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The Jeavons Center Mini-farm Report
By John Jeavons, Ecology Action Executive Director

The following was written at the beginning of 2020. Since that time, much has changed across the world... but Biointensive is still growing strong! The biggest change at Ecology Action has been the transformation of the 2020 Internship into an online program. We will provide updates on our 2020 activities in the Summer Newsletter, and hope you enjoy reading about our 2019 season here.

Ecology Action's 3-Day Workshop in November 2019

As the 2019 Internship program was wrapping up, The Jeavons Center was abuzz with activity! Mini-Farm Manager Melvin Castrillo, Interns Ana Cantillano and Marcia Suarez (Nicaragua), Fredrick Onyango (Kenya), and Apprentice Ike Enahoro (California) harvested crops from 14 growing beds each, and planted compost crops in all these as well as 40 additional growing that make up TJC's 11,000 square feet of GROW BIOINTENSIVE cultivation (equivalent to 110 standard GB growing beds in our hilly terrain). Earlier in the program, each person designed a 12-Month Growing Season Garden Plan their 14-bed “mini-farm”. In November each gave a presentation on their project, to an audience including EA and VGFP staff, interns, and apprentice, as well as Juan Manuel Martínez Valdez, Director of ECOPOL, Ecology Action’s International Partner in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe. The presentations went well, and suggestions were given for strengthening each approach. Lunch was prepared by Ana and Marcia, and a multi-course celebration dinner prepared by Cynthia Raiser Jeavons was enjoyed by all. Each intern received an 8-Month Internship Participation Certificate from Ecology Action and from MESA (each intern was also a Multinational Education in Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) Steward); plus $500/month Scholarship Awards were given out to qualifying interns. See details below. In all, educationally a nourishing year was experienced at TJC in Willits, CA, and VGFP in Mendocino, CA.

An important scholarship program for our interns has been made possible by the Ceres Trust: The Kent Whealy Scholarship Fund for Ecology Action.

Kent WhealyThese scholarships are an appropriate legacy to honor the life-work of Kent Whealy, the Founder of Seed Savers Exchange. Kent was a strong believer in the idea that any one person could make a meaningful change in the world, and he felt it his responsibility to do so. His dedication, vision, and exemplary leadership were an inspiration to countless people, and Ecology Action is honored to carry on Kent’s work of catalyzing proactive people to create a more wonderful world future! Click here to learn more about Kent’s extraordinary life and work.

The five qualifying participants for the 2019 Kent Whealy Scholarship for Ecology Action are:

  • Ana Cantillano will create a documentary on GROW BIOINTENSIVE to motivate GB practitioners and small farmers in Latin America. She intends to submit the film in 2020 to the world-famous Sundance Film Festival—if accepted, the film could further interest in GB globally.
  • Marcia Suarez will upgrade her existing GB project in terms of the teaching programs provided at her sites in Nicaragua. Funding from Ecology Action will allow Marcia to focus on her duties as program administrator and GB teacher, unhindered by having to work a second job.
  • Fredrick Onyango will establish a key GB Mini-Farm Demonstration/Research site in western Kenya to help further G-BIACK’s goal of spreading GB in the region.
  • Camila Guerro of Chile (VGFP Intern), plans the “Demonstration of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method of reducing the human carbon footprint in agriculture, to find a sustainable solution for climate change and social justice.” Her goal is to teach in four Chilean regions with the largest amount of people, as close to the cities possible.
  • Ariel Pinto of Chile (VGFP Intern), plans to develop an Agricultural Consciousness Project with simple, effective solutions to the complex challenges facing those in Chile—beginning at the private high school for low-income people of diverse ethnic backgrounds in his province, where he teaches. The focus of Ariel’s program is to create a culture of agriculture inside educational centers—using the GB garden at the high school as a demonstration center with both practical experiential and conceptual learning. He plans to teach GB workshops outside the school as well.

A sixth intern, Elena Vanasse Torres of Puerto Rico, received a Fulbright Scholarship part way through her Internship to pursue a degree in Environmental Science in Brazil during 2020. Elena understandably chose to pursue this opportunity, leaving Ecology Action two months early to secure full funding to support her studies. Her degree, and the GB expertise she gained in the time she had with us, will help her achieve her goal of helping the many people in need in Puerto Rico.

In November 2019, Ecology Action was honored by special visits from our international partners G-BIACK and ECOPOL.

Husband and wife Samuel Nderitu and Peris Wanjiru are Co-Directors of Kenya’s renowned non-profit and Ecology Action’s International Partner for Africa, GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agriculture Centre of Kenya (G-BIACK) located in Thika, Central Province. They visited Willits with their son Keith (a videographer and musician) and their daughter Annette (a specialist in organizational management). Samuel and Peris they have trained over 9,000 farmers in 10 years, and each gave presentations about their work with GROW BIOINTENSIVE as well as their inspirational Women and Girls Training Program, which teaches income-producing skills like sewing and beadwork, as well as GB, to disadvantaged young women. The presentations were filmed and will be posted online later this year.

The family also participated in Ecology Action’s 3-Day GROW BIOINTENSIVE Workshop with the kind support of the Willits Golden Rule Community. (EA 2017 interns James Christie-Fougere and his wife, Sharon Coombs travelled from Canada with their 2-year-old son, Lincoln, to help teach the workshop and provided good energy for us all!) Ecology Action the Nderitus Certificates of Appreciation recognizing the work they do to help spread GROW BIOINTENSIVE in Kenya, Africa, Afghanistan and beyond.

