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A "crazy plant man" or "Mary Poppins"... its all about making food dreams come true: Michelle Romain

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First and Last Name

Michelle Romain

 

Current place of residence

Atlanta, GA

 

What is your current occupation/work?

I am currently in my last year as a student at Georgia State University.

 

When and where did you work with Maurice and for how long?

2016, at the Collegetown location for Truly Living Well

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Farm tours, composting, planting, building beds, soil sifting, photography, managing a work crew,created a soap making budget for TLW, landscaping.

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

I came in to volunteer with Truly Living Well just to get some experience with knowing how to take care of plants for my future goals of becoming a horticultural therapist, when Maurice shook me of any of my original plans for my being there. He put me to work, hard work, almost immediately with managing his daytime labor crew along side another intern, when I had never given out orders to someone else before. Tasks like that where I was very inexperienced were continuously put before, and I would be lying if I didn't say that I was very intimidated, but it made coming in everyday into that farm exciting. I never knew what the day after was going to be like, but I did know that I would be sure to learn something new. Maurice taught me to have a lot more faith in myself and my work, and I'm much more sure about going into the field of horticultural therapy than I ever had been before. 

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

Yes, I have learned about how unique and intelligent every plant that we as humans have interacted with are, and that there's much more to them than what we can just see. I am much more sure about going into the field that I have chosen and hope to continue to meet radical plant people like Maurice in the future.

                 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

He has the face of a mean mugged bear, but is soft like a bid ole teddy bear. Don't let him intimidate you, because like the plants he loves so much, there's much more than meets the eye. Also, work hard. He doesn't take bull.

 

Memories and Stories

I remember when Maurice and I talked in his truck while picking up this grill from the kid's summer camp, and he told me that he wanted to tell me how he thought of me. It both excited and scared me at the same time, because I had never met anyone so blunt before in my life. He told me that he thought both me and the other intern girl working with me, were crazy but it was the kind of crazy that he needed. We were crazy because we were doing work he never expected for us to be able to handle, but we were doing it with ease. That moment has really stuck with me for some reason, but I really cherish it. It makes me think that I can easily apply that so called "crazy" into any work I come across and still receive great results.

 

A Few Words…

Maurice Small is like Mary Poppins. He goes where he is needed, but only comes back when it is necessary. He takes care of those that he cares about, and is very patient. He's very much a farm dad, and makes sure that not only are his plants taken care of, but his crew as well. I have learned so much about different types of plants that can heal and hurt, and how to utilize both from him. He's a crazy plant man, but he's very knowledgeable about what he does, and I'm sure his dream of teaching people how grow their own food will come true.

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Think... that could be a garden right there : Shiaoching (Ching) Tse

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First and Last Name

Shiaoching (Ching) Tse

 

Current place of residence

Apex, NC

 

What is your current occupation/work?

I currently attend North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and am the President of my own non-profit, The Food Ark (www.thefoodark.org). TFA is a non-profit that is currently based in schools to create healthier and more sustainable food systems to curb food insecurity. We are working on larger projects that affect whole cities and communities right now.

 

When and where did you work with Maurice?

2014 (6 months) in Raleigh, NC

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

I visited and blogged about many organizations and efforts currently in the Raleigh area that are working to create healthier food systems. The blog is thefoodark.blogspot.com. Such organizations include CompostNOW, YMCA, and Community Food Lab. Maurice also helped me restore and create an organic garden, compost bin, and greenhouse at Enloe High School - my previous high school.

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

Interning with Maurice has enlightened me on how everything in this world is connected, whether it be food systems or life in general. My experiences with Maurice have taught me to implement solutions to problems that are capable of attacking many areas simultaneously. From this changed outlook was the birth of The Food Ark - an organization with a model for clubs at schools that connects and utilizes the whole school in the community food system. I cannot express the appreciation and admiration I have for Maurice in what he does and in how much his passion for equality influences those around him.

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

Working alongside Maurice has taught me both hard-skills - gardening, composting, etc. - but also soft-skills. His passion and enthusiasm for what he does showed me that if I also express my passion and enthusiasm, then people will react.

 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

Change and influence may not come in the form of conspicuous progress. I will assure you that, with working alongside Maurice, it comes in the form of deep feeling and the small steps towards laying down infrastructure for future works.

 

Memories and Stories

I have too many memories and stories to tell... I think the one thing that I really remember is how, at any point, Maurice was able to look around him at his surroundings and say: "Think... that could be a garden right there. There could be food growing right there."

 

A Few Words…

As I said earlier, I believe that Maurice works to create infrastructure. Infrastructure is the first step towards anything, but it is also the hardest step to get going. It is truly amazing how working with him for a mere 6 months has snowballed my efforts into many more projects.

