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Certified STAARs (Soil Test Analyst and
Amendment Recommenders) for Your Soil!
By John Beeby (, Ecology Action Soil Fertility Advisor

Want expert advice on improving your soil? The STAAR (Soil Test Analyst and Amendment Recommender) Program is an extensive online training process covering foundational soil science and focused on small-scale sustainable agriculture, as well as multiple case studies of soils and farms all over the world. The program is “growing” soil scientists and experts, and has produced its first three certified STAARs: Liliane Spendeler from Spain, Guillermo Barriero from Spain, and Matt Drewno from the United States. Please see below for information about each one and how you can contact them to help you improve your soil. Other current students in the program are from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Scotland, Guatemala, Kenya, Nicaragua, Spain, Portugal, Ecuador, Nepal and Peru.

Before a soil can be improved, it—as well as the farm site, farmer resources, farming method, climate, and region—must be understood. Certified STAARs are trained to understand a soil based on soil laboratory testing, but if that is not available, they are effective at understanding what a soil needs—and just as importantly, what it does not need—based on soil quality testing and cultivated and wild plant observations, which require less cost to the farmer.

As we have more and more certified STAARs, Ecology Action hopes to gain funding to be able to advertise their services on Read Your Soil ( so more people can gain access to soil experts and improve their soils, wherever they are in the world. As our soils continue to lose fertility at an alarming rate, and arable land per person continues to decline, these skills and services are needed now more than ever.

The Certified STAARs

Liliane SpendelerLiliane Spendeler grew up on a farm in the French Alps. After receiving her PhD in physics, she moved to Spain and worked for twenty years for an environmental organization. In her fifties she decided to move back to the countryside, in a small village of Spanish Pyrenees, with the goal of producing her own food. At the same time, she had the opportunity to learn about GROW BIOINTENSIVE and to become a Soil Test Analyst and Amendment Recommender. She is now combining her work at the environmental organization and her dedication in cultivating her garden biointensively. With her partner over the next few years, she plans to transform a small farm with a vineyard, grain crops, and garden to become regenerative and sustainable, with guidance and trainings offered to other farmers. Liliane can be contacted at lspendeler@

Guillermo BarrieroGuillermo Barriero is from Spain, but lived part of his life in Central America where, in 2014, he learned about GROW BIOINTENSIVE and began to grow his own food. Guillermo gained his basic-level GB Teacher Certification in 2016, and his intermediate-level Certification in 2018. He now lives in Galicia (Northwestern Spain) where he established O Torno Biointensive Garden. Guillermo has also participated on the Ecology Action 8-Month Internship with John Jeavons and Matt Drewno. Now, Guillermo is part of the Cooperative “A Milpa do Salnés” which is promoting GROW BIOINTENSIVE in Spain. He manages O Torno, participates in GB research, and offers workshops and consultancies on GROW BIOINTENSIVE and improving soils as a certified STAAR. Guillermo can be contacted at Guillermo@; Web:; Facebook: amilpadosalnes; Phone: 0034

Matt DrewnoMaster-Level GB Certified Teacher Matt Drewno runs Ecology Action's Victory Gardens for Peace (VGFP) Initiative in Mendocino, California. He manages the VGFP Research and Education GB Mini-Farm, curates a free Community Seed Bank with over 1,000 accessions, offers local and international GB training programs, and teaches a GB gardening course at the local community college. He is excited to incorporate affordable and accurate soil testing into his work to help others manage their soils more effectively and sustainably. Matt was fortunate to receive a scholarship to attend the first 3-year STAAR Training Program and is grateful for all the patience, wisdom and great information John Beeby provides his students and also to John Jeavons and donors, who made this opportunity possible. Matt can be contacted at Matt@ 

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