By: John Foraker
President at Annie’s Inc.
On Friday, April 28th PST, the Ron Finley Project officially became the debt-free, 100% title holder of its’ South Central Los Angeles headquarters and garden where the very first seeds of this global movement were planted in 2010. This is the garden where Ron’s mission will live on. Because after an epic battle, Ron Finley now controls his destiny! Over the past few weeks, nearly 3,000 individuals, leaders and companies from across the Natural & Organic Food industry came together to do the right and necessary thing for both Ron Finley and his mission. I am personally so moved and proud of all the people here at Annie’s who worked so hard to get the message out for Ron, and who played such an integral role in averting a terrible injustice.
Since we announced our campaign to help save Ron’s garden on the afternoon of March 30th, we took this effort very seriously. We immediately grabbed our megaphones and took to social media to share on all channels, all the while pulling every influence string that we could think of. Justin Perkins and Care2 helped us create a wildly successful petition and lots of noise. Industry friends Robyn O’Brien, Max Goldberg, Ashley Koff, along with all-star PR firm Covet Communications and their leader Sara Brooks helped us amplify the message to create awareness of this injustice. This was “all-in” effort to help the Ron Finley Project raise the $550,000 it eventually took to buy the property from the current owner who has been working aggressively to evict Ron and his operation. An eviction almost happened late last week, and was only circumvented because so many people and companies stepped up at up at the critical hour to raise the money necessary to stop it.
At Annie’s, we’ve always admired Ron’s bold message of individual empowerment, encouraging the people in his community and everywhere to get out there, “plant some shit”, grow some food, and take control of their own health. Ron’s project works to directly address and raise awareness of the pervasive problem of food deserts in communities across the US and the world. Educating people and encouraging them to make better food choices for their own health & well-being is also an important part of the equation. As Ron says: “If kids grow kale, kids will eat kale, and if kids grow tomatoes, they will eat tomatoes.” No doubt, they will. We know that there are very few ways to truly bring about a generational shift in health. But we believe that educating kids about real food and encouraging them to get their hands dirty in a garden is one of the most powerful ways to do so. Now that Ron has this eviction and legal battle behind him, he is free to build on this message and movement, and to make an even greater impact on the planet for years to come.
It wasn’t only Ron’s incredible mission we were rallying for – we also rallied for Ron because we believe in the importance of social justice and the inherent power of business to show leadership, do real good, and drive positive social and environmental impact. Ron’s story showcases the terrible impact of real estate foreclosures in communities like his. These events shatter lives, break up families, and disrupt communities in ways that are unimaginable to most people. Fortunately, Ron was able to face that threat bravely and win. Ron won because of his great work, and the desire of many kind individuals to help fight for him, his garden, and his powerful vision for the future. Most people facing this situation are not so fortunate. I’m really proud that our industry stood up for him, and social justice, to avert a disaster here. It’s the obligation of all companies and leaders in the natural & organic space to fight for core principles we all believe in: expanding awareness and accessibility to better food options, while also driving a socially just economy that improves the economic well being of ALL people in ALL neighborhoods…from the inner city to rural farm communities.
I want to thank Nell Newman for getting in there very early and fighting for Ron. Without your contribution and your early efforts to build momentum and raise awareness for this fight, none of this would have happened. Another big shout out goes to Bette Midler, who not only made a large financial contribution, but who also spread the word through her huge social network to raise awareness of this effort.
I’d like to thank many of the leading companies and leaders from the natural & organic industry for coming to bat and supporting Ron’s cause. There are (thankfully) too many brands and individuals to mention here, but some of the bigger contributors of $ and social effort to this phase of the campaign deserve a special shout out: Annie’s, Califia Farms, Patagonia, Dr. Bronner’s, 301, Inc, Siggi’s Dairy, , REBBL, Suja, Gary Hirshberg, John Replogle, Rhythm Superfoods, Sweetgreen, Horizon Organic, Good Culture, Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP, Presence Marketing, VMG Partners, Applegate, Farmhouse Culture, New Hope, Andrew Whitman, United Natural Foods, Back To The Roots, and Clif Bar & Company who literally came in this week and pushed the entire effort over the top so that we could close the transaction as planned! Without all of your leadership, and the generosity of many others, this wouldn’t have been possible.
Additionally, today we at Annie’s are very excited to announce a new three-year commitment to the Ron Finley Project for $20,000 each year. This ongoing financial support is our way of thanking Ron for all he’s done and to also help him drive his mission and message far and wide. I’d encourage others that came to the table in this campaign to also consider continued financial support for Ron Finley Project.
Now let’s watch this beautiful garden grow and expand Ron’s positive impact the world in beautiful ways for years to come!