Maurice Small, Food Strategist, Interview
Monday, March 9, 2015
City of Cleveland Rockefeller Gardens
Cleveland, Ohio USA
Farming For Food Justice
Good morning, my name is Maurice Small, I’m a Food Strategist. I work in communities of low wealth and I make sure they are able to activate the wealth they have internally and that they have around them. That they have all the tools they need to have great food access, food health and food awareness.
My passion involves simple things that are of the earth-earthworms, soil, the leaves that fall off the trees. All these things are simple but they’re all around us no matter where we are on the earth. As a matter of fact, there are things that are simple and active beneath all of our feet that participate in the growth of who we are. But we overlook them. This overlooked passion becomes something that I like to look at as a gift. This passion has led me to create homes for worms, this passion has led me to create the opportunity for communities to begin to access larger homes for worms and often times these communities of low wealth are particularly food insecure because they don’t have good soil. Good soil is the foundation of all things. That’s where we came from, we have it in our guts, and without this good soil, we perish as we are now. My job is to use my passion, use my gifts to create good soil, via worms and leaves and compost and things like that so that we are able to fortify our communities.
One of the great things that I think that we can all utilize every day, every moment, is the concept of simple awareness. When we are aware of commonalities that we all share no matter who we are and no matter our backgrounds, there’s a way that we can begin to utilize each other, and this involves team work, and it also involves no ego. When we get rid of ego, this passion becomes a driver. For me, the passion that drives, that people begin to get the virus of, is soil creation and compost. When we can look at a community that’s healthy, truly healthy, and where we’re all sharing food systems and we’re all sharing fruit systems and we’re all sharing soil guilds and things like that, there’s a way that the community begins to thrive and there’s a way that the community begins to forget about the weapons and there’s a way the community begins to think about, “How do we encourage each other?” “How do we begin to access the finer points of who we are?”
But it takes slowing down, a little bit, and looking at the simple things in life. These passions that I try to impart from my life to others include, and taking time to think about where the banana peel goes. Taking time to think about the potato skin. Taking time to think about your recycled paper that is not with the heavy ink on it. These are simple things and these simple things can happen day to day. And when we slow down, because slowing down is that breath, and that breath becomes magical and that smile comes out of that breath, and even when you’re stuck in traffic and that passion that you lost two blocks away is not there anymore - if you stop and take that breath and you imagine you’re in a calm and peaceful environment, there’s nothing that you can’t do when that next breath comes along. It’s a matter of changing perspective, it’s a matter of looking within yourself and as you look at others, taking the time to make sure, “Are we all on the same page?”
The future. Perspective. Looking inside. We have a very long way to go. We are new on the earth and our footprint is very large. As a result, we have to work extra hard to facilitate the manifestation of community. If we pause and take that breath, and if we pause and look into the eyes of nature and look at each other with the same pause, with the eyes of nature, there’s a way that we can begin to see the future as a slowing down point, not a speeding up point. All of our tools, all of our equipment, all of these things are very rapid pace and based on [snaps fingers in rapid succession]. We have to slow down, and we have to walk and ride our bikes and we have to sit, but we also have to take action. Walking is an action, riding a bike is an action, sitting is an action. We have to make these decisions and move forward into the future with healthy thought, with cognizance of who we are and community as it relates to nature.
Compost is a very simple thing because it allows us to watch a transformation. There’s one thing in particular about compost that intrigues most of us that understand what compost is and that is the simple movement of the worm. The future involves the worm. The worm can digest things and process it and make it into gold! Certain types of alchemy happen in the worm’s stomach. We, as humans, looking at this film, have the opportunity to duplicate simple processes like the worm. There’s an opportunity to look at the future from the worm’s perspective. Very low on the ground. Coming in and out. There’s a very interesting opportunity to look at the future in that we can become asexual. We can make a choice to become male or female, not that that has anything to do with larger points of view about human sexuality, but the mere fact that the worms make a choice and they are simple enough to give the opportunity to another about, “This time I’ll be the female.” “Next time you’ll be the male.” Or, “I’ll be the female again.” It goes on and on and on. If we just do simple research and look at how these creatures interact and how simple the outcomes are our future can be just as productive but we have to slow down and we have to look at our future through the lens of simple creatures like the earthworm.
