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

Fava beans, grains, and other crops growing this spring at The Jeavons CenterThings have been busy at The Jeavons Center! Our online 8-Month Internship began in April and runs through November, with 20 participants (from Mexico (8), Costa Rica (1) Peru (1), Spain (1), Kenya (5), and the United States (New Jersey (1) California (3)) meeting on Zoom every Tuesday with myself and Matt Drewno (both of us Certified Master-Level GB Teachers). I feel blessed in my teaching interactions, and love to share the unique and inspiring ways people approach learning about and using GB. For example, at the end of the first class, 8-Month Intern Juan Angel Barra Ramirez from Mexico sent us this thoughtful message:

“The first session was moving; hearing your voice and those reflective stories show me a lot about how things work, and sometimes we lack clarity regarding our own obstacles. The question you posed about how the current state of the planet affects us and how it might affect us in the future made me think in many ways. However, the first thing I recognized in my own experience is that there are circumstances that affect us positively and other times negatively. But as they say, it all depends on the lens through which you view it.

I feel somewhat divided in my interpersonal relationships; currently, I'm surrounded by people who are also, from their own places, engaging in this process of spreading awareness about the importance of the environment. They are the ones who inspire me to continue forming and learning about their teaching methods to continue with this exercise of sharing. But on the other hand, I'm also surrounded by people, even family, who live in the city and adhere to that lifestyle that is part of a system that has been so harmful to genuine human development for many years. I feel that the lack of information or connection with nature prevents them from seeing the problems we are currently facing, which are extensive and present in many areas of the planet: the soil, the oceans, the air, the forests, the mountains, and food. In my case, I realize that part of the actions they take to remain trapped in an industrialized model is because they haven't had real contact with nature. But I know that when they do get close, even for a moment, they can feel that sense of tranquility, setting aside stress and worries. So, this is where I feel inspired to share with this group of people about the importance of being in tune with our senses and all that the earth gives us. This situation also affects me positively and allows me to take action in this area that is so important for teaching. With this comment or reflection, I wanted to respond to that question you asked in the first session that I didn't have time to participate in; I was on a ladder trying to put up a curtain in the greenhouse to protect the plants from the intense heat that day. But I didn't want to miss the opportunity to share my feelings through this message. This first session connected me with my childhood and my great passion for going out to play in the mountains, always surrounded by the mysticism of the plants around me.” 

In another example, a person from the midwestern US just finishing a prison sentence wrote to Ecology Action that he wanted to start a program to teach former inmates GB so they would have a good way to earn a living once they return to society. He was already familiar with and excited about GB, so we sent him several self-teaching publications, including the latest edition of How to Grow More Vegetables.

Our Spring Garden Tour was held on May 5 this year (to complement the May 4 tour at Victory Gardens for Peace on the Mendocino Coast). Participants included many people from the greater Willits area—our site holds particular interest for locals because they share our difficult growing conditions and our beautiful garden inspires them!—as well as Angel and Juan Lopez from Tecate, Mexico, who both participated in our 2023 8-Month Online Internship and were awarded a 2024 EA Intern Stipend because of the quality of their work. It was a pleasure to see them in person (and you can read a little about their project on page 11 of this issue).

The tour is seven hours long and gives a good introduction to GROW BIOINTENSIVE® Sustainable Mini-farming, what our practical research is accomplishing, and how our method relates to world agriculture. Activities include a discussion of the overall world challenges that humankind faces in the areas of soil, food, and nutrition, a walking tour of our mountainside mini-farm garden, and several short classes on an easy form of double-digging; composting; the 8 Essential Elements of GB; herb gardening; and growing dahlias as a key crop for calories, compost materials, and beautiful flowers. Discussion and questions are encouraged along the way, with presentations given by our staff including Mini-Farm Manager Melvin Castrillo, Assistant Manager Suraya David Sadira, and Farmer-Teacher Trainers Jessi Mikow and Evandro Rafael. 

Of particular interest are the 10-Bed Units (1,000 sq ft) Suraya and Jessi have designed, each one capable of producing a complete balanced diet with crops selected for the best production in our region. A few of the highly efficient crops used (and discussed during the tour) include:

  • Guatemalan Green Corn, a relatively rare, nitrogen-fixing corn that has aerial roots high up on the stalk that drip a nitrogen-rich solution onto the soil, assisting in a good yield.
  • Yukon Gold 65-Day Maturing Potatoes that produce the same yield and amount of nutrition as 90-day and 120-day maturing varieties. More food and nutrition in less time!
  • A special cereal rye called Sangaste (considered to be one of the oldest cultivated cultivars of rye in the world) which in addition to producing heavy seed heads, also produces a huge amount of biomass to use in our compost piles. It grows seven feet high and has a root system that can produce three miles of roots in one day, and 367 miles of roots and 6,603 miles of root hairs in a season—on a single plant! Multiply these numbers by the 833 plants that we plant on 5-inch offset centers in one 100 square-foot growing bed, and you can see how much difference choosing the right crops for your garden can make. Crops like Sangaste help us build up a lot of organic matter in our soil, and roots like this can even help a heavy clay soil be more friable.
  • Other grains grown include wheat, barley and oats. Barley is especially important in water- scarce regions, as it only takes 3 months to mature, compared with 8 months for most wheat. 

If you missed the spring tour—we’ve got another one in the fall, on October 13 (and Victory Gardens for Peace has one on October 12). For information and to register for either tour (or both!), go to I hope to see you in the garden!

Grow Hope

Grow Abundance

Grow Biointensive!

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