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The Jeavons Center Mini-Farm Report
by John Jeavons, Executive Director, Ecology Action

10-Bed Unit Diet Design Example with beds laid out and crops indicated in the text

“Think of any subject in the same way you think about the structure of a tree. Think of the stout trunk and spectacular boughs branching off into hundreds, maybe thousands of individual lessons, each of those lessons containing a multitude of leaflets for you to thumb through on your pursuit of knowledge. Now think of the part that you don’t see, but without which, there would be no tree, I'm talking of course about the root of the subject. The inner workings of the physical world upon which every tree is grown, every subject is built and every leaflet is written. I want you to approach your pursuit of knowledge in a nonlinear sense, realizing that within every leaflet there is a map of the universe, within every leaf there is a map of the tree, and within you there is an answer to every question that you may come across on this pursuit of knowledge. ”
– Sage Miller, TJC FTT, 19 years old

Clearly, the plants are rooting for us to succeed!

Reading the perceptive and beautiful thoughts on the holographic nature of knowledge and learning as a part of the the natural world written by TJC's newest Farmer-Teacher Trainer (FTT) Sage Miller (above), you can see why, in the midst of this tumultuous time, I continue to have hope for the future. Of course, it's not always easy: 2020 was an "interesting" year for Ecology Action, as it was for pretty much everyone around the world. Corona virus and wildfires presented their challenges and learning curves, but an 8-Month Zoom Internship with a bumper crop of global participants and a 3-Saturdays Zoom Workshop in November with participants from across the US and as far away as Sri Lanka provided progress and inspiration for the ever-growing Global GROW BIOINTENSIVE Family!

So far, 2021 appears to be continuation on a theme: the pandemic is still going strong, and climate change is driving disruptive weather systems here and across the globe, impacting farms, farmers, the food supply chain for billions of people. Now more than ever, it is vital for everyone to know how to grow food and soil, sustainably. So Ecology Action is forging ahead with our work as source of global GROW BIOINTENSIVE information and inspiration, and our goal is the same as it has been for almost 50 years: to catalyze people everywhere to become proactive in growing their own soil, food, and thriving ecosystems.

Our 2021 online training programs include an 8-Month Internship ( and our spring 3-Day Introductory GROW BIOINTENSIVE Workshop (, transformed into a 3-Saturdays online extravaganza, both using Zoom to reach as many people as possible. So far we've got a lot of good people signed up for both, and it's not too late to join in!

The Jeavons Center Mini-Farm 2021 activities will include:

  • Establishing three experimental 10-Bed Units (10BU) in our limiting serpentine soil, each potentially providing a complete one-person diet and soil-growing combination in as little as a 1,000 square-foot growing area. This work complements the ongoing 10BU research at our Victory Gardens for Peace site, as well as other locations globally. You might think such a small space would mean a diet design lacking in variety, but that's not the case! An example of one 10BU garden plan to be grown by FTT Sage Miller (diet design sketch, above) includes plenty of variety with onions, parsnips, leeks, turnips, pumpkins, potatoes, eggplant, kale, sorghum, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli, flax, rice, dahlias, okra, medicinal herbs, and Sunn hemp. FTT Melvin Castrillo will be growing a another 10BU with a version of a typical Mexican diet..

    Sunn hemp image source you are not familiar with Sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea L.), it is a tropical/sub-tropical legume from India, and is used as a green manure, a livestock feed, a fiber crop, and a nitrogen-fixer. While it can be invasive if not properly managed, when grown as a summer annual in a temperate region like TJC, Sunn hemp can produce over 5,000 pounds of biomass and 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre (11.47 lbs biomass/100 sq ft, .2295 lbs nitrogen/100 sq ft) in short 60 to 90 days, giving it significant per day potential to sequester carbon and build soil organic matter levels. It is known to suppress plant-parasitic nematodes, making it helpful to future growing cycles, and the nitrogen it fixes in the soil can feed small grains in rotation, reducing the need for imported fertilizers. If used as a green manure, it must be dug under before reaching the full bloom or it becomes too fibrous and uses up its fixed nitrogen to bloom and seed. While some species of Crotalaria, including C. juncea, contain toxic alkaloids, in their seeds and pods, the variety "Tropic Sun" is non-toxic.)

  • Conducting legume interplanting experiments to focus on growing crops and soil fertility in the smallest area at the same time, through well-chosen crop pairings. I have written about this process previously and am eager to see the results of these experiments in this year's garden data.

  • Conducting seed grow-outs to ensure a better reserve stock of seeds at TJC in the future. We will focus on grains, possibly up to five special varieties of barley that can mature and be harvested much faster than wheat, which is important in our 5-month growing season. We also plan to grow out rice, which you may find surprising, because it's a common misconception that rice can't be grown in cooler weather, or that it's a water- intensive crop. Actually, rice is successfully grown as far north as Hokkaido Japan, and we'll be growing out the M-101 variety, which is the coolest-weather rice available through the California Rice Experiment Station. Rice doesn’t need to be grown in a flooded field or "paddy" to succeed: one grower near Sacramento grew rice in raised GB beds and informed us they got a high yield compared with average wet-field growing conditions. We have grown rice at TJC before, but in these grow-outs we would focus on the special temperature and pH requirements for the M-101 variety.

  • Implementing a food storage system and diet design for reserve food stock. If there's one thing 2020 made clear, it's that along with growing your own food, it's important to have 1) a backup stock (growing perhaps 20% more to provide for an emergency or a bad crop year is a good idea) and 2) a reliable way to store it. In this experiment, we aim to achieve a 2.5 to 6-month food supply depending on the number of people on site. The storage system will use special 6-gallon resealable buckets, and the diet will be designed using foods that store well, provide good nutrition, and do not require a special environment other than sealed containers and a cool, dry space. For example, when designing a food storage diet, consider that brown rice can rapidly go rancid at room temperature, while lentils are full of protein, easy to cook, come in many beautiful colors, and store well at room temperature. When designing and using a food storage system, it's also important to keep track of how much of each food you eat per month and to rotate the stock to keep your stores fresh. Once we perfect our storage diet plan over time, we will incorporate the information into a booklet for wider use.

  • Growing a "living fence" to keep the garden safe, provide biodiversity/pollinator support, and keep deer out (see article in this issue).

  • Improving TJC seed storage system. Our seed system will ensure all seeds are filed by name, in packets sufficient to plant a given area, rotated out to guarantee germination and vigor, with practical information from the HTGMV Master Charts on each packet to help staff and interns plant and grow crops easily and successfully.

  • Sponsoring the GROW BIOINTENSIVE® Soil Test Analysis and Amendment Recommendation (STAAR) Training Program with EA Soil Fertility Advisor John Beeby as master teacher. The STAAR program is the thin edge of the wedge needed to reverse the rapid depletion of the world’s farming soils, and focuses on educating GB farmers and farmer- leaders to understand and use soil test analysis and scientific soil amendment recommendation standards to build lasting and sustainable soil fertility now and into the future. The initiative includes development of ten 10-Bed Unit Soil Test Stations in different soils, climates, and ecosystems around the world, costing only a fraction of a cent per person in the world which over time can ultimately be affected. The program and its 15 participants are ready to begin work as soon as funding is secured.

    As you read this issue, you will see the how Biointensive projects are growing around the world, helping to heal the Earth its people, right where they are. We love our Global GROW BIOINTENSIVE Family and are proud of the work we and our partners do. We look forward to growing strong with you through 2021 and beyond!

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