One of the important parts of my work and the work I’ve shared with others over the years has been the importance of simple things like network theory, network building, sustainable network production. How do these co-ops begin to look like natural systems? Food guilds? Community guilds? Cooperative engagement? All these things are paramount to who we are because like nature there are simple webs that begin to form when we’re able to dive into who we are as a species. As a species we have eliminated some of the most simple things in the past two hundred years. As a result, we’ve become deficient in our care of the earth. This talk is not primarily about the care of the earth, it’s about I-Open and how my work participates in the larger scheme of things. However, my work involves the earth and building networks on the earth is paramount because of what we’ve lost over the past two hundred years.
There’s a way that we can as humans work together to find out what the simple aspect of others are about. And that is Appreciative Inquiry. If we begin to ask from a deeper spot of who we are, we can begin to unknown truths in our neighbors, unknown truths about the people on the bike trail next to us, if we just stop and be curious, not just run by. There’s a way of slowing down in our networks, and we’re building them slow, we have to also think about expediency in the network. We can’t take forever building a network. We have to move forward and we have to move forward with purpose which means we have, “A”, “B”, “C”, “D”. And how do we get to “A” rapidly? How do we get to “B” rapidly? How do we get to “C” rapidly? As we make the moves, we have to make the moves with consciousness, and another word might be “care”. As we’re caring for our decision making, as we’re rapidly making decisions, we have to look at, “What are the outcomes?” Building networks is not without the outcomes as outcomes are being produced with “A” being completed, now we’re on to “B”, What are the residual effects of “A”? What are the residual effects of “B” now that we’re on to “C”? All these things have alternative recourses. We don’t want to screw things up. If we do, that’s how we learn. Screwing things up is great, however, and this is getting political, we don’t want to jump into the fracking piece, we don’t want to jump into the Gulf being flooded with oil, we don’t want to jump into these areas where we’re harming our ecosystems which support us. We don’t want to get into that.
As a result, we have to be careful of the residuals of our network building. There are a number of films and written documentaries about network building and network theory. Mine is simply, we have to resemble nature. The tribes that lived on this earth for thousands of years and are still here have cared for the earth in harmony. Perhaps that might be a better word. Building networks involves building harmony. If we can build harmony every day, when we’re in our meetings if we can just build harmony, this harmonic flow, this vibrational pattern will begin to emanate, much like the plants around us, and we’re vibrating with them, we have results and the results can be pretty dramatic. And as our children and our grandchildren and our great grandchildren and our great-great grandchildren look back at the network building that we’ve done in the beginning of this century, there’s a way we can begin to look at this network theory - I-Open - as being an opportunity of true community engagement.
One of the things that we’ve lost is communication. One of the things that we’ve lost is awareness. One of the things that we’ve lost in our speed one hundred years before the Industrial Revolution, four hundred years before the Columbus dude did his thing and all the other nice people that came over. Before all these things, we communicated. Communication was disrupted. We have these things in the back of our head, and we have these things in our bodies that allow us to communicate with other parts of our bodies. We still have people on the earth that are in communication with these things in the back of our head and these things in our body. These simple plants that are able to fortify us.
Rapidly thinking about “us” as individuals, rapidly thinking of “self” has led to the rapid mis- and de- communication of us as a species. We have wrapped ourselves in “us” and we haven’t wrapped ourselves in what always was. And because of that, we have become deficient. And there’s nothing we can do but revert back to the simple process of, “Who are we?” “Where are we going?” How do we begin to rediscover the simple things? How do we begin to change our dichotomy of thought? How do we begin to change our attitudes? Once we begin to change our attitudes, once we being to change our thought, these things are reworked and as they’re reworked they’re re-woven, and as you re-weave something it becomes stronger, and the network becomes tighter and soon you have a whole community that is up in arms with joy. We begin to discuss things at length while we’re taking action, that we’re all treated equally.
The knuckleheads have to go. The disruptors have to go, they are no longer welcome. This is my alter call, I’m asking you to join us. Become part of the theory, we can talk to each other again. We can work with each other again. We don’t have to participate like we’ve been participating. As we begin to grasp a hold of one another, and we begin to vibrate on a different level, and take action with our food systems first and foremost, what we put in we become. What we take in through our senses and our ears and our eyes and our smell, what we put in, we become. If we are able to participate with each other, there’s a way we can participate in our own dynamic future and the way we can participate in the reconstruction of our systems, primarily our food systems.
