Ron Finley SXSW Eco 2013 – Tomato Gang Wars & Food Prisons

ron finley sxsw 2013For those who don’t know about Ron Finley, he’s the now world-famous L.A. (Los Angeles) gardener. To give you a brief synopsis, the guy was fed up with the food options that were available to him and his neighbors in South/Central L.A. Fast food and dialysis centers for diabetes patients were rampant as hell…so he planted a garden in the city, and invited people to take the food as they needed it. He also got people involved in planting their own organic goods. The best way to really learn about this dude is to watch his TED talk:

Ron Finley TED talk

Okay, now onto the talk he gave at SXSW Eco 2013.

Ron started off the talk by saying that we shouldn’t expect some amazing keynote, right after cracking some jokes Finley style. He then launched right into talking about food injustice.

Growing up, one time Finley got off on the wrong stop…Rodeo Drive. The place was packed with Gucci, Rolls Royce, etc. Growing up in South/Central he didn’t realize just what he was being deprived of, which included not just Rolls Royce’s and Gucci handbags, but HEALTHY FOOD.

“When I grew up in the 1800’s..” Ron threw in for some good comedic relief in front of a predominantly white audience. *Side note, being at this event made me realize that this is way too much of a white dominated field. I’m not saying there wasn’t variety in the audience, but it all still vaguely reminds me of going to a church in NE. Somethin’s gotta change there folks, am I right?

With the advent of fast food, Finley was saying, we have “food prisons.” People have to break out to find healthy food, which can be far far away from Finley’s neighborhood. To Finley, the way the system is set up in his neighborhood, it’s “legal genocide.”

He then started talking about how kids need to get educated about these things, and that they don’t need to stand in line like everyone else.

“How do we expect children to develop if they don’t have good food.”

He believes the current education system needs to be “demolished” and “rebooted.” He was once asked why he doesn’t work in the education system to make changes there. His answer to them was that it was like sleeping with the devil. He did say that he’s not talking about the teachers out there who are actually trying to make a difference, but are entangled in the system.

The overall gist of what Ron was saying flows with what he already stated (and a bit more fluidly) in the TED talk. I think the best parts of this talk were his one-liners, which I’ve written below.

“Your ass can’t use a shovel, but you can tweet.”

“We are all artists, and we can design our own lives.”

“I want gang wars to be about tomatoes.”

“Compost changed my life. That’s my disco song.”

“Mother Nature don’t play.”

“If you can’t read that shit, don’t eat that shit.” “Nothing natural has 14 letters in it.” “We are nature.”

“The stuff we’re eating is ‘un-food’ food.”

“If kids grow kale, they eat kale.”

“Let us stop missing out on brilliance.”

“Go plant some shit.”

“My lab is the street.”

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