• 2010: Latin
  • 2006:
  • 2000: Soil,
    Food and People

Latin American Conference 2010:
Biointensive Agriculture Facing Climate Change

This workshop took place in May of 2010 at the Xochitla Ecologica Reserve in Mexico. The conference and the workshops were so successful that they inspired a web site: where you can read the Xochitla Declaration, look at photos, read about the workshops, and much more.

Another site that was created as a result of the conference is: which provides a network and forum for people interested in biointensive agriculture.

Note: Both of the conference-related sites are in Spanish, but here are some English-language items of interest:

  • An English-language version of the Xochitla Declaration, which is a statement from the conference participants. Click here to download the 421KB PDF

  • The English translation of Salvador Morelos' speech about Biointensive agriculture and climate change, given at the opening ceremony for the conference at Xochitla. (Salvador Morelos is the General Coordinator of the Centro de EducaciĆ³n y CapacitaciĆ³n para el Desarrollo Sustentable (Education and Training Center for a Sustainable Development) associated with SEMARNAT.) Click here to download the 45KB PDF

  • The English translation of Juan Arvizu's speech "Latin American Conference: Biointensive Agriculture Facing Climate Change" given at the opening of the conference. (Juan Arvizu is the General Director of the Xochitla Foundation)
    Click here to download the 19KB PDF

For more content in Spanish, please go to our new Spanish Language site, to read the full Conference Report in Spanish (English translation coming soon).

Click here to go the English language information page for this conference. Note: The conference and workshops for this event are concluded.

For articles, information on Latin American projects and photo galleries of the conference, click here to go to our e-news page for Latin America.


For Latin and Central America, the Caribbean and Brazil

Workshop Report:


Preliminary Conference Report

The Beginning of A GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming Program for the Spanish-Speaking World

Brief Synopsis
The Workshop, which was decreed by the President of Costa Rica to be in the national interest, was very well received by everyone involved and the seeds for a Biointensive team for the Spanish-speaking world were planted. This occurred because of many factors:

• The selection of key development and farming participants. This process was in one sense begun in 1989 by Juan Manuel Martinez Valdez as he began the Less Is More Program’s food-raising work in Mexico. Juan, Director of ECOPOL, works well with campesinos, technicos, university staff and professors and politicos. His alert mind and genuine love of and caring for people during his over 40 years of public service work give him a quiet astuteness that everyone enjoys.

Juan Valdez

• Jack Perella from his Finca del Lago Farm in Costa Rica asked John Jeavons, Director of Ecology Action in Willits, California in the year 2000, if he would come and teach an economic mini-farming workshop in Costa Rica. The purpose of this event was to give small farmers a more competitive edge in relation to larger farmers. Jack’s perseverance and astute selection of key farmers and development professionals to be Costa Rica participants, as well as facilities and demonstration sites for the Six-Day Workshop also made a difference.
The quality and caliber of the participants chosen and encouraged by Juan and Jack was incredibly good and made up a very proactive cooperative group.

• John Jeavons replied to Jack’s request for Biointensive training that he would love to give the workshop, but, because his schedule was so busy, he would like the event to be for all Spanish-speaking peoples. Thus began a process of locating those best able to benefit and share the information and skills. Next, the funding needed to be raised at a level to bring participants and facilitators from 18 countries in a Peak-Oil world to Costa Rica and provide good lodging, food and conference facilities.

• History played an important part as well. The increasing cost of fuel and other fossil-fuel based farming inputs, increasing degradation of soils, water shortages, rising population levels, a desire for food security and political stability provided high levels of motivation for people interested in being able to be more self-reliant. GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming demonstrated the capacity to bring expenses within reach through: its use of locally available inputs, a high energy and water efficiency not dependent on the use of fossil fuels and by being a practical way for community members to work together to create better communities and thriving mini-ecosystems in which to live.

• The holding of the event at ICAES (Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Sociales /Central American Institute for Social Studies) which is a perfect low-key, pleasant location with friendly staff, good food and good lodging.

The event was opened by the Costa Rican Minister of Agriculture for the President of Costa Rica, who had planned to give the inagural speech, but was busy briefing the new Costa Rican President-Elect.

• The placement of the initial morning introductory presentations with over 200 people present at the Institute for Interamerican Cooperation in Agriculture - IICA, an internationally respected organization with 34 country members.

IICA now wants to be a key conduit for Ecology Action GROW BIOINTENSIVE information through its Del Cedadi communications section, including publications and courses throughout Latin and Central America and the Carribean. Its members are: Antigua and Barbuda. Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guyana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Miam (Florida), Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, Uruguay, and Venezuela. John Jeavons’ two-hour presentation on GROW BIOINTENSIVE and its relevance in today’s world was simulcast to all of IICA’s offices in this network.

Community and Family

The Mayans in Guatemala 1,000 years ago thrived with local neighborhood Biointensive food raising when other Civilizations disappeared due to inability to cope.

