Take Two for February 25, 2013

South LA guerrilla gardener Ron Finley presents at the TED conference

Ron Finley's garden in Crenshaw

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Ron Finley presides over a neighborhood "salad bowl" with his street-side garden in Crenshaw.

Sidewalk vantage of Ron Finley's garden

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Finley's garden presides over the corner of W Exposition Blvd and Chesapeake Av, a stone's throw from the LA Metro Expo line.

Ron Finley standing next to his curb-side garden

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City officials first told Finley that his garden violated city ordinates, threatening him with a fine for growing "obstructions" without a permit. However he's working with the city council to get a reprieve, and possibly change the law.

Take Two host Alex Cohen interviews L.A. Green Grounds Ron Finley

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Take Two host Alex Cohen interviews Ron Finley right next to his sidewalk garden.

Ron Finley's vegetables

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Finley started his edible garden in 2010: "One of the reasons it got started was because getting healthy food in this area was non-existent."

Vegetables in Ron Finley's garden

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Passersby are free to harvest what they'd like, but ideally Finley wants them to contribute by helping to tend to the garden or give back.

Streetside view of Ron Finley's garden

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Finley's garden runs along the curb next to his home. He hopes that his whole neighborhood will soon look like this so the community can share in the bounty.

The Technology, Entertainment and Design conference (known as TED) kicks off in Long Beach today. It's the major leagues of public speaking, and in the past it's brought together big names like Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, and Bono on a wide range of topics. 

Being invited to speak is such a big deal that past speakers say they spent months honing their presentations. While many of the talkers come from all over the world, one is literally homegrown from right here in L.A.: Ron Finley.

Finley's a local gardening guru and cofounder of L.A. Green Grounds who in 2010 transformed the parkway outside his Crenshaw home into a garden flush with kale, lettuce, lavender, and more. But in 2011 he ran afoul of city officials who said his plants were "obstructions" and that he needed a $400 permit.

Finley, however, took the issue up with City Hall, and he's now working with officials to make what he's doing legal so that his neighbors can also replant their own grassy lawns into harvestable vegetables.

His story caught the attention of TED organizers, and they invited him to speak at a smaller conference in Vancouver last year about transforming South Los Angeles' front yards into edible gardens. He was such a hit that they also asked him to this week's flagship convention in Long Beach.

Take Two host Alex Cohen met up with Finley next to his garden, and he explained how he wants it to be a beacon for his South LA neighborhood.

"Getting healthy food in this area was non-existent," he says. "I want get people to take back their health. I want them to see how easy it is and how beautiful food can be."

While he's nervous about speaking this week in front of the thousands of TED attendees who could afford the $7,500 admission, he's confident his message will resonate with anyone, because, "Just like they want healthy food, we want healthy food."

To see Finley's garden, it's located at the corner of W Exposition Blvd and Chesapeake Ave.

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