One of the second things I think about quite regularly, is the quality of inclusion. And it gives me pause and I have to take a breath because when I think about who we are as a people I think about inclusion and I think about “tribal”. As we discuss “tribal” and we think about inclusion and we think about who we are and we look at communities and how the communities are structured, politics of community, and all these “things” that come in and tell us what to think about and what to do. Because it’s simple to be a part of a “clique”, it’s simple to be a part of a group, it’s simple to be a part of whatever it happens to be that feels good, it’s difficult to break away from that. One of the important things I feel we need to do, and I think about it all the time, is, how do we begin to include, like nature, all these things that nature includes?
Let’s look at a simple tree. The tree, is such that, they provide homes. Homes for the termites, homes for the ants, homes for the birds, homes for the squirrels, homes for the raccoons, they provide food sources for the birds, the squirrels, they provide structure for us, and it goes on and on and on. A simple tree. A small tree, it could be a large tree, a one thousand year old tree. Trees have it mastered because they’ve been here millions and millions of years. They’ve adapted. We as a people have to think about the same things. We as a people have to begin to think about duplicating harmonious levels of consciousness in ways that we can begin to include other species besides our own.
Inclusion goes beyond humans. As humans we’ve begun to exclude the poor, as humans we’ve begun to exclude the rich, as humans we’ve begun to exclude those that don’t have a college degree, as humans we’ve begun to exclude those that are not artists, we’ve begun to exclude those that don’t drink beer. When do we begin to embrace, and include, everyone? A little while ago I said, “the knuckleheads have to go” “those who don’t participate have to go” and that’s a truism because I believe, and that’s usually my second or third thought of the day, we have to begin to include others we don’t understand. If we don’t understand them, it’s our job to begin to understand them. We can’t just cast out those we don’t understand that are poor, that are on the streets, that are disenfranchised, that are wealthy with eighty acres of lawn.
Everyone is included on earth and as human beings we all have input. We have to begin to include others in our choices. Let’s take care of the simple things but primarily let’s take care of “us” as a group and begin to include those that are left out because of our misunderstanding of who they are. Taking a peek, just a simple peek, into the window of another person’s soul at a deep level allows us a period of certain gravity that’s unbeknownst, and it feels good when that person lets us in. Inclusion, is important.
Next, it’s simple. I don’t know how the light is hitting my face right now, but I feel the warmth of the sun on this morning at 10:42 a.m. at this time with this moment there’s an opportunity to feel the warmth of the light on your face. That warmth is power. That power is solar. If I was to go outside, or if the vents in this room were to open, a swirling of energy, of fresh energy, this energy is such that it holds power too. Wind. There is something about a fluid. Simple fluid that we all have in our bodies. I think we are 79% liquid. liquid is made of water. These plants that we’re around, these plants that we consume, these root crops we harvest, 75-95% water. Water has power. Solar, wind and water. How do we begin to use the signs of who we are, what we’ve learned over the past two hundred plus years, how do we begin to use these things to work in harmony with nature? The fossil fuel thing is very easy. However, it’s dooming us to a rapid grave. It’s dooming our children to a rapid grave.
Next solar. Next wind. Next water. All these powers, these powers of nature. All these simple things. All these dichotomies of thought that surround us, that we feel with our senses, all these are the future, they’ve been with us, believe it or not, for billions of years. The plants and the animals have utilized them for billion of years. We are just now beginning to utilize them. As a result, we have a rapid way to go. A fast way to go. Because we’ll always have the wind. We’ll always have clean water and for sure another million plus years, we’ll always have the sun. My next thoughts are always on natural resources and how we can begin to utilize them.