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Dreams to Reality and the Beauty of Diversity: Saul Kliorys

First and Last Name

Saul Kliorys

 

Current place of residence

Cleveland, OH

 

What is your current occupation/work?

I work for Great Lakes Brewing Company as a Sustainability Manager.

 

When and where did you work with Maurice?

2006-2008 City Fresh, Cleveland, OH

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Before I worked with Maurice, I spent some time travelling around with him to local food meetings related to City Fresh. We visited his mom and he helped me find my first job. When we worked together at City Fresh, we managed a Fresh Stop together.

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

Two things: Maurice helped me realize one of my goals. He helped me take a dream and make it a reality.
The other is that Maurice showed me the beauty of diversity. We have so much racial tension in our society and it was such a beautiful experience to work side by side... black, latino, white (what the Amish would call English :) ) My family shared meals with with Maurice's family. And his mom still calls my grandma to check up on her.
So I think the beautiful lesson was that the things that unite us are so much stronger than the things that divide us.

 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

Put on your seatbelt. And make the most of the opportunity.

 

Memories and Stories

Maurice thought I was a spy for some time.
And in my second or third year volunteering for City Fresh, we wrestled. I think for others, wrestling was their interview. :)

 

A Few Words…

I think it's just good. When we look back on the work and projects we've done, we have a reference point. We look back and say, that was just good. Whatever we end up doing, we have that memory of sharing and treating each other with respect, which really is the goal of all work that we do.

 

Anything else?

Nope, just wanted to say thanks for all the time we spent together.

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Bringing Life to a Landscape through Curiosity - Elias Attea

Name

Elias Attea

 

Current place of residence

Buffalo, NY

 

What is your current occupation/work?

School Garden Educator (previous)

Farm Steward and Caretaker (current)

 

When and where did you work with Maurice and for how long?

Raleigh, NC (2013) for 3 months during the summer

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Composting

More Composting

Vermicompost

Garden Bed Design and Build

Garden Planting and Maintenance

“Artist-in-residence”

Robin Thicke-look alike (according to Travis)

A helluva lot more composting

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

After my experience with Mr. Maurice, I’ve come to see a garden as just a landscape until it becomes inhabited. All life is somewhat like this, but the magic that brings life back to a landscape, in the words of Mr. Maurice, is “curiousity.”  It’s curiousity of a garden that transforms an empty lot into a garden and it is curiosity that brings back the animals, insects, and humans alike. 

 

At the time of my internship (and even now) I was asking how do people congregate and connect over picking weeds or eating greens?  What is a “community garden” anyway?  I had been experienced in the production side of growing but was more interested about the community and social aspects of farming.   My work with Maurice helped shape the answer to those questions and ultimately influenced the direction of the next few years of my career.  Much of the most memorable experiences entailed the interactions with local residents, municipalities, and the invisible forces of social behavior and economics. I felt like I saw some of my first uplifting and damn discouraging parts of managing urban-placed and community-centered gardens. 

 

Most of all, I able to finally address a part of myself that contributed (and still contributes) to a larger problem in our society.  Attending a college that mostly existed in a middle class socio-economic bubble, I had been frustrated with the college's atmosphere of intolerance and ignorance, but what I wasn't aware of was the reality of how much white guilt and privilege I had possessed.  I remember one day, near five o’clock when there was still work to do.  Mr. Maurice kept working, alongside him was all of us, because the work needed to get done.  Someone mentioned something about it being five o’clock.  Mr. Maurice spoke up addressing one of the employees who lived in the area, “You can’t go home!  The interns can go, but you can’t leave here.”  At first I took that as an expectation of work ethic, but later realized that is the reality of volunteering and internships for people of privilege—they get a chance to look through the glass and then go home, but the folks who don’t live with that privilege just keep living as they are. 

 

I’ve learned to stop assuming, stop being the first to talk, just listen, ask questions, and ask how to help—the same way anyone would help their neighbor. 

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

- "Don't get lazy," was something Mr. Maurice would always say and has become a reminder to me to do the work needed being done.

 

- Respect is earned in many ways, but out of fear shouldn’t be one of them.

 

- The importance of interacting life both in its energy, spirit, as well as its physical form.

 

- “Everyone is a puzzle piece.  You can’t force yourself to fit in. Changing who you are will make the picture look incomplete, so be yourself, don’t try to adapt to people just to fit in, let them accept you as you are. 

                 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

Walk in with respect, don’t say a word just yet; you don’t have to. 

Ask yourself beforehand, “what brings you here?”

Ask yourself again after meeting Mr. Maurice.

Ask yourself again and continue asking yourself every day and night of your life. 

 

Mr. Maurice is a purpose-driven spirit, or so I have come to understand him.  Nothing is done unintentionally, so your interactions should be as such.  He’s a rigid character with expectations that are high, but fair. Be confident. You’ll learn through the discipline. 

