind of seeds I need ["seed bombs"].

Of course, I'm grateful to Ron Finley - for being Ron Finley. He is an inspiring example, and one of my new favorite people.

Please check out to learn more,
and to see how you can get involved.

What have you planted this year?


  1. He was very inspiring. I'm excited to start breaking ground and getting some edible plants growing.

    1. Yes! I love your Homemade With Love post. [And your beautiful photos of the Thanksgiving Point Gardens!] We didn't do much else for Earth Day but you posted a great list that I'll have to look at for next year!

  2. Audra, What a great post! I too will be expanding my gardening. I am planning on doing a small raised garden bed! Ron was a great inspiration!

    1. Thank you! DeDe I'm EXCITED for your upcoming project! That laundry room looks like Heaven...keep us updated!

  3. I need to use my seed bombs! Although I really do have a "black thumb" - I've killed way too many plants. ;)

    1. Jaquelyn, I had to post this kind Facebook comment from Ron Finley: "HA!! WoW Audra!! Thank you so much for this post. I tried to post on your site but it kept erasing it. Im so honored that I had the opportunity to speak at SNAP. Im so happy that you took the babies out to plant. Tell JAQUELYN just keep trying cause nothing ever dies. To see what Im up to visit me at"