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'Gangsta Gardener' Ron Finley Fights To Save His Garden From Eviction

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Ron Finley's South Los Angeles Gangsta Garden is in trouble. In response, the 'gangsta gardener' has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $550,000 for buying the plot of land his garden sits on and save the Ron Finley Project's headquarters.

"I live in a food desert, South Central Los Angeles, home of the drive-thru and the drive-by," Finley said in his 2013 TED talk, three years after first planting his rows of vegetables.

I got tired of seeing this happening. And I was wondering, how would you feel if you had no access to healthy food, if every time you walk out your door you see the ill effects that the present food system has on your neighborhood? So what I did, I planted a food forest in front of my house. It was on a strip of land that we call a parkway. It's 150 feet by 10 feet. Thing is, it's owned by the city. But you have to maintain it. So I'm like, "Cool. I can do whatever the hell I want, since it's my responsibility and I gotta maintain it." And this is how I decided to maintain it.

Finley has since clarified that his Gangsta Garden is more about empowerment than just food deserts.

“If the powers that be cared, we wouldn’t have food deserts — food deserts are by design,” Finley told the New York Times recently. “So the garden is really about waking up and realizing that this is all by design, but we can change the design. We have the power to change it.”

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Now, seven years after its inception, the Ron Finley Project wants to secure an independent future.

"Currently, RFP is fighting for their headquarters," the GoFundMe campaign page states. "After numerous attempts by the property owner for a loan modification with no avail, the land was sold to Strategic Acquisitions Inc in a foreclosure. ...RFP has requested that Strategic Acquisitions allow them to continue operating from the location as to sustain the important work they are doing in the community. The only solution they have been offered is to purchase the property for $500,000, otherwise... they face eviction."

As of April 7, the campaign has already topped $497,000, with backers like John Foraker, founder of Annie's Homegrown, tweeting out support.

According to the Times, Nell Newman of Newman's Own personally donated $21,000 to the campaign.

“Ron’s story hit many of us on a personal level,” Greg Steltenpohl, CEO of Califia Farms, said. “He’s really on the front line of self-empowered action versus hopelessness in the critical area of tackling food deserts in underserved communities.”

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