 

Memories and Stories

When Mr. Maurice thought I was a spy. 

 

The first time singing for the farmers at the farm

 

The day where we composted nothing but strawberries for 8 hours (or what felt like)

 

Meeting his family, so gracious, so incredible.

 

When I asked Mr. Maurice about his cologne, “Never in all my years has any of my interns asked about my perfume,” he looked down and admitted under his breath, “it’s French Opium.”

 

In 35 states, there is less than 1% of black or African American principle farm operators.

 

A Few Words…

Thinking back, I worked my ass off and was proud of it, but thinking about it more, I know I left my work undone. Whether it be a farm or be it an unjust society, there will always be struggles, there will always be work to do.  

 

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Nothing better than growing food, growing friendships and growing neighborhoods - Holly Huff

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First and Last Name

Holly A Huff

 

Current place of residence

Stanton MI, Montcalm county

 

What is your current occupation/work?

I drive a school bus. I help my Amish neighbors, and I raise alpacas

 

When and where did you work with Maurice?

2008-2010 ELYRIA OH

 

For how long did you work with Maurice?

2 years

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Maurice worked with me and my neighbors to build gardens for neighbors to eat from. He showed us how to create garden beds with items most people throw out. Food compost, cardboard and paper, and horse and cow poo! We were able to create healthy soil above contaminated soil.
We were able to change the city officials’ minds who fought us about using unkept public property for community gardens. We not only were able to save the city money on maintenance of the property, but we supplied neighborhoods, food banks and churches with free fresh vegetables and fruits. Vacant properties not only grew food but friendships and knowledge. Children got involved and learned about soil, worms, seeds, nature, kindness and charity.


Three (3) years later, with new Mayor, we were able to create a city volunteer community garden program. The city of Elyria offered city lots to neighborhoods so they could build gardens. In 2015 there were 8 neighborhoods growing fresh, free produce for anyone who wanted or needed it. We never sell our produce and everyone is welcome to eat from the gardens.


Elyria was the second city I was able to start community gardens in, Cambridge, OH was the first. I have since moved to Michigan and am in the process of working with 2 towns here to do the same thing. We also have 17 acres of land in which we will be raising alpacas and horses and food. We will be sharing are food and poo with our country neighborhoods.

 

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

I realized I love helping people learn about making soil and growing food to share. I realize I never knew what a real Brussel sprout tasted like until you pull it off the plant at 4pm and have it on your dinner plate by 5pm. I realized I want to grow my own food and I loved country living. I decided to move from the city to the country.


I realized have to fight sometime for the cause. Learn to build community and show the city they need to expand their services to residents.
I have always loved gardens, but Maurice taught me how to build and create healthy soil. He taught me to love worms, not be frightened of them. Maurice was there to encourage me to fight the city to allow public gardens. When I was discouraged, he pushed me to continue the fight. It helped me realize that gardens don’t just grow food, they grow relationships into friendships, into healthy living and healthy neighborhoods.

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

Nothing better than growing food, growing friendships and growing neighborhoods.

 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

JUST TRY IT, YOU WILL LOVE IT!

 

Memories and Stories

How many stories do you want? I have many. One of my favorites is...

I received a call from a neighbor that someone was picking vegetables at 2am almost every morning. Not a lot just a couple items. Finally someone realized this person was struggling with his food source and was able to eat healthy and free because of our community garden. He was embarrassed that he was taking food from others but he was in serious need. Once it was explained that it was food grown for everyone who was willing to take it, you could see his shoulders rise. He felt cared about. He continued to pick from the gardens, but no longer felt he had to hide in the darkness to pick the produce. He was seen during the day picking food, pulling weeds, and bringing others who needed food. I saw pride grow in him and he paid it forward often.

 

A Few Words…

It is important and needed. Not only Maurice’s knowledge but how he energized people with his love of soil, fresh food, community and of course worms! He encouraged me to go outside of my comfort zone and fight for the right to GARDEN in public!

 

Anything else?

Maurice I love you and I love worms and poo now!!!!!

 

 

 

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Missing Perspectives: Justice, Race, Privilege and Food Systems - Daniel Brown

Name

Daniel Brown

 

Current place of residence

Cleveland, OH

 

What is your current occupation/work?

Co-Founder of Rust Belt Riders an organic waste hauling solution for Northeast Ohio businesses, schools, and institutions. Our work aims to create wealth from waste while advancing local food systems.

 

When and where did you work with Maurice and for how long?

Cleveland, 2010 (1 year)

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

We worked on policy, community training, garden preparation, local food procurement, education, and composting.

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

Maurice offered a perspective on the urban agricultural movement that was missing in my work. We discussed issues of justice, race, privilege, and economics as it relates to food systems. Our conversations, meals and work together allowed me to better understand the role that I can play in this work and how we can empower communities through a wide variety of outlets.