Information and sharing. One of those things is curious and one of those things is natural. We as people like to share. We as people like to become part of a larger group. Information that we share individually, information that we share as a larger group is quite different. One of the things I like to do is to get people together and share pasts and talk about the ugly and talk about the beautiful, talk about the invigorating. When we begin to get together with the different perspectives of who we are, sharing becomes a larger point of building on the future, building on a larger network. As we begin to ask questions on, “What can we do?” We manifest larger groups of positivity. There is that piece of, “Wow, I didn’t know that.” If we didn’t share it, it wouldn’t come out. I like to share 92% of what I do. There are a few, “Because of the money situation in the world, we can’t share at all because someone will grab it and!” No. I don’t share everything, but you’ll get 92%. 92% is more than most! So, let’s look at sharing as being a larger piece of the puzzle, as we share our meals, as we share our pathways, our enlightenment, as we begin to share our community development, our city planning, our rural development, let’s go for it! And let’s not be greedy. Greedy does not pay. Sharing is about not being greedy. And sharing involves a larger percent of love and understanding. It gets ugly, but we can make it happen. We have to being to share our networks, we have to begin to share our perspectives and we have to begin truthfully look inside at who we are, how we’re going to connect with one another, how we’re going to build our networks and how we’re going to be open to our next opportunity to share.
Who would I like to be connected to that I’m not? Well, as you travel the earth, and I encourage everyone to travel the earth, don’t just travel in the clique, travel outside the clique. If you go on a cruise, don’t stay on the cruise tour, get off the path and head for the hood! Get to the hood. The cruise is not going to take you to the hood. The travel agent isn’t going to take you where you need to go. You need to find real people. You need to connect with reality. One of the larger pieces of our species, again being comfortable with who we are as a general group. As a general group we are vast and as a general group we are animated and as a general group we are dynamic. We have to explore these avenues. Exploring these avenues leads to enlightenment. Exploring these avenues leads to engagement. Exploring these avenues leads to further sharing of resources, and seeds and systems and networks and soon, and this will get me back to the larger topic, you begin to access those you never had access to.
The people that I’m looking to access are people that are in the silos. People that are in the bubbles, for whatever reason. Particularly those that have old family wealth, old money. It’s stolen. You didn’t earn it, you stole it. From somebody by manipulating somebody else. Truth. This truth is an ugly truth. Your walls are up, there’s gated people that don’t allow people in. How do I gain access to you? Do I need you? Do I want to have you? Truth is, you’re valuable. Beyond that word “valuable” you are valuable as a species. You’re part of the tool that makes us all run. If we’re not running smoothly, we’re looking at you. I’m not talking about you in particular, I’m talking about those behind the gates. You’ve got to come from behind the gates. You’re holding up progress. You’re making decisions that we don’t have access to because you’re holding the power. But in truth, we’re holding all the power. Because we’re the masses, we can make change. You can’t hide behind the gates forever. This is not a threat. This is the reality. Having access to you allow us and myself greater access to the larger pieces of the network puzzle. The network is not going to eat you or exclude you, the network will most likely embrace you, we’re a very loving, soft, giving people. I don’t have access right now because of the gates being up. The gates can’t be up forever. Every gate crumbles. It has to be rebuilt. As a matter of fact, who’s going to rebuild those gates?
There’s a curious thing about the networks my work entails and these networks are such that they are simple networks and the networks involve people. The people are simple people. The people are poor people. People who are disadvantaged in many ways but they hold the greatest advantage. And as simple people, we’re able to turn corners rapidly because of the frustration of the hard life. And with this hard life are reality checks that come very rapidly and these reality checks are such that you have to deal with them. Therefore, the mind has been trained to activate certain things rapidly. These networks are such that they are world wide. My work across the United States and such that the people in these communities of low wealth have all the resources they need around them and once they’re shown what these resources are and their minds begin to click into a certain pattern of looking and thinking the synapses begin to spark on a rapid level and very soon these food systems begin to spring up.
Simple food systems, not elaborate food systems, the economies of scale, the local dollars that stay inside for five or ten weeks, the local monies, the local currencies, all the things begin to fluctuate and ebb and flow and soon you have power in the community. This community power begins to exude into the children and the children rapidly grab on to what the parents are doing and before you know it, everyone’s involved and you have a complete city. The city is working towards a common goal of change and productivity.