• During four of the mornings, demonstration gardens were made by the participants as part of their training. These mini-farms were created at a high school, three elementary schools and other key locations for a total of nine sites. The participants commented on how much they enjoyed doing this and how they got to know each other and to work better together as a team in this way. The participants got as much out of working together as from the information and skills imparted.

• 15-minute PowerPoint presentations were given by participants from each of the countries during four of the evenings. These were well done, informative and enjoyed by all. We came away with a good feeling about the things being done to make the world a better place in which to live. On the last afternoon, two PowerPoint presentations were given of color photos taken by professional photographer Amy Melious and put together on the computer by Salvador Diaz, who was an Ecology Action Intern last year. One presentation was of the event as a whole and the other was of the development of the newly established demonstration mini-farm gardens.

• The fiesta dinner was held on the last night. It had amazing local music played by young people of high school age, a humorist, dancing to the music by participants, dancing by local people in costume, a fire dancer from Mexico, who was also one of the participants, and additional music played by some of the participants from Costa Rica and Mexico.

The Result
A wonderful bonding occurred beyond anyone's expectations, everyone really enjoyed the Workshop, I have never seen so many truly happy people in one place after any training, and a living Spanish-speaking world plus Brazil, Italy, Canada and the U.S. team was catalyzed. Most of the participants spontaneously expressed a strong desire to truly implement the Method in their areas.

Reflections on Latin America and the World

The Six-Day Workshop occurred during another important time in history—not just at the intersection with the upcoming Post Fosile Fuel Era. Unlike most of the rest of the world, the Latin and Central American, Carrbbean and Brazilian Region has, on the average, twice the farmable land per person than is needed—even though some countries, such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Haiti and Venezuela have more or less enough. The Region is also rich in resources including oil, trees, food and minerals.

To feed these new visitors to the planet requires 13,000 hectares, or 34,000 more acres, of farmable soil in the world each day. It is not happening.

The Workshop allowed the participants time to reflect on this era and how they might proactively create the best possible future for themselves and the other three-quarters of a billion people in their region.

Needs for the Future

For the future
• more expertise will need to be developed for the 40-Bed Mini-Ag Center/Soil Test Stations, except for the Veracruz, Mexico, site,
• more data orientation will be needed for all key sites in the Spanish-speaking regions and the World,
• a corps of well-trained volunteers may be able to fill the need for transmittal of improved record keeping skills,
• more seed growing, collection and preservation skills need to be emphasized,
• the development of stronger tools needs to be encouraged,
• publication availability needs to be increased,
• the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Interactive Basic-Level Training Manual needs to be completed, published and tested in order to facilitate training and teaching standards,
• ECOPOL will need an administrative aide, and more travel funds will be required in the short-term to accelerate the transfer of skills.

An Opportunity

The Workshop report below seems to demonstrate that a relatively low-budget initiative can have a major impact. Most of the initiatives for The Future can have parallel leverage, but, as many more countries become involved and more initiatives occur, a significant amount of focus will need to be spent on funding of key projects.

Participating Countries, Activities, and Strategies for the Future

The following is a summary of the participating countries, activities being pursued by them and strategies for the future.

1. Argentina: Fernando PÌa is still in charge of the activities of the Biointensive Method in the southern part of Argentina and people that have taken courses with him are putting the Method into practice. However, since a national extension program does not exist for northern Argentina, more needs to be accomplished.

After visiting the rest of the countries in the continent, Juan Manuel Martinez Valdez is planning to increase the work with universities and organizations in the north. Some of them have already taken a course with him in Paraguay but they were not able to attend the Costa Rica Workshop because of funding limitations.

2. Belize: ECOPOL made an agreement with Ana Maria Choo and Armando Choco to organize a three-day workshop in their communities and give talks at universities to invite them to participate in Biointensive activities. The probable period for these is at the end of May, 2006.

One extraordinary activity going on in Belize is the growing of cacao by native peoples for income. These people are already self-sufficient in land and food, but have been able to earn the national average income by just growing this crop on a part time basis with conventional farming practices. This was a good example of effective local initiative for everyone at the Workshop.

3. Bolivia: Two Biointnensive training workshops will be given in August 2006— one in Santa Cruz and another in Cochabamba. ECOPOL and the local organizations will try to involve at least one university in each area.

In addition, Ecology Action has already accepted Anel Rojas Gonzales from Bolivia as a six-month Intern for its 2006 growing season and is considering a second candidate from Bolivia as the result of the Costa Rican Workshop. Bolivia is one of the most impoverished countries in the world and the second candidate and his wife are interested in establishing a GROW BIOINTENSIVE Mini-Ag Center/Soil Test Station there.

4. Brazil: A workshop for farmers and promoters from Ecoa, Rede Pantanal will be given October, 2006, when the flooded lands of the marshland drain for some months (and there are fewer mosquitoes). After that, Juan Manuel will visit two universities in Curitiba and will invite them to take part in Biointensive activities through the signing of an agreement.