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

I would not be doing this work if not for Maurice. He is the person who got me passionate about food in all of its forms as an instrument for social change, environmental justice, and community building.

                 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

Do it, and do it now. Treasure every moment you have with this man. He is full of knowledge and insight and is eager to share his experiences and stories.

 

Memories and Stories

The first time I met Maurice he came to Chicago to speak at a conference I had organized. I remember him turning to me halfway through the conference and said "This is a success because of your work, be proud" and it is this warm, supportive and nurturing spirit that I try to carry with me in my work daily.

 

A Few Words…

Maurice has played a role in the establishment of food systems in Northeast Ohio far beyond most peoples understanding and long before it was fashionable or trendy to even care about local or organic foods. Northeast Ohio is now viewed as a national leader for local food production and I can only imagine how many people Maurice has touched through his work.

 

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Challenge, Inspiration and Don't Forget the Worms!! - Hilary Neff

Name

Hilary Neff

 

Current place of residence

Nashville, TN

 

What is your current occupation/work?

I am Wholesome Wave's Tennessee Field Coordinator for the AARP Fre$h Savings Program. This program allows SNAP participants to purchase double the produce at farmers markets in Tennessee and Mississippi. I travel to participating markets across Tennessee and help each market set up this grant program in a way that best fits their market and their community. Thanks to my experience starting school gardens and managing a farmers market in Southeast Kentucky, along with interning with Maurice, I had been well-prepared by previous jobs to fill this role.

 

When and where did you work with Maurice?

2012-2013 Maurice mentored me and Rachel Manning starting at Oberlin, but via Skype since our project was in Southeast Kentucky (Harlan County).

 

For how long did you work with Maurice?

1-2 years, but he is a continuing mentor

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Maurice provided much need advice and mentorship via Skype when Rachel and I began our community/school garden in Southeast Kentucky. Maurice helped us from the very early stages (to understand what sort of budget would be necessary) to the nuts and bolts of engaging a community (how to get local leaders involved in the project).

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

Maurice helped us grow from hopeful, idealist college students to well-informed, thoughtful, and community-driven young people. When we would get overwhelmed or weren't sure how to move the project forward, Maurice was always sure to put the soil and the people first, and he helped us look at the bigger picture. This was extremely helpful, especially since we were so new to this type of work. Maurice and Julia even hosted us in their home and taught us about local projects happening around Raleigh, NC. We learned so much from his expertise and vision.

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

Maurice has always been unafraid to challenge the young people around him while also inspiring them to work harder and think critically. He and his family are wonderful and I am always excited to learn about all the great work he is doing.

 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

It will absolutely benefit you and your community. Do it!

 

Memories and Stories

I remember on one particular Skype call, Rachel and I were pretty down about the project, because we weren't quite finding the community leaders we needed to carry on the work we started. Maurice gave us a fantastic pep talk. He told us that pioneers like Susan B. Anthony knew that real community change could not be given up on. He told us that the answers were there and we needed to find them. That this sort of work is essential and important and that we could do it.

 

A Few Words…

He very much walks the walk. He's in the garden, building soil, working with people from every background, and he's giving every living thing equal value and attention. His approach is incredibly holistic. Don't forget all those nutrient-building worms!!

 

Anything else?

Thanks for your time, Maurice. And thanks to Julia for all her great work as well. I feel very, very lucky to know you all.

 

 

 

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Inspiring Gardens, Community Transformation - Rachel Manning

Name

Rachel Manning

 

Current place of residence

New York, NY

 

What is your current occupation/work?

I am currently involved with the community outreach and engagement component of an environmental health research center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Last year I was an AmeriCorps member at the Institute for Family Health in NYC, where I worked with public schools to improve wellness programming (especially nutrition and physical education) for students. I was able to help 4 schools successfully apply for and start gardening projects in the South Bronx, which has a huge impact on the kids' engagement and ability to learn.

 

When and where did you work with Maurice?

Oberlin, OH - 2010-2014

 

For how long did you work with Maurice?

On and off mentorship for 2 years

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Maurice helped Hilary and I start a school garden project in KY, since we had little technical expertise at the time. He helped us identify crops to plant within the growing season and offered advice on how to effectively run an educational garden. We also stayed with him in NC and got to shadow him for a day!
In addition, I worked with Maurice as part of a community service trip through Oberlin College in 2010. He gave us a tour of urban gardens in Youngstown, OH, and led our group in a neighborhood gardening initiative.

