L.A. Green Grounds

Jane McKeon

garden hero

Where do your fruits and vegetables come from? This week, my refrigerator is stocked with spinach and blueberries from Florida, raspberries and strawberries from California, grapes from Chile, hothouse tomatoes from Canada, and peppers from Mexico — all courtesy of a recent shopping trip to my local Costco. In Iowa, where cold weather often lingers into April, I welcome the year-round availability of such delicious diversity. But fresh produce is a luxury that many of us take for granted. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 23.5 million Americans live in “food deserts,” areas with little or no access to grocery stores that provide fresh, nutritious, affordable foods. Imagine having to feed your kids only what the corner convenience store sells.

As I see it, we’re becoming increasingly dependent on food from far-flung places. And the further we are from where our food is grown, the greater disconnect with healthy eating. The solution? Planting a vegetable garden is a good start. In raised beds. In containers. In urban areas. In schoolyards. Anywhere there’s a strip of soil and sunshine.

For Ron Finley of South Central Los Angeles, the only spot available for growing veggies was along the curb in front of his house. When the city tried to stop him, Ron — a self-described “guerilla gardener” — took his fresh-food crusade to the streets, literally. He started an organization called L.A. Green Grounds, which help people turn hell strips (the wasted land between sidewalks and streets) into what Ron calls “food forests” that provide “nourishment, empowerment, education — and healthy, hopeful futures — one urban garden at a time,” according to Ron’s TED profile. I encourage you to listen to Ron’s TED Talk. I did, and now he’s one of my garden heroes.

Plant a garden. And then spread the word.