One of the simple things we use to identify who is involved in these networks, is being simple. Walking the streets and allowing the community to let us know what it is they need. The community knows what they need; if they need anything, they’re not going to tell you. They might need it like nobody’s business but they’re not going to tell you. But there’s that one person out of a hundred that will tell you about what it is the community needs. That’s the person that it might take you six months or six years to reach but that person has all the info on the inside of what needs to happen in that community, at that church, at that synagogue, at that mosque, at that college, at the county level-all these things begin to manifest out of that one person. And that one person has a liaison, has a community person in their network that they bring on, and soon there’s three, seven, and soon after six months of this network coming together, there’s a community theory of action and this action leads back to a “Plan A” and having a plan for the residuals, a “Plan B” and having a plan for the residuals, and soon you’re at “Plan D” and “Plan D” is off and running and it’s two years later and things are looking very productive. Identifying that one out of a hundred, sometimes it’s a classroom and you identify one student out of twenty, and because that student is a student that student is pretty young, that student can identify two or three others and it begins to flourish. And soon there’s forty students involved in a network and they’re activating common good for all the students that choose to participate. These people make a choice to work with you. Identify them and you’re off and running.
Quality. Large word. How do you apply quality to networks? How do you apply quality to mapping a network? For some of us it’s simple and for some of us it’s more complex and over a longer period of time. For me, it’s identification. And identification looks like a vibration. It’s impossible to describe, I feel it, your gut, and we can talk about theory forever. There’s something about gut that gives you a clue as to who it is, what it is, where these individuals fit on this map-where this church, where the production facility, where this brewery, where this hemp farmer, the hog farmer, where the water system, where the solar panels-all these things are part of this map, and your gut will begin to tell you.
This gets back to the first part of this series, when we were talking about the vibrations of who we are, and becoming simple enough to identify who are, because everything’s lined up with things back here (gesturing to the back of the head) and everything has to flow, that’s a map. And as you create this map, you access it on a daily basis, you access it on an hourly basis, you access it all the time and it determines who you are as an individual. As an individual, you have to be able to make a decision about what happens in your network. As you’re mapping your network, as you’re deciphering who is a part of your network, all these things are critical. It’s very important that as you map your network theories, you chart them on your space, on your wall, as you look at them in your figurative mind, and or on your laptop or in the sand on the beach. These maps are critical because they lead somewhere, and ideally, you’re leaving a map behind for others to follow.
Let’s look at opportunities and how opportunities function. Opportunities come all the time and opportunities are taken away all the time. How do you grasp and identify an opportunity? It comes back to the gut, at least with me. Looking at my gut, how do I feel? What patterns are there? What mapping future is there? What pattern on that map looks like I’m seeing it again. How are these things recurring again and again? It’s not easy. It’s a constant struggle. But if you don’t struggle, there is no growth and this growth is determined by natural systems, in my world.
The future looks like the things we mentioned before, the wind, the solar, the water. Mapping these things, putting those things in perspective, utilizing simple traits of who you’ve become, looking at who our gut tells us needs to be a part of something, or, someone telling us and listening and taking the opportunity to re-connect. Some of these things can be simple and some of these things can be obtuse. Taking a deep breath allows us to work on who it is our choices are made about, who it is our choices are made for, and who it is these choices begin to wrap themselves around.
I hope that, in the future, one of these days, that, whoever sees this can come back and share with me what it is that these visions into the future have been able to impact, how it’s been able to impact you? Ideally, we’re able to “plug in” and that’s a serious word, it’s a common word, and I think that’s a metaphor, but looking at how we “plug in” to these systems is critical and every plug does not fit every other plug. We have to adapt and include other outlets that are, however, so that we’re able to realize the vision of what it truly is to become involved in these networks.
When it comes to time, and getting things done on time, or not on time or as nature wills, it’s a thing I think about on a regular basis because time is all we have and we’re pressed for time, and time schedules. Keeping the idea of time in a time frame is dependent on the project. If you have a project that involves 70,000 people that project might take six months. Ideally, the time frame is a natural time frame. Ideally, that time frame is a simple time frame and a time frame that includes truth, and a time frame that includes grass roots and a time frame that includes nature and all of our systems that are around, including us and the outside systems in our world. Time Frame is relative and you have to determine what the time frame is for the project. I encourage you, don’t take a lot of time! But, I encourage you, take a lot of time. Because if you don’t take time, you’re going to have a rapid regret. At the same time, no pun intended, if you begin to rapidly progress with the idea of what time is and how precious time is, it will all come in it’s own time, pun intended.