 

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

Maurice is a very inspirational teacher, mentor, and friend. I was amazed to learn through working with him how much gardening can transform communities. In Youngstown he showed us how the presence of a neighborhood garden had reduced drug trafficking and crime in the community, and in Raleigh we worked with formerly incarcerated individuals who were using gardening as a means to get back on their feet. He was definitely a huge inspiration and help in my own gardening projects during college and after graduation. I learned that gardens are not just a tool to improve food access, but can be a positive social force in many ways. During my later years in college, I led community service trips with Oberlin students and led them in gardening work at the school project in KY, similar to the role Maurice played when I first met him.

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

See previous comment. Also, I really enjoyed meeting Maurice's family and witnessing their positive, loving dynamic. He is a wonderful role model! I really admire his persistence and ability to work in solidarity with community members. The physical nature of this work can be tiring, and it can also be difficult to feel like you are making a difference, especially when faced with resistance. However, I never saw him complain or have a negative attitude.

 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

It's an amazing opportunity and you are sure to learn a lot, not just about gardening but life in general. I would recommend it 100%!

 

Memories and Stories

When Hilary and I stayed with Maurice in NC, I remember how much life was being grown in and outside his house. One thing I remember clearly was how many old shoes had been filled with soil and were sustaining small plants. He was also building an outdoor garden, and I recall his wife cooking with the produce they grew. Instead of discarding old things that could be considered trash, they had been converted to pots for growing plants. This creative idea stuck in my mind and inspired me to do something similar on my own in the future.

 

A Few Words…

Maurice is able to be accepted in many communities, and this is a huge part of his success with community gardening work. I have felt the 'outsider effect' in many of my efforts to work with lower income or minority communities on gardening initiatives, and this is a very difficult barrier to overcome. Each time I worked with Maurice, I could tell that he has negotiated this very successfully in his work. People respect him and are eager to work with him. He does not come across as elitist or controlling when it comes to starting community gardening projects, and people of various backgrounds can identify with him. This is essential in having local communities take on projects and sustain them without Maurice's help in the future.

 

Anything else?

I miss Maurice and his family (and cats)! Hope our paths cross again.

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From Compost to City Planning: Erika Brandt

Name

Erika Brandt

 

Current place of residence

Carrboro, NC, USA

 

What is your current occupation/work?

I'm a Masters student in City and Regional Planning at UNC.

 

When and where did you work with Maurice?

2014

 

For how long did you work with Maurice?

About 9 months here and there (Oct '13 - Aug '14), and then for about a month more regularly (Aug - Sep '14)

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Planting, watering, weeding, building beds, shoveling dirt, construction on mushroom project

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

I learned a lot about gardening and composting. I thought about the roles that gardening and farming play in people's lives on both a personal and community level. How it shapes and is shaped by the history of a place, its culture, its values, its economics. Thinking about sustainable agriculture and food justice is definitely something that I have carried with me into my graduate schooling in City & Regional Planning, and intend to carry with me once I enter the field as a professional.

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

Beyond knowledge gained, Maurice is a refreshing person to spend time with. Always interesting questions and conversations that break you out of your normal, set way of thinking or looking at life.

 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

Do it. You'll learn a lot.

 

 

 

 

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A Magic Garden - Jeremy Winkler

To this day Maurice has the most distinguished and sincere laugh and embrace of anyone I have ever met and I use my time with him as a measure and reminder of what to strive for in each day of my life.

My name is Jeremy Winkler.  I interned for Maurice from 2004 to 2005.  It was probably one of the most meaningful times in my life.  I had just come back to Cleveland that summer from an intensive 4 month field studies course in the badlands of Utah and on the Navajo nation and my mind was heavily absorbed in community and the environment.  To my really good fortune I was chosen to participate in the environmental americorps team as part of a summer program at Case Western Reserve University paired up with the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.  This opportunity allowed me to step into the special and magical realm of Maurice Smalls.  

 

I spent my internship working under the guidance of Mr. Small and its hard to explain how quickly I found his embrace, his smile and his intellect absorb me completely.  As an intern I spent time helping Mr. Small set up and maintain community gardens across the city of Cleveland as well as mentor and plan lessons for the youth in the area who he had hired on as employees to grow, harvest and sell the crops as part of a learning model setup as a small business.  This really brought together the community from all demographics however it didn't come with its own unique set of challenges as some gardens were located in tough areas where vandalism and security were at stake as well as some of the employees who lacked mentorship, were young, naive and at times disordinate.  However Maurice ran these operations with complete style and grace and I saw everyone who was part of the program completely buy into his mission and purpose and consider him like a friend, father, or older brother.  It was really beautiful.  Mr. Small would talk about how beautiful his life was and he would compare it to riding a wave.  And while he would be chewing on his licorice root, with crystals braided into his hair, he would say, "Oh man, I've been riding this wave for 15 years man, life is really beautiful."  And he had all the kids each pick out a little space in the garden that they would call their own.  Some would find a little hidden corner tucked under a grove of trees, others would create their special place between the chicken coop and their building with flowers and painted tires and striped bean stalks growing along the edge of an abandoned factory.  The colors and beauty and positivity from everyone working together was unreal, it truly was a magic garden.  My work with Maurice extended to working as part of a guerrilla task force aimed at setting up gardens all across the city, and again this was one of the richest periods of my life.  Achievement was measured in smiles from strangers, it was truly being alive.   

