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Food is the Problem and the Solution: TED Talk by Ron Finley

I really like TED talks. I not only enjoy being exposed to ideas worth spreading, but I am also rejuvenated by seeing the passion people have in their work. But it takes a lot of skill to do TED talks  well. It doesn’t matter how exciting the ideas themselves are: One has to convey them in a way that captures the imagination of the audience. The story is not enough; one needs to also be a good storyteller.

Keeping with last week’s theme of urban renewal and gardening, I wanted to share a recent favourite TED talk of mine. It’s by Ron Finley, a guerilla gardener who is working to bring about a more hopeful, healthy and sustainable future for South Central LA:

Receiving a standing ovation, Finley’s passion for and belief in food gardening as a force for societal transformation is evident and infectious.  Like other great TED Talks, his presentation worked for me because he is simply a fantastic storyteller with an inspirational tale to tell. His eleven minute talk has great energy, never drags, and is full of humour and memorable quotes. One of my favourites:

“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.”

What do you think of the TED talk? Are there quotes from his presentation that clicked with you?


  1. Awesome. So many great quotes. So many, in fact, I’m going to blog about this and link back to your post. Thanks for the lead.
    I’ve started my seeds in my kitchen, can’t wait to get the urban garden going.

    • I think I liked every one of the quotes you put up on the reblog (which is much appreciated!) Another one I enjoyed was “free is not sustainable. The thing about sustainable is… you have to sustain it.”

      • Issac, if you get a chance, check out this video about my friends and colleagues at Fern Creek HS in Louisville. They are rocking the greenhouse, cooking club, etc…

        • It’s so great to see them all engaged and involved and excited – such a source of pride for any educator. Thanks for sharing this, Paul.

  2. Reblogged this on Mindful Stew and commented:
    If you watch one TED Talk this week, check this out. So many great nuggets of wisdom:
    “Growing your own food is like printing your own money…gardening is my graffiti, I grow my art…you’d be surprised if you let the soil be your canvas…gardening is the most therapeutic thing you can do…and you get strawberries…if kids grow kale, kids eat kale…but when none of this is presented to them, they’ll blindly eat whatever the hell is put in front of them.”

  3. Love TED talks too, AND the guerrilla gardening movement. We live south of London and we have this space in front of our flat, I’m thinking of making it my personal little veggie garden and maybe try to set up a bee hive.. wonder what my neighbors will think of that! they are so conventional! lovely finding your blog so randomly.. xx

  4. I loved this. So inspiring. There were many, many great sound bites: “26.5 million Americans live in a food desert.” “How would you feel if you had no access to healthy food?” “Gardening is my graffiti.” “Food is the problem and the solution.” “Get gangster with your shovel.” This talk reminded of a project I worked on years ago–a small picture book on a gardening project in one of Chicago’s housing projects. I can attest to the pride and value placed on growing your own food. Thanks for sharing this talk! Will tweet this post.

  5. This is so great. If everyone would think this way and follow this Ron Finley fellow, Jamie Oliver, and so on—join their food revolution—hell, I don’t know.. maybe we could even take down Monsanto, put the pressure on McDonald’s, and maybe.. just maybe.. get the government to genuinely care a bit.

    • The thing I like most about his approach is that it offers another path other than simply fighting the power. Farming itself is an act of empowerment: Learning to grow your own food builds personal pride and self-sufficiency and provides a positive and hopeful solution. That’s why I like his quote, that gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act one can do.

  6. I liked his TED talk. But not all TED talks are equal. I heard 2 people, who I had heard before several years/months before…for 1 of them it was a great way to drum up business for his consulting business.

    He wasn’t saying anything radical to …the cycling community. Taking many ideas of other leaders but not enough technical stuff on how to be pragmatic and implement.

    The 2nd person was someone who lives in our city….and actually he had really tough in real life…battling with private industry constantly, demanding residents, etc.

    As for gardening, I’m afraid I’ve got a black thumb but I am grateful to all the green thumbs and farmers. The best I can do, is visit their community gardens and admire the work, art even in some of these gardens.

    • I’ve seen my share of bad TED talks as well. Some are just bad speakers that manage to bore even with the time limit, and some are just way too slick with no substance. The good ones though, are really good 🙂

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