Let’s look at the natural systems with the calendar that we have of six months, and the time changing back, and the time going forward, and all this stuff about time. It’s about cycles. It’s about seasons. We have to look at our systems as it relates to time in these seasons. Farmers do it. Nature, for sure, does it. Political bodies know that they can’t pave the roads in Cleveland till May because the snow plows are still plowing and tearing crap up. As a result, people in Cleveland know, “I’ve got to slow down.” I’ve got to drive like this [gesturing turning an auto wheel back and forth] around the potholes. My bike can’t handle that rut in the road, so I’m going to have to get off and walk it around that rut. It’s time. At the same time, summer comes and we’re moving quite forward. In other zones, time is constant all the time because of weather.
You can make great progress. It all depends on the theory of what it is you want to do, it all depends on the map of the time and the people involved. Hopefully, you can figure out how simple it is to work within the system of nature. Hopefully, you can figure out what it is to figure out your own personal response to the systems in nature. Time, becomes part of who you are and you are led by time, not controlled by time.
As far as insights and guidance in my work, I’m guided by nature, I’m guided by the seasons, I’m guided by community most importantly, because I’m already a part of nature, I’m in nature, because it’s all over me. The community most likely, is not involved in nature. They are but they aren’t. As a result, community has to guide me to where it is they need to go. Again, in their time. Nature, the seasons, the worms, the raccoons that come by the door to visit, the possums, the birds that call, the seasons that change, the birds that are calling more in the spring than they are in the fall, these things are important and critical. Listening to nature allows us the truth that we need to progress. Listening to nature allows me the access to community because community has a rhythm also. Being involved in the rhythm, listening to your gut, all those things are critical features of simplistically living and working in the network that is open. Having access to all these things involves creating the time to learn and accessing it.
As far as benchmarks and measurements, there’s a particular way of knowing, “Okay, great. I can leave town.” Or, “Okay, great, I’ve got more work to do.” Those involve how many people stop calling me. When I stop receiving calls, I’m out of town. People have it. Those benchmarks are, “You are no longer needed. You are a good friend now, we’ll call you when we need you.” Ideally, my work is so impactful that the community is on their own and they’ve asked the final questions. “Maurice, thank you so much. We’re good!” Those are some of the simple benchmarks that I use.
As far as collaborative leadership-you’ve got to take part. You’ve got to include others. You have to make sure others are included. You can’t be the only one like you at the table. You can’t be the only one like you in the room. If the room is full of you, it sucks. You’re wrong, you’re off. Stop. Pause. Make somebody else an invitation to come into the room. It takes time to invite others in the room because of trust.
One of the things that urked me, and it urked me for many years, in different situations around the country, and that goes back to inclusion. Who’s at the table? Who’s been invited to the table? Who’s not at the table because they didn’t feel comfortable with the “sudden” influx of invitations to the table. ”Why wasn’t I invited before?” “Why have I been excluded for so long?” All these things are important and when you’re bringing people to the garden or the farm or the decision making area, it’s important that all classes, all representation of ages, all strata, are there. If it’s possible. Don’t count out the fact that you think they shouldn’t be there. They need to be there. You need to have a kidney, you need to have a liver, you need to have a heart, you need to have blood vessels and capillaries, you need to have veins and arteries. No, but we think, “It’s just us and we know about stuff and this and that.” That’s bunch of crap. And I’m using kind words because this is a film that families might see. My mouth is very potty and as a result it gets me fired up that it’s not including everyone. We have to begin to include everyone.
Inviting others to the table is paramount in my work, making sure the store owner is there along with the Mom with three kids, making sure that the community development person is there along with the person at the wetland, making sure that the truck driver is there with her grandson, making sure that...do you know what I’m saying? It’s very simple. Being simple, inviting people to the table allows us to get the work done. And my work is such that the slightest individual needs to be there because everyone has something to add. Let’s keep it brief, let’s keep it on task, but let’s hear them out. Let’s allow them to participate. The space is very important in building the network.
My work advances economic development and workforce type stuff by accessing simple members of the community that don’t have access. Giving one access, sharing one’s access, sharing one’s power, giving up of the ego, allows others to infiltrate. As others infiltrate, the network becomes stronger and the network becomes a beacon and things begin to come in.