 

Upon graduation I decided to pursue a Ph.D in chemistry at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.  During my graduate studies my community involvement shifted more towards working with the homeless as well as organizing and hosting benefits in film and music to support local charities.  Upon completion of my Ph.D. I moved to Boston, where I currently reside, to continue my education as a post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital.  My current work focuses on research on the resolution of inflammation in human health and disease.  This work extends to nutrition, immunology, biochemistry and pathology.

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Do it. You won't regret it. - Ms. Hattie Wilkins

Name

Hattie Wilkins

 

Current place of residence

Youngstown, OH

 

What is your current occupation/work?

Community Garden

 

When and where did you work with Maurice and for how long?

2010 (1 year)

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Master gardening class.

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

Grew community garden and helped start projects for neighborhood kids.

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

Helped me believe that I could change my community.

 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

Do it. You won't regret it.

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Straw Bales and High Heels, Community Gardening with Maurice: Meagan Tehua

Name

Megan Tehua

Current place of residence

Pataskala, OH

What is your current occupation/work?

I am currently a homemaker, taking care of an 8 month old as sustainably as I can and making whole foods and live foods for my family.   I consider myself an environmental educator and locavore.

 

When and where did you work with Maurice and for how long?

2009 (1.5 years) in Ohio

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Straw bale gardening, innovative planting (in round bales, on tables, using various design techniques), vermicomposting, community garden training.

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

Cross cultural connections were made in a diverse county, youth and adults were inspired to grow and eat fresh produce.

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

I learned about imagining a better future, setting goals, writing grants, and implementing community projects.   I have benefited from having Maurice as a friend and the multi-faceted ways he leads by example.

 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

Maurice is about holistic wellness and sustainable production.  He is great to work with because he cares.

 

Memories and Stories

Once at a Lincoln Park Community Garden class he wanted people to interact and see the garden as their space. He had nearly everyone standing on bales of hay and boards, including a lady in high heels!

 

A Few Words…

Maurice is able and willing to connect with people from all corners of the city and country.  He is a connector, educator, organizer, and promoter of good wages, ecologically grown food and live cultures.

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Ode to an Urban Farm: Marla Hawkins

Name

Marla Hawkins

 

Current place of residence

Durham, NC

 

What is your current occupation/work?

Educator. Currently employed with Wake County Schools as a Literacy Teacher teaching Language Arts to 6th, 7th and 8th grade students diagnosed with learning disabilities. I also write and do poetry readings, create visual art and do art workshops.

 

When and where did you work with Maurice?

2013, Raleigh, NC

 

For how long did you work with Maurice?

One Summer for approximately two months

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Community farm/ garden hands-on work

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

During my summer on the farm I experienced a therapeutic healing and awakening of sorts. After a two year grieving and dramatic life transition, for the first time, I experienced an understanding of our physical and spiritual connection to earth, to dirt. I expanded my understanding of what I was physically capable of. Finally, I came away with a permanent awakening and interest in what is behind the food we eat and how it affects us and the environment. And a new appreciation of worms...from a distance.

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

Maurice provided an example to me of consistent and persistent focus and dedication to one's life purpose.

 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

Be ready to work hard physically and be serious and dedicated mentally. Be ready to learn, grow, be challenged personally. Be ready to contribute your ideas, skills and talents and have them valued.

 

Memories and Stories

My experience working with Maurice made such an impact on me that I wrote a poem at the end of that summer to capture it. Below:


Ode to an Urban Farm

Working at the urban farm this summer was the best therapy Ive had yet
Something about shoveling dirt, pulling weeds,
hands in soil and planting seeds
meditation in the midday sun - 95 degrees
Feeling sweat wash the toxins from my soul
grounding me, connecting me to earth, God, and ancestors in my genetic memory
me and girl power from A&T chopping down trees
laughing at brothers running from bees
I heard that we need to understand that growing our food
will one day mean our survival
from a man who looks and acts like he knows
I got muscles, vegetables and clarity
at the South East Raleigh farm where serenity grows


Written by Marla Hawkins, 2013

 

A Few Words…

The education that Maurice provides to both established community members and the next generations about the power of controlling what you eat is invaluable and critical.

 

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True Empowerment in Action: A Pivotal Year for Mackenzie Brown

Name

MacKenzie Brown

 

Current place of residence

San Francisco, CA

 

What is your current occupation/work?

