Ron Finley: How Urban Gardening Can Change Your Lifestyle

Ron Finley, the Urban Gardener, isn’t your ordinary gangster, which is well and good for a chat with Marc Angelo. The two share a powerful discussion of the difference between promoting a cause and taking action on it, and there are few people in the world more qualified to have that talk.

Ron’s moniker, the Guerrilla Garden Gangster, sprang up as naturally as the food-bearing plants he started producing in his urban gardens. Green stretch between the sidewalk and the street? Ron turned it into a garden. Tall, fruitless tree? Ron grafted in fruit-bearing branches to take advantage of the growth.

He explains that “soil is everything… it’s where life comes from,” and identifies that as the focal point of a strong community. What he saw in his own life was wasted space, food deserts caused by industrialization and strange policies which failed to take advantage of the actual space in an environment and the many opportunities for urban gardens.

It’s that sort of action that Marc and Ron both promote — getting people out and active in their communities, demanding that corporations be held accountable by not purchasing their goods, and learning how to care for ourselves. Ron exclaims, “I had sixty people putting in an urban garden while you are all are marching. Which do you think is more effective?

The secret, the great trick that both of these men used to achieve their success, is easily underestimated and often ignored by even the most passionate people.

That secret? Turn every goal into an immediate action.

That secret is only a small part of what makes this urban gardener a ‘new age gangsta,’ so if you want to find out more, tune in to the podcast and hear them discuss what it would take to solve California’s water crisis, design better systems, and inspire communities to grow and work together.

Don’t forget to rate, review, and subscribe this podcast to make sure that others can get in on the action as well!



Main Questions 

  • What made you decide to really reclaim this land and form your urban gardens? [4:00]
  • Where did you learn urban gardening, and from where did the inspiration come to do this? [6:30]
  • What should people do to fix all of our food supply problems? [39:30]

Key Points Made by Marc Angelo and Ron Finley

  • Ron Finley considers where he lives not just a food desert, but a food prison. His plan was to break those bars by planting urban gardens in place of the grass strips of the parkways. [3:00]
  • In light of the California drought crisis and everything else we’re seeing with climate change, how is it still illegal to enact such simple solutions to problems like this? [13:30]
  • Companies will only work for a greater change — in the health of consumers or the environment, etc. — when they’re blasted for their mishaps and demands are made that they be held accountable. [17:00]
  • So much of our food, including our wine, comes out of California. Thirty plus million people live in that state, so if they run out of water, what do we expect is going to happen? [18:30]
  • We need to begin working with companies to help them and encourage them to pursue better business practices. We can’t just expect them to change of their own volition. [22:30]
  • Revolution doesn’t come from marching and protesting alone, it comes from taking action. If you want to take away Monsanto’s power,  plant an urban garden. [25:00]
  • We don’t realize that fallen leaves, fallen trees — those are natural. Those are the system feeding itself. It’s essential to understand how the system works so we can cooperate with it, and stop fighting against it. [29:30]
  • The challenge for us is to make sustainability sexy. To remove the stigma of the dirty hippies and the crazy activists, and to begin to demonstrate that sustainability is essential to everybody — even gangster gardeners. [30:30]
  • We’re causing devastation on so many fronts at once, through our overuse of chemical antibacterials and antibiotics, that nobody is paying attention to how it all culminates together. [38:00]
  • Nobody is coming into our communities and throwing trash there — it’s us. What’s “gangster” to Ron Finley is coming together to create a better community and break free of that prison of big AG and turning the food deserts into abundant urban gardens. [40:45]
  • Don’t wait for somebody to tell you how to make a change, or to give you permission. Get out there and put your shovel in the ground. Ron Finley is not a saint, he’s just a guy, and so are you. [48:30]

Powerful Quotes

  • “There is no such thing as learning if you’re not doing it.” – Marc Angelo Coppola [13:20]
  • “I had sixty people putting in an urban garden while you all were marching. Now who do you think was more effective?” – Ron Finley [25:20]
  • “If we’re not talking about it, if we’re leaving it as some fringe topic for only the few to talk about, it’s going to start biting us in the ass, and it already is.” -Marc Angel Coppola [34:50]
  • “This shit to me is a form of slavery for everybody. We’re like slaves to big AG. They control our food, all of it.” – Ron Finley [37:20]
  • “Why don’t you churches get together instead of with your ‘my religion is better than yours’ bullshit, and get together and put in a healthy food market… isn’t that doing good business? If your people live longer, don’t you get more money?” – Ron Finley [43:50]



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