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Microscaling Agriculture with GB: A Key to Peace and Sustainability
by Matt Drewno, Victory Gardens for Peace Mini-Farm Manager

Biointensive Sustainable Mini-Farming has the capacity to build up to 20 lbs of soil per pound of food eaten. Other farming methods lose soil - US average is 4.7 pounds of soil lost per poud of food eaten; in developing countries the average is 12 pounds of soil lost, in China, 18 pounds, in California, 24 pounds.

Image: Biointensive Sustainable Mini-Farming builds soil while other farming methods lose it.

Below are 10 reasons why choosing to micro- scale with the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method (GB) instead of using conventional agriculture is an important solution:

1. GB conserves and restores more land: Conventional agriculture drives deforestation and is responsible for over 85% of threatened or endangered species.1 As a result, scientists state that we may lose 30-50% of all species by 2050.2 Our ecosystems are valuable because they serve as repositories for life and regulate our climate. GB can microscale agriculture by 50% (and up to 98% with a developed skill level and good diet design). This allows more resources to be conserved and ecosystems to heal.

2. GB builds topsoil faster: There is an old saying: “For all of man’s technological advances, he still relies on the top 6 inches of soil and the chance it may rain.” It can take from 3,000- 12,000 years to develop that 6 inches of topsoil in nature. Our current methods of agriculture are destroying topsoil at a rate of 30,000,000 acres per year according to the UN,3 which is 10- 40 times faster than it is replenished naturally.4 With GB one can build soil 60 times faster than nature.5

3. GB conserves water: Agriculture uses roughly 80-90% of freshwater in the United States.6 Currently, the UN states that 1/3 of the world’s population is living under water stress and by 2025 almost ½ of the world’s population will be living under high water stress.7 Compared to conventional methods, GB requires only 33% of the water per pound of grain and 12% per pound of vegetable produced.8 A 1,000sqft GB diet design requires as little as 2-10% of the water to grow a complete diet compared to a conventionally grown American diet.

Comparing the Water Use Footprint of our Diets for an Average Growing Location
Diet/ Water Use Gallons/
Avg. American (Worldwatch)9 4,200 1,533,000 1x
Avg. American (Nat.Geo.)10 1,000 365,000 4.2x
Vegan (Worldwatch)11 300 109,500 14x
GB 10-Bed Unit (1,000 sq ft) 125 45,625 33.6x

4. GB increases yields sustainably: With a basic level of skill, GB can increase yields 2-4x those of conventionally produced food.8 In cucumber trials, Ecology Action achieved over 10 times the expected conventional yields.11 The whole-systems GB approach helps farmers and gardeners increase yields sustainably while building soil and conserving water, energy and fertilizer.

5. GB reduces fertilizer inputs: The GB method attempts to close the loop on fertility. This is accomplished through growing compost crops (including legume cover crops), using special composting techniques, and crop rotations. A published study in Kenya demonstrated the potential for farmers to increase yields with a significantly reduced amount of fertilizer input using the GB technique.12 An important component to closing the loop is the proper, legal and safe recycling of human waste. Currently, work is being done to develop safe methods on a societal scale. For thousands of years many cultures recycled humanure back into their agricultural systems. However, it is critical to do this safely, legally, and properly or it will spread disease. For more on this subject, I highly recommend John Beeby’s book Future Fertility (Ecology Action, 1995).

6. GB is accessible, appropriate and empowering: GB helps vulnerable communities around the world establish models for food security and resource conservation. The method is highly adaptable and perfectly suited for urban environments where over 55% of the global population resides.13 GB does not require large acreage or heavy machinery or tractors. Because GB intensifies and microscales agriculture, it is easier to harvest and store rainwater, which prevents salinization of soils and enhances the growing season. GB is particularly efficient at a the scale of home and community gardening. An analysis of over 22 studies concluded that gardening reduces depression, anxiety and body mass index while increasing life satisfaction, quality of life and sense of community.14 Our gardens are oases of hope.

7. GB uses less energy: Published studies demonstrate that mechanized fossil fuel-powered agriculture requires 7-13 calories to produce 1 calorie of food.15,16 The GB system can produce up to 40-47 times more energy-calories than is required to grow our food.17 With the GB Method we can grow our way out of fossil fuel addiction, combat climate change and create a better future where there is enough for everyone, including nature.