I work for a school garden organization called Education Outside. I manage eight full-time instructors who teach science lessons in elementary school gardens.

 

When and where did you work with Maurice?

2010-2011 (1 year) Ohio

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Maurice led a number of community trainings that I attended; these included several garden builds. He also took me with him on trips around the region and introduced me to various community leaders. I would sometimes ride with him as he went about his daily work and we would chat in the car as I got to get a taste of what his day-to-day work consisted of.  We also went on food runs to Amish country, and took a trip to Detroit with my interns. I also recall him being available to just chat when I needed to process my work and the difficulties that came up for me.

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

I think back to my year with Maurice as the most pivotal, influential year of my life. He has influenced me greatly, and I still refer to him as my mentor even though we haven't lived in the same place for five years. He exposed me to such a broad range of people doing vital work around food and community, and those experiences significantly widened my perspective. As his intern, I always felt deeply trusted and respected by him. In my current job, I am still working with plants and youth, and feel like my time with Maurice gave me a richness and ability to intuit the interconnectedness of ecology and community.

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

During our time together, I started an internship program for high-school students, and I remember how nervous I was on the first day I was to suddenly be the boss. He was there, and I wanted him to swoop in and work his magic so the first day would be as incredible as I knew he could make it. He gently supported me, but stepped back. He gave me exactly what I needed to step into my own power and refused to rescue me. As a result, I had to lean into my nerves, and began the process of trusting my own leadership potential and inner power. This to me is true empowerment in action. It makes me recall the whole teaching a man to fish saying, because Maurice was more invested in my being able to grow as a leader than him being able to get to be the star.

 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

Maurice absolutely changed my life. He's magical. I wish I still lived close and we could work more closely. I can't think of anyone who's doing more important work with more vision and integrity.

 

A Few Words…

Maurice has the ability to build coalitions of people, and do so in a genuine and inspiring way. His ability to see food systems as truly holistic relationships between land and people is more intuitive and nuanced than most people I know. He does NOT give lip service to the idea of community but lives it. He cultivates networks of leaders as well as vegetables.

 

Anything else?

Maurice is amazing. If there's something more specific that would be helpful to share I'd be happy to follow up.

 

 

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Garden at the Teen Center - Byron Laws

Byron Laws

Byron Laws

Name

Byron Laws

 

Current place of residence

Raleigh, NC, United States

 

What is your current occupation/work?

I am the Unit Director of the Ralph E. Capps Teen Center. I manage staff and members at The Club-Teen Center. The Teen Center is an all high school Boys & Girls Club in which we focus on career exploration, character and citizenship, and well as healthy lifestyles.

 

When and where did you work with Maurice?

Summer 2012, Raleigh/Durham, NC

 

For how long did you work with Maurice?

Two months, 2 times per week. Currently, once a week. 

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

While working with Mr. Maurice I assisted with the following.

Community event planning
Built a hoop-house
Garden planting
Garden layout design
Built indoor lighting structures
composting
Tower garden planting indoor/outdoor
Harvest plants indoor/outdoor
Community networking

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

I was able to grow personally and professionally while working with Mr. Maurice. He was able to help me take a personal passion of mine and develop it into interactive program at my job. He has taught me the importance of developing personal relationship that can grow into professional partnerships and vice versa. I have been able to learn what it takes to combat systemic issues from a grassroots level as well as how to engage community stakeholders in supporting a shared vision.

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

I look forward to working with Mr. Maurice weekly. He is consistent with his work and efforts in regards to developing relationships that benefit the community. He has a gift of being able to listen in hopes of being a supporting factor as well as a dedication to encourage those around him.

 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

To those who are interested in working with Mr. Maurice I would say this be prepared to learn about plants and growing food, but be excited to learn more about yourself and how you can make a difference in your workplace, and community.

 

Memories and Stories

One of the fondest memories I have with working with Mr. Maurice is when I started my new job as the Unit Director of the Teen Center. Prior to working at the Teen Center Mr. Maurice and I had met through some non-profit working I was engaging in with some friends from college back in 2012-2013. After several months of little communication between him and I it was a pleasant surprise to see him already engaged as a volunteer at the Teen Center when I arrived. He congratulated me on the new position I accepted and expressed to me how proud he was as well as how much he looked forward to us working together once again. Since then we have been able to start an outdoor garden here at the Teen Center as well as 3 indoor garden systems.

 

A Few Words…

Mr. Maurice is very knowledgeable in regards to plants and what resources are needed for them to grow in different environments. He is very creative in terms of building structures that are needed for plants to grow indoors.
 

Mr. Maurice work is extremely impactful. His ability to communicate with both youth and adults in regards to teaching them the importance of growing and sustaining food systems is something that I find very impressive.
 

