The only way the organic food movement will become a fullyi ntegrated concept is when the average person starts to understand why it's important. John Foraker, president at organic foods company Annie's Inc., understands this and, to that end, he has posted several stories on LinkedIn, asking folks to step forward to save Ron Finley’s Gangsta Garden. In the most recent story, Foiraker said, “What I asked of all of you last week was for you to please come together as leaders in the natural & organic industry, in an effort to save Ron Finley, whose South Central Los Angeles garden project is in imminent danger of being taken away.”
Having grown up in South LA, Finley saw a culture cut off from fresh, organic foods. In 2010, he came up with a clever, cost-effective solution: Use the “parkway” (the dirt areas next to roads owned by the city) in front of his house to plant a garden. The city cited him for gardening without a permit. Finley banded together with other green activists, claiming he had a right to grow fresh, healthy food in his neighborhood. The city backed down and Finley's garden project grew.
Word of the “Gangsta Gardener” spread, starting a “global food justice movement". In 2013, Finley gave a TED talk, furthering his message. However, the Project, which now includes a garden, education center, and propagation station, is in danger of being shut down. Finley is being evicted – a fact that could happen any day now.
Nell Newman of Newman’s Own has made a push to save the garden. Now Foraker has joined in and is actively asking the industry to add its collective dollars. Foraker has also started a petition to encourage the property owner to work with Finely to resolve the issue. The petition currently has over 38,000 signatures.
A Ron Finley GoFundMe crowdfunding effort is under way to raise the $550,000 needed to keep the Ron Finley Project afloat. Foraker has committed $50K of his own money; other industry movers supporting the cause include Greg Steltenpohls of Califia Farms in LA, Stonyfield founder Gary Hirshberg, Seventh Generation CEO John Replogle, and Justin's founder Justin Gold. As of today, $524,590 has been raised from 2,870 donors.
This grass roots garden movement is exactly the sort of powerful message that companies need to send in order to champion the little guy, who builds the foundation for future generations to appreciate and understand the importance of healthy foods and environmental responsibility. In the world of Ron Finley, a seed, a shovel, and a plot of land were all that was needed.