On Tuesday 23 September 2014, volunteers from Firth Park Community Allotments in Sheffield were treated to a special visit from LA gardener Rob Finley t mark the 50th anniversary of Britain in Bloom, now organised by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).
The visit was part of Ron’s trip to Sheffield which was organised by the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape as part of the Festival of the Mind.
Ron rose to fame in the USA after he gave an inspirational speech on the importance of urban gardening for TED Talks, which has been viewed by millions of people around the world.*
Back in an LA ghetto, Ron has inspired a revolution that has resulted in fruit and vegetable gardens springing up on wasteland, such as abandoned car parks, providing much-needed fresh food to hundreds of people in a community where ‘the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys’.
Ron was giving a number of talks in Sheffield last week and was taken to Firth Park Community Allotments by the RHS to demonstrate how urban communities in the UK are doing the same, through RHS Britain in Bloom.
Firth Park Community Allotment began in 2005 when a group of residents got together to transform an abandoned site, which is now used as a large growing space for local families. Drop-in gardening sessions and workshops are held for residents and children, and produce is shared out among the community.
Ron said: “I witnessed my garden become a tool for education, a tool for the transformation of my neighbourhood. To change a community you have to change the composition of the soil. We are the soil.”
RHS Regional Development Manager Libby Goodacre works with communities across Yorkshire, supporting the growth of gardening projects at the grassroots level.
Libby said: “It was so exciting to meet Ron. Firth Park Community Allotments is a wonderful, thriving community project run by passionate volunteers, so we thought it would be a great place for Ron to visit. We hope he was inspired by what he saw as much as we were inspired by him.”
Dot Rodman, Lead Food Worker at the allotment, said: “Over nine years our award winning allotment, one of Heeley City Farm’s flagship food growing projects, has practised and developed what Ron preaches. I was so proud of everyone’s hard work when an RHS Britain in Bloom judge called our site ‘amazing’ and said they could tell that it felt ‘loved by the community.”
Nigel Dunnett, from the University of Sheffield, said: “Ron Finley is one of the most inspiring people in horticulture today. I felt it was important that his message was heard in the UK at the University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind, and I have been overwhelmed by the public response to him being here. It was a real delight to join up with the RHS and to visit the wonderful RHS community projects with him.”
To find out more about the power of community gardening or to join almost 4,000 RHS Britain in Bloom groups already involved, visit: www.rhs.org.uk/communities