Ron Finley (middle) with Julia Milne from Lower Hutt Common Unity Project Aotearoa,and Residential Manager Murray Todd.The ‘gangsta gardener’ from South Central LA is holding a seed from a heritage pumpkin that was grown in the prison last year.

It’s the first seed of the new season and in around three months when it’s fully grown, it’ll feed a family in Lower Hutt, thanks to a partnership between the prison and Lower Hutt’s Common Unity Project Aotearoa.  There are nine more seeds to be planted – one each for the men who are involved in the prison’s new seed shop.

Ron knows a thing or two about gardening and bureaucracy: when he turned the berm at the front of his LA property into a community garden the authorities didn’t like it, but he won.  He’s been in Wellington sharing his passion for community gardens and growing fresh veges.  He tells the men in Rimutaka that “a garden represents freedom”, and that “soil is life”.

A former tailor, Ron saw the prison’s sewing projects and jumped on a machine and helped out.  He also harvested produce grown in a unit’s garden which goes to the community via Common Unity, and met with men involved in the prison’s carving projects.

He was gifted a beautiful bone carving representing the Gods Rongomatane (cultivated food), Tamanui Te Ra (the Sun) and Haumie Tiketike (wild food), and a stunning Ko – a traditional Maori gardening tool made from a Taiaha fighting staff, a symbol of peace from war.

Residential Manager Murray Todd, who helped organise the visit, says Ron made a lasting impression on the men.  “The men appreciated his passion and we are honoured to have him visit.”