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Global GB Partner: ECOPOL
by By David Troxell, EA Communications Director
and Shannon Joyner, Garden Companion Editor

ECOPOL Director Juan Manuel Martínez teaches GB workshop participants

Ecology Action is blessed to work with some of the most enthusiastic and energetic people on the planet. Our international partners help us take the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method from garden to global, teaching people everywhere to feed themselves and grow the soil, now, and into a better, more sustainable future.

Of all our partners, Ecología y Población (ECOPOL) has been working with us the longest. ECOPOL was founded by Juan Manuel Martínez in 1992 after he trained with John Jeavons at Ecology Action and received the first Spanish translation of How to Grow More Vegetables. Juan implemented GB in a rural development project he was conducting for the Mexican Department of Social Security; he was so inspired by the results that he retired from government work and began a career spreading GB across Mexico. He and John Jeavons began corresponding and became lifelong friends and colleagues. Ecology Action has partnered with ECOPOL since its inception, and over the past 27 years ECOPOL representatives have come to act as GB ambassadors, with satellite programs and research and demonstration gardens established all over Latin America, the Caribbean, and most recently, Europe.

For many years Juan Manuel was ECOPOL, working essentially alone, with translation assistance from his daughter, Oneyda. We are continually astonished Global GB Partner: ECOPOL by the sheer amount of work that this powerhouse of a human was (and is) able to accomplish, holding workshops for hundreds of people across the pueblos of rural Mexico, traveling solo throughout South America (reaching the tip of Chile in 2018) and becoming a fast-rising influencer in the Latin American food security movement, and invited to speak at conferences and universities everywhere—most recently, he received an invitation to talk in Bosnia! Juan’s work has reached an estimated 3.7 million farmers in 42 countries, across farming communities, universities, NGOs, and federal and state governments. His dedication to and enthusiasm for GB and for helping rural populations is joyous and inspiring. To call Juan the "Johnny Appleseed of Biointensive", spreading the method far and wide through a combination of steadfast will and powerful love, is not an exaggeration.

Agustín and Marisol (bottom L, with dog) at a GB workshop, 2019

While obviously not ideal, one positive aspect of ECOPOL having such a small staff for such a long time was an exceedingly small budget: Juan’s salary and travel expenses, along with a small stipend for Oneyda. In the early days, Juan would travel primarily overland, and focused mainly on spreading GB in his native Mexico, with excursions to wider Latin America over time. When we ran the math on the number of people reached for the money spent, the cost of training a person to use GB was lower for ECOPOL than any other program we had seen, through Juan's energy and his focus on building a magnificent team over time.

But Juan’s efforts have yielded a vigorous and rapidly expanding GB network of farmers and certified teachers everywhere ECOPOL goes—outpacing even Juan’s capacity for travel and teaching. To address this “problem,” in 2019 ECOPOL hired two Certified Master-Level GB Teachers to work with Juan full time. For the past few years, spouses Agustín Medina and Marisol Lopez have juggled government jobs while helping Juan Manuel part time, with results that showed how much could be accomplished if all three were able to attend to the project fulltime. Both Agustín and Marisol have connections in Europe, and because of their recent work in Spain and Italy, GROW BIOINTENSIVE gardens are thriving and contributing data to our Soil Sustainability Research Project in both countries, as well as growing a community of enthusiastic GB practitioners who are looking forward to conferences and workshops resuming once COVID restrictions allow.

Marisol teaching Biointensive plant spacing techniques

An important advance in 2020 was the creation of ECOPOL’s “online school,” as Juan is calling it. In development over the past few of years, the pandemic really provided the nudge (and the time!) needed to get this project rolling. In October 2020, a web developer started putting together the content: a 40-hour introduction to GROW BIOINTENSIVE designed to be taken at home by participants to prepare them for attending a three-day workshop, and a more advanced (120 hour) course to be taken after the workshop’s completion to help participants establish and maintain their gardens and to use GB sustainably. This training site, along with Ecology Action’s burgeoning online education resources (Zoom-based workshops and internships, electronic books and booklets in English and Spanish (new additions include Spanish ebooklets 0, 1, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 22, 24, 30, 31, 33, 35, and Rendimientos (“Yields”) all available for free at, teaching videos, and the newly released bilingual English/Spanish film on the GROW BIOINTENSIVE global movement “In Our Hands/En Nuestras Manos”) combine to provide a formidable set of teaching tools that people all over the world can access right where they are. This is especially important for women who often cannot travel because they are the ones who provide for their families (and are therefore the ones we need to reach!) It really cannot be overstated how much this new website—in addition to a regular schedule of workshops, conferences, demonstrations, and teacher certification activities— will grow ECOPOL’s already extensive network, when it comes online later this year.


With ECOPOL’s full-time staff tripled and the online training courses in development, the organization’s modest budget has (unsurprisingly) required a significant increase, which Ecology Action has eagerly committed to support (we provide about half of ECOPOL’s budget with the other half distributed among other funders). ECOPOL’s goals are ambitious, and we need your help to make sure Juan, Marisol, Agustín, and Oneyda’s important work keeps moving forward.

Please make a tax-deductible donation to ECOPOL here (select ECOPOL from the “special purpose” list) or send a check/money order made out to Ecology Action with “ECOPOL” in the memo area to Ecology Action, 5798 Ridgewood Road, Willits, CA 95490.

We are also asking that you, our global GROW BIOINTENSIVE Family, tell us about any organizations, foundations, or individuals who might be enlisted to support this very special project. ECOPOL is working hard to make our world better. Let’s get them the help they need, to help those who need it most!

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