What makes his efforts so compelling is his work ethic and dedication to his passion of helping building a stronger community through food systems. His passion in regards to teaching and working hands-on with people of any age who express an interest in growing food is unmatched.

 

Anything else?

Mr. Maurice is a pleasure to work with his guidance and mentorship have most certainly been helpful in many ways in my personal and professional development. I look forward to seeing his success throughout the community and at the Teen Center.

 

 

 

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The importance of the "hustle" in supporting food justice - Karyn Moskowitz

Karyn Moskowitz

Karyn Moskowitz

Name

Karyn Moskowitz

 

Current place of residence

Louisville, Kentucky, USA

 

What is your current occupation/work?

I help run a small, grassroots nonprofit organization, New Roots. We believe fresh food is a human right. NEW ROOTS works with fresh food insecure communities to create sustainable systems for accessing the farm-fresh food we all need to be healthy and happy. We recruit develop and support leaders/volunteers to drive and sustain the Fresh Stop Markets. Fresh Stop Markets are “pop up” farm-fresh food markets set up at local churches and community centers in fresh food insecure neighborhoods. The food has been paid for in advance so that farmers don’t face the same degree of risk as they do with a standard farmers’ market.

 

When and where did you work with Maurice?

I began working with Maurice in 2009 and have worked with him on and off for 7 years.

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

He was a mentor to me.

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

Changed my life. Became a community organizer. Never hit a brick wall without quickly turning the corner to try something new (Maurice's great metaphor that has kept me sane).

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

He's the bomb. I think of Maurice all the time when I feel lonely or isolated in this movement. Even though he is not physically present here in Kentucky I know he is in NC fighting the good fight and that is comforting and strengthening.

 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

Go for it!

 

Memories and Stories

Maurice taught me the importance of the "hustle." That is, to keep moving, find money in any way you can, to support the food justice habit. It has worked!

 

A Few Words…

Changing hearts and minds, one at a time.

 

Anything else?

Thanks Maurice. Keep up the hustle!

 

 

 

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pork shoulder, purple carrots, and local food - Frank Whitfield

Name

Frank Whitfield

 

Current place of residence

Elyria, Oh, US

 

What is your current occupation/work?

President & CEO Lorain County Urban League

 

When and where did you work with Maurice?

Elyria, OH

 

For how long did you work with Maurice?

Beginning in 2008 for three years

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Trainings, planting planning, food distribution, business planning, youth programming, social entrepreneurship, culinary classes, community organizing.

 

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

I gained a respect for nature, developed entrepreneurship skills, and I learned to work with diverse populations.

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

Made me a better leader, organizer, risk taker, and entrepreneur.

 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

Buckle up and enjoy the ride. Stay open minded. Try new things

 

Memories and Stories

Standing in the back room of a restaurant passing around pork shoulder and purple carrots talking about local food.

 

A Few Words…

Maurice is Visionary. A prophet. An entrepreneur. An agirculturalist. A humanitarian. A planet caretaker. An Urban Legend. His work will continue to inspire the people he has come in contact with not only in their professional lives but also their personal.

 

 

 

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The old red truck, respect, community, and (brutal) honesty - Lindsey Carver

Lindsey Carver in action at the farm.

Lindsey Carver in action at the farm.

Name

Lindsey Carver

Current place of residence

Cary, NC, USA

What is your current occupation/work?

AmeriCorps Community Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator at The Conservation Fund

When and where did you work with Maurice?

August 2013 through December 2013 at 500 Hoke Street in Raleigh, NC

 For how long did you work with Maurice?

Five months (Once an intern, always an intern?)

 What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Compost
Compost
Water catchment
Recycling found materials
Time with Ms. Thelma, including planting our row together
Rose bush trimming
Basil trimming
Vermicomposting
Community relationships
Donations from local companies
Donating supplies to community gardens
Building new gardens
Y Learning Garden
Longview School
Some more compost

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

The words respect, community, and (brutal) honesty come to mind.

 How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

As a white, privileged member of the middle class, I have to be mindful of how I approach community work. Maurice helped me reflect on the reality of community food systems and where it might be appropriate and impactful for me to fit in. I am still figuring out my niche, but Maurice has been supportive along the way.

 What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

If you are unsure about committing to an internship, I would encourage you to try it. Even if you do not go on to do food systems work, Maurice offers a unique perspective on food and life that will no doubt impact you.

 Memories and Stories

I remember driving around in the old red truck and seeing how big a load we could carry. I remember both laughing and having serious conversations about race with Ms. Thelma.

 A Few Words…

Maurice approaches his work strategically with a goal in mind, but he knows how to garner community support and buy-in to promote change in a respectful manner.

Ms. Thelma, Maurice and the Red Truck

Ms. Thelma, Maurice and the Red Truck

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