At the end of the Kenyans’ 9-day visit, Ecology Action awarded five grants to support G-BIACK’s effective and award-winning work from our LIFE Initiative—enabling improved and sustainable ongoing Love, Inspiration, and Friendship for the Earth (and its people). These funds supported the following:

  • Peris taught farmers GB in Tanzania, a region depleted by years of conventional rice production. She planned to train 70 farmers, but the first day, 100 participants arrived along with the Governor and a Ministry of Agriculture representative! The Governor everyone in the community should adopt GB and participate in the training. Peris’ second day began with 700+ people in attendance. The week-long event was increased to two weeks to accommodate more and more participants! This single workshop resulted in hundreds of people practicing GB, and 29 farmers serving as GB Community Resource People (CRPs) who will receive additional training so they can guide farmers in their communities in the future. Peris returned in January to do follow-up instruction with the CRPs.
  • G-BIACK hired 6 new female staff drawn from the Women and Girls 18-Month Empowerment Program to meet the increasing GB educational opportunities in the region.
  • Strengthening G-BIACK’s Seed Bank
  • Strengthening G-BIACK’s Satellite Demonstration and Education Centers throughout Kenya. • Providing salary and benefits for Samuel and Peris for 2020, who have not been paid or had vacations for 10 years.

Juan Manuel Martínez Valdez, Director of Ecology Action’s International Partner for Latin America and Europe Ecología y Población (ECOPOL/El Mezquite), visited for eight days in November, at TJC in Willits and Victory Gardens for Peace in Mendocino. Juan and gave a presentation about his worldwide GB work, which was filmed and will be posted online later this year. Ecology Action presented him with a Certificate of Appreciation for his continuing Lifetime Major Contribution to GB in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and beyond. Juan plans to return to EA this year, so he and the six 2020 EA 8-Month Interns from Latin America can network to ensure the interns are fully prepared for their return to their home countries and their GB initiatives there, and understand how best to work with ECOPOL’s network. This kind of communication was very effective with the 2019 Interns last November.

We all send heartfelt gratitude and best wishes to recent retiree Leslie Roberts, for the years she spent as our Newsletter Editor, researching, writing, editing, and doing layout for each issue. Leslie also compiled a database of Ecology Action Contacts, Interns and Apprentices, and helped keep the website updated. Thanks, Leslie!

New Projects: Sustainable Soil Fertility, 10-Bed Unit Project and Soil Science Spotlight

Soil testing and the application of the correct type and quantity of organic soil amendments at the correct time is a fundamental part of building and maintaining sustainable soil fertility levels. Inaccurate soil test analysis and amendment recommendations can damage soil, cost farmers time and money, and hinder the development of a sustainable closed-loop GROW BIOINTENSIVE soil fertility system. As the GROW BIOINTENSIVE movement expands across the globe, soil testing and soil amendment recommendation standards must be established and unified across all GROW BIOINTENSIVE sites, and all GB practitioners and teachers must understand the importance of carrying out the specified tests, the recommendations, and the maintenance of the soils according to those standards, to ensure quality control of soil fertility and the GB method across climates, cultures, and soil types.

Currently, John Beeby, (Ecology Action Soil Fertility Advisor and owner/operator of the soil test and amendment recommendation service Grow Your Soil™ ( is the sole designated soil test analyst/soil amendment recommender for certified GROW BIOINTENSIVE sites. However, the sustainability, quality control, and continued expansion of GB programs will be better supported if more people have the ability to accurately and consistently analyze and diagnose soil fertility problems, and to recommend soil amendments correctly, in keeping with the strict GB sustainability standards established by Ecology Action.

The soil test analysis and soil amendment recommendations used by Grow Your Soil are calculated with based on combinations of 24 unique variables – an extremely complex system. To be a skilled soil test analyst and make accurate soil amendment recommendations, you must be familiar and comfortable with a large combination of these 24 variables, and to understand how they interrelate in order to provide accurate recommendations for inputs to soil based on soil tests.

For this reason, Ecology Action, John Beeby, and Ecology Action’s International Partner ECOPOL/El Mezquite, are undertaking a series of initiatives to ensure quality control of soil amendment recommendations at GB sites, and to develop a program to train and certify GB soil test analysts and two levels of certified soil amendment recommenders. You can read more about this GROW BIOINTENSIVE® Soil Test Analyst and Amendment Recommender (STAAR) Standards and Certification Program here (PDF)

The 10-Bed Unit Project

For Ecology Action’s GROW BIOINTENSIVE® Soil Testing program (described above) to be best and fully utilized, GB Research/Demonstration sites with 10-Beds or more should be used. The 10-Bed Unit Project applies the concepts of a GROW BIOINTENSIVE® sustainable garden, which produces all the compost materials necessary to guarantee soil fertility, food for a balanced diet, and marketable crops for a small income, to a “smallest footprint” garden design that allows people to produce these crops in as little as 1,000 square feet (ten 100-square-foot growing beds or “units”) — 1,250 square feet with 1-foot wide paths.

Currently, at least 11 sites, each containing a 10-Bed GROW BIOINTENSIVE Demonstration, Education and Research Unit are located across Latin America and Europe. At least three 10-Bed Units are operating at Ecology Action sites in California, and one is being established in British Columbia, Canada. Victory Gardens for Peace Mini-Farm Manager Matt Drewno has worked with the 10-Bed Unit concept for three years, and Ecology Action is scheduled to publish his working paper on the subject in 2020, Achieving More with Less: Experiments in Growing a Complete Diet in As Little As 1,000 Square Feet, Booklet 38 in Ecology Action’s Self-Teaching Mini-Series. You can read more about this project here (PDF).

Soil Testing Spotlight

To introduce the topic of soil testing and the reasoning and methodology involved in soil test analysis and making soil amendment recommendations to a wider audience, John Beeby and Ecology Action will create a series of topics on the subject, posted to in the “Protocol” section beginning in April 2020, with new posts added regularly. The first issue “Base Saturations” is included in this newsletter.

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