Stepping out of the way and having a couple of interns with me, no matter the age, no matter the gender, these interns are benefitted by having access to the board room, interns are benefitted by having access to the warehouse. All these people begin to bring their networks into the theory. As people are invited in, you begin to see people at the table that wouldn’t have been there before because you’ve made the simple act of letting go of ego and bringing someone on board just because this new realm might benefit them. You don’t know, so bring them along. You don’t know because that veteran might have capacity to do amazing things notwithstanding the service that he or she was in. We have to bring them on and we have to look at how we’re going to utilize these opportunities of people. And that’s the root, people. Bringing people on board, pulling people into the picture and bringing people into an awareness.
And all these inclusion things, and all these network pieces are important. If we break it down to a simple level of workforce and…what is workforce? People who get the job done. People have always been here. How do we take care of them? How do we pay them? There is something about brown hands picking your food. Think about that for a minute. The stuff that’s growing in California, everybody in California is pretty much laying back except for the people that are picking your food. And growing your food, which is about five dudes in a family but the other one hundred and fifty are picking your food. Workforce? Workforce development? It’s a catch phrase. Who are the true people? What are they eating? What are they being exposed to? It’s a tirade that we should explore everyday because we eat everyday. Creating small food systems. Looking at other countries that have small food systems. Looking at other cities within the U.S. and beyond that have small food systems that work. Workforce development? How do we begin to question that? How do we begin to access the truth behind it?
Farming is what I do. It’s what I’ve done for over twenty-five years and food access and who picks the food and how many people are there to pick the food, and economics of scale of how many hands, how many families, how much land and all these pieces, it’s like a series of ants and bees and wasps. How do they begin to form these habitats? How are they able to form different ebbs and flows? Workforce development. In nature it’s natural, they run in packs. We do too. Nature in harmony. We aren’t. Workforce development. Tough topic. You have to figure out what it is your role is in workforce development. For me, it’s a matter of a couple of people that aren’t at the table coming with me all the time to be at the table, to raise awareness of others that need to be in the room. If I’m lucky enough to be there, you’re lucky enough to be there, we should all include others to become part of “workforce development” just like nature.
No. 19 Legacy
Someone asked me how does my work and my research impact community fifty years from now? I’m fifty years old, I’ll be fifty-one this year, this is 2015. All the work I’ve done leads back to my Father and the work he did. All the work I’m doing leads back to my Mother and all the work she does. All these systems of parental work, of parental example, lead me to look at my offspring, your offspring, and their offspring and their offspring. There’s a realm of participation that needs to take place. This realm of participation is such that we can’t survive without looking at the future.
Creating a garden, in a simple box, with a tomato, a pepper, an onion, a beautiful flower and a root crop, a radish, or creating five acres, twenty acres, you get the picture. As long as we’re able to create, and I can’t say me, because I can’t do my job without you, as long as we’re able to create healthy, strong, natural, simple systems, I, and you, and we, can begin to look into the future and begin to see opportunity that we left behind for our offspring. That acorn, that that squirrel planted, that spring came and it spouted. I think that squirrels begin to understand what they do and have understood what they do for millions of years.
I implore you to look at what we are doing right now on this earth. Can we say the same thing about that squirrel, that one acorn and that massive tree, about the earth? Can we say the same thing about our “legacy”? What we leave behind. I want to make sure that my legacy is a simple legacy of natural systems. I want to make sure that my legacy and my children’s legacy and my friend’s legacy is such that what I leave behind is something that they can build on ten, fifteen feet of soil in certain areas of the country. I want to make sure there are thousands and thousands of worms and a food system to support that in all of our urban environments. I want to make sure that there are columns and columns of indoor solar powered hydroponic, aquaponic systems being grown naturally without the input of artificial chemicals. I want to make sure that in fifty years there’s a strong cadre of young people and these young people know that there was a knucklehead old dude with funny hats that walked around the urban environment planting seeds of hope, planting seeds of justice, and planting seeds of fun.
Maurice Small is an independent consultant with 25 years of experience in urban/ rural food systems development, youth entrepreneurship training, and soil creation. Maurice inherited his profound respect and love for the earth from his parents. This love for natural process and growth nurtures his strong desire to build community as he teaches and cultivates regional visions for sustainable agriculture, healthy lifestyles in underserved communities & urban/rural collaboration between growers and vendors. His work to address the development of a more sustainable regional food system began in Northeast Ohio in 1988 with vacant lot reclamation, community garden creation, work with local after-school programs and volunteering with organizations to cultivate urban local food production.
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