8. GB is more resilient to climate change: The GB approach is highly adaptable and scalable. It enables people to grow more food with less water, making farms and gardens more successful in times of drought. GB helps individuals learn to empower themselves, downscale consumption, and transition to local food production without destroying our environment. This helps communities stabilize during times of climate change. See Ecology Action’s publication Climate Change and GROW BIOINTENSIVE (Beeby, 2016).

9. The GB Method takes less time, money and effort compared to other approaches: The increased efficiency and reduced space required with GB means you don't have to purchase several acres or be a full-time farmer to provide food for your family. After a little practice, you can grow a complete and sustainable diet for yourself in around 1,000-2,000sqft. Time trials at Victory Gardens for Peace demonstrate an average of 35 minutes per day are required to grow a complete and sustainable diet. Why not grow a productive, beautiful and sustainable garden?

10. GB increases the possibility for peace and prosperity for all: Most conf licts and wars are fought over resources. Our current polluting and wasteful agricultural models feed consumerism instead of healthy people. Around 1/3 of what is grown on large farms is wasted, often not even composted to maintain the soil. Localization through home-and-community scale GB food production enables communities to become more independent, resilient, and likely to thrive as we transition away from non-renewable resources and extraction-based consumer economies.

You enter the garden because you love creation. You just want to grow fruits, vegetables and f lowers as an expression of your soul. You love the smell of soil, the mystery of life, culture, and all the exquisite things that God gives us to live upon, look at, listen to, and enjoy. Great enchantment and productivity grow with each year of the garden. True vision, the necessary permit for this growth, expresses the enormous possibility of what can be achieved. Imagination is required right from the start. The era in which we live is a little frightening when you look at it very plainly and don’t endeavor to escape the truth of what we are doing to the world. The vision of which I am talking is one of the greatest things we can possibly conceive of. It is a recovery from all the destruction going on. It is possible.”-Alan Chadwick

¹ “Impact of Habitat Loss on Species.” World Wildlife Fund. Accessed 12/30/2020 at:

² Brondizio, E., Settele, J., Díaz, S., Ngo, H. “Global assessment report on biodiversity and
ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem
Services.” IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany. IPBES, 2019.
Biointensive Gardeners celebrating in Tipon, Peru

³ “Desertification.” United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development. August, 2010.

⁴ Pimentel, D. “Soil Erosion: A Food and Environmental Threat.” Environment, Development and
Sustainability (8) 119-137. 2006.

⁵ Maher, D. “Changes in carbon content in a soil under intense cultivation with organic
amendments.” Master’s of Science thesis, Soil Science Department, University of
California–Berkeley, 228pp. 1983.

⁶ “USDA ERS – Irrigation & Water Use.” United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research
Service, 2013.

⁷ Connor, R. Water for a Sustainable World. United Nations World Water Development Report, 2015.

⁸ Jeavons, John. Biointensive Sustainable Mini-Farming. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 19.
49-63. 2001.

⁹ “Meat, Now it’s not personal!” World Watch Institute Magazine pgs. 12-20. Washington, DC, 2004.

¹⁰ National Geographic. Water Conservation Tips (2014). Accessed 12/30/2020 at:

¹¹ “Ecology Action Booklet #1 Cucumber Bonanza”. Ecology Action, December 1979.

¹² Beeby, J., Moore, S., Nderitu, S.,, Taylor, L. “Effects of a One-Time Organic Fertilizer
Application on Long-Term Crop and Residue Yields, and Soil Quality Measurements Using Biointensive
Agriculture.” Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems 4(67). June, 2020.

¹³ “68% of the World Population Projected to Live in Urban Areas by 2050.” World Urbanization
Prospects, Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

¹⁴ Gaston, K., Soga, M., Yamaura, Y. “Gardening is Beneficial for Health: A Meta-Analysis.”
Preventative Medicine Reports. Vol. 5, March, 2017. pgs. 92-99.

¹⁵ Giampietro, P., Pimentel, D. “The Tightening Conflict: Population, Energy Use, and the Ecology
of Agriculture.” 1994.

¹⁶ Heller, M., Keoleian, G. Life Cycle-Based Sustainability Indicators for Assessment of the US
Food System. Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan. December 6, 2000.

¹7 Organic Onion Production in
Pennsylvania, USA.” Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems: 25(3) 181-188. April 12,

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