Whole Life Magazine

October/November 2013

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Page 22 of 43

MAN WITH A MESSAGE on Finley, a TED superstar, is both inspired and inspiring, and a fervent crusader for reconnecting with the soil. Living in South L.A., an area notoriously devoid of fresh produce market options and with limited space for growing, he "just got tired of having to go R outside my area to eat healthy food." Taking matters into his own hands, he planted a vegetable garden on his parkway (the strip of ground between the sidewalk and the street). "We are not cows. We can't eat our front lawns, so a lawn does us no good. Plus, it wastes tons of water. We need food, not grass," says Finley, whose day jobs include both fitness training and couture fashion design. It wasn't long before a neighbor complained to the city and Finley was issued a citation to remove his thriving parkway vegetable garden. Ultimately it went to a vote by City Council. "They came down on me, then backed off," Finley says. "The vote overturned the parkway ban." City Council president Herb Wesson suspended enforcement of the citation and City Council voted 15–0 to suspend enforcement of Municipal Code Section 56.08(e) that covers what you can or cannot have on parkways in the city. Guidelines for planting on the parkway have gone to committee. Now tagged as the guerilla gardener of South L.A., Finley says growing healthful food is simple and gardening puts you back in touch with where you came from. "Here's my type of gardening," he says: "Just do it! Plant some shit, that's my type of gardener." For him, it's all about the soil. "We are soil, soil is a metaphor for life." In more scientific terms he continues, "Carbon and nitrogen together put out heat. Where does that heat come from if the compost is dead? The soil is alive and there are all kinds of living organisms in the soil." Essentially, says Finley, "We are gardeners, it is in our DNA. We decompose and turn back into the earth." But whereas gardening has evolved as more of a pleasurable pursuit in affluent suburbs, "We African Americans have a legacy of being slaves and digging in the field," says Finley. "We wanted to get far, far away from the field, [so] to return to the soil there would need to be a cultural shift." Learning and accepting that the power is in the soil could be the shift in thinking that is long overdue for all of us. Today there are approximately 118 community gardens in L.A. County, not including the 781 school gardens, numerous nurseries and urban farms that grow their own food. More people are involved in growing their own food than ever before, and as we become better educated about toxic commercial farming and market produce prices continue to rise, it will only become more obvious that what Finley says is true: "Growing your own food is like printing your own money." Photos: Judith A. Stock Venice, Makepeace was inspired by Nutrition Rules author Graeme Sait's TEDx presentation on humus as a critical ingredient for gardens, life and, literally, saving the planet. He thought community gardens would be the perfect way to engage people in the idea that soil health is linked to plant and human health. The more Makepeace learns about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and what pesticides and herbicides are being used in farming, the more he pushes himself to support sustainable farming, non-GMO products, and growing nutritious foods in healthy soil. "I started a community garden on Rose and Rennie Streets in Venice [to have] a place where people could learn about building back healthy soil that will sequester carbon and bring the carbon cycle back into balance, so we can reduce global warming," he explains. He also hoped to "meet new friends and build community through a project that benefits everyone in the community." Building on his success with the Rose/Rennie garden, Makepeace says his next project involves a large piece of Venice city property at the historic Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center. He's excited that a community garden at Beyond Baroque could attract more visitors, interest more people in gardening and build an entire community garden movement. october /november 2013 23

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