5. Colombia: Don Ramόn Montoya, IICA’s Ambassador for Costa Rica, offered to arrange an ECOPOL visit to a group of Colombian universities in September 2006, to give some talks and invite these institutions to promote the Biointensive Method through their extension programs with communities around the country. The professors from this country that participated in the Workshop were enthusiastic about the possibility of establishing a research center for the Method at the Universidad Catolica de Oriente.

There is an awareness in Colombia, which has little more than enough farmable land to feed its population with locally grown food, that for food security and political stability the low income people need to be able to raise their nutrition with locally available resources. John Jeavons spoke with Don Montoya, who will soon be retiring to work in Colombia, his native country, about the desirability of a 15-year strategic plan being developed for Colombian food security—especially in light of the high level of food importation occurring in Colombia.

6. Costa Rica: Our host country is the most complex one due to the number of participating organizations; however one of our Workshop’s co-sponsors, the Movimiento de Agricultura Organica Costarricense (MAOCO) and some participants from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) requested a visit by ECOPOL to give a course to some producers from two of their main working areas. The probable date for this is in late November 2006.

MAOCO has also expressed interest in a national Biointensive Workshop to occur in March or April 2007, and in establishing a project to produce strong D-handled spades and forks for Central and Latin America using local factories. Both of these projects are under active evaluation.

There is interest in a 40-Bed Mini-Ag Center/Soil Test Station being part of INA–Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje (Nacional Institute for Learning). This is the Costa Rican Agricultural Research Farm just an hour away from where the Workshop was held. In addition, Felicia Echeverria Hermoso, one of the main organic farming movement forces in Costa Rica, a top aide to the Costa Rican Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, and a Workshop participant, is interested in having a similar Center/Station on the farm area she has just obtained.

Reinhold Muschleer, international consultant on agroecology, agroforestry and organic production in the tropics and expert on tropical compost was an active Workshop participant and was an information and publication resource for everyone. He also volunteered to translate into Spanish the second edition of Ecology Action’s Growing to Seed Self-Teaching Mini-Series booklet on how to grow all your seeds in the smallest area while preserving genetic diversity.

In addition, one of the Costa Rican participants is seriously considering building solar seed dryers for the tropics through his company, Sol Verde Cooperativa in Guanacaste. He is already building solar dryers and successfully teaching women how to build them to lighten their domestic workload. Tropical seed dryers are very important for the humid tropics, since it is difficult to get the seeds fully dry and that greatly impairs their storage life.

Long Island University sent five of the US students taking an Internship in Biodiversity at its Costa Rican site to be participants in the Workshop. One from Arkansas expressed a strong interest in participating in a six-month Internship with Ecology Action in 2007.

7. Chile: The Biointensive practitioners from Chile are going to notify Juan Manuel of the most convenient date to give a course and will identify the most likely university to actively participate in Biointensive research.

8. Ecuador: Mercedes Torres Berrones, Director of ADYS (Self-Sufficiency, Development and Society), a non-profit organization, is continuing her many Biointensive projects and is now working with the Universidad Tècnica del Centro. This university will actively join the network to incorporate lines of investigation about the Method in the Andean region. A major accomplishment last year was the Ministry of Agriculture’s establishing an annual $50,000 amount for Biointensive in its budget. A major part of these funds is being used so ADYS can train children and their families in Biointensive, so the children will be able to have enough food to eat without having to go to work at low paying jobs in less than optimal work environments. It is also hoped that ADYS will soon have a 40-Bed Mini-Ag Center/Soil Test Station as a national demonstration, learning and training resource.

9. El Salvador: The five representatives from the Salvadorean delegation were some of the most interested people in working with the Method as soon as possible. In order to do so, they will organize one or two workshops for a minimum of 20 organizations. Probable date: the second week of November 2006 with Juan Manuel participating. These representatives were not from non-profit organizations with budgets, but were from volunteer organizations, whose staff work at other jobs for income. They indicated that this works best, because their organizations do not collapse with fluctuations in funding. A goal of this group of five organizations is to obtain 200 sets of digging tools for use in their programs over the next two years. This group also said it wants to send an Intern to Willits for an Ecology Action six-month Internship during 2007.

One representative, Francisco Antonia Rodas of the Asociacion de Productores de Regantes al Almendro Abajo, described his project as providing 300 Biointensive growing beds for 100 essentially homeless children!

10. Guatemala: Due to the geographical and cultural closeness with the Mexican Republic, this country can be visited as soon as they organize a workshop. They offered to organize a 3-day workshop. Probable date: September 2006.

11. Mèxico: A wonderful surprise is that Ricardo Romero and Karla Arroyo Rizo are developing their skills as speakers and administrators of the Las Cañadas program in Veracruz state more and more. With the