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- Ron Finley is a famous self-taught gardener, fashion designer, and community activist.
- He helped change South Central LA city laws so that communities could plant gardens in parkways.
- Below, you’ll find a review and summary of Ron Finley’s gardening MasterClass.
Ron Finley — known as a self-taught “guerilla gardener” and community activist — says in his MasterClass that he never set out to become a gardener. Rather, gardening found him.
Everything began in 2010, when Finley planted some vegetables on strips of dirt patches (known as parkways) in South Central Los Angeles. About a year later, he received a citation by the City of Los Angeles that later turned into a warrant for his arrest. He stopped gardening for years before starting again — this time, he accrued the resources and community support to take on the city and make significant changes to the laws, allowing people to grow their own food on parkways. Since then, he’s been dedicated to creating a food revolution in his South Central LA community and, on a broader scale, inspiring anyone and everyone to grow their own edible gardens.
To Ron Finley, “gardens represent freedom” and “taking some of his power back,” especially for those living in food deserts where fresh produce isn’t readily available. He believes “everyone should have the knowledge of how to feed themselves” because we’re often too trusting and dependent on a food system that is broken and focused on profit.
Having worked as a garden educator for an after-school garden for a couple of years myself, I was curious about Finley’s food revolution, so I decided to check out his gardening MasterClass.
3 things I loved about the Ron Finley Teaches Gardening MasterClass:
The class covers a lot of ground — but also feels easy to absorb if you’re a beginner.
Finley gives you the lowdown on everything you need to get started to grow an edible garden. He breaks down why you should grow your own food, the basic tools you’ll need, the process of upcycling containers you likely already have, and the importance of choosing the right soil for different plants. He also explains how to make your own compost (“one of the sexiest things on the planet”), propagate plants to expand your bounty, and avoid killing your plants. At the end of each chapter or video, he gives a recap of what he just covered, which reinforces key points.
Ron Finley is an incredibly engaging, thoughtful teacher who feels like a friend.
Whether you’ve been gardening for years or have never sowed a seed, Finley’s teaching style will make you feel ready and comfortable to start getting your hands dirty. He’s a natural teacher who breaks down some scientific terminology into clear, simple explanations, teaching in a way that shows he anticipates the questions his audience may have. He confidently tells it like it is, making you feel like you’re listening to a close friend — which can help you feel confident and capable of growing your own food.
Finley’s also incredibly honest and real with you. When he finishes the segment explaining how to grow leafy greens, he admits that he’s not personally a big fan of kale. But, because greens are good for you, he encourages viewers to get creative in how they cook with them in the kitchen, such as making kale chips (there’s a recipe in the workbook) and experimenting with new foods.
The MasterClass also addresses the broader issues of food insecurity and income inequality in America.
Finley expertly weaves in the bigger picture of why gardening is a political act — from explaining his own unjust arrest for growing a garden, to highlighting problems in how cities are designed, to chronic issues in our national and global food system. He also discusses how health and food are directly interlinked, your home location determining if you have access to fresh food or even a supermarket. Finley’s course not only educates viewers on topics such as food deserts; it also provides ways for people to gain access to healthy, affordable food.
The style and format of the MasterClass:
The course is about two hours long, broken down into 10 videos. and a downloadable PDF workbook. It also comes with a downloadable PDF workbook, which is handy to use as a reference when you’re working in your own garden. Additionally, there are assignments that correlate to the material explained in the video, including common gardening lingo.
The video format is ideal for this type of class — second best to being in Finley’s garden and watching him in-person — as you observe Finley gardening while he clearly explains his steps. The classes are accessible on various devices — a computer, tablet, or even a phone — and there’s even an audio option (if you prefer to multi-task).
However, audio alone wouldn’t be the same: the visuals of Finley drilling drainage holes in a wooden dresser drawer to create a garden bed or planting sugar peas make it much easier to feel like you’re right there with him. Taking time out of your day to watch a course may seem difficult with a busy schedule, but I found that by viewing the video, I retained a lot more information simply by watching what he was doing.
The beauty of the video format is that gardening is a very hands-on activity. Although I recommend watching the videos in order, you can also go back and watch specific videos at your own leisure and pace. This is especially helpful if there are certain tasks you’re ready to try in your own garden, such as planting herbs — you can complete them right alongside Finley (virtually, of course).
The workbook and assignments are also designed for you to go at your own rhythm. Although gardening can be done year-round, many vegetables have a season (depending on your climate zone), so you may not be able to plant all your favorite veggies immediately after watching the course.
The bottom line
Although I consider myself an experienced gardener, I appreciated Finley’s matter-of-fact, inviting approach. I learned some valuable new things, including being reminded of the importance of proper shovel usage by alternating sides (instead of only using my dominant hand).
Whether you’re an experienced gardener or have yet to put your hands in the soil, this class is definitely worth taking. No matter how much space you have for your garden, Ron Finley will help you discover your green thumb.
An annual MasterClass subscription is $180 (or $15 a month), giving you unlimited access to over 100 video classes (with new ones added each month). The courses and experts range from photography with Annie Leibovitz to creative writing with Margaret Atwood.