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Back to the Garden
Maurice Small is a man with a message: Roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and grow what you eat. A green thumb since his father taught him the basics, Small now takes this and other lessons to city dwellers whose access to fresh foods has become increasingly rare.

Afi-Odelia E. Scruggs
In the gospel according to Maurice Small, food is more than nourishment. It is more than sustenance.

“Food is not something that you eat to get by,” Small says, resting his 6-foot-plus frame in a chair at the Cleveland Food Co-Op where he spreads his message. “Food is life.”

And Small’s life is all about food. But he’s not a gourmand. He’s a missionary dedicated to bringing good, wholesome food into the lives of everyone he meets.

Instead of fruits and vegetables, though, he hands out seeds and seedlings. His plan starts with layers of compost and shredded newspaper resting on a foundation of cardboard. He helped volunteers build one on the lawn of Huron Hospital last May, and by the end of summer, that “asphalt garden” was overflowing with cabbage, tomatoes, eggplants and herbs.

It’s just one innovative technique that Small teaches to anyone who is willing to learn. He starts with large sheets of cardboard laid on top of a parking lot, roof or any other hard surface. The next step is layering: shredded newspaper alternates with compost and, finally, soil for the plants. Call it agricultural lasagna.

Check back May 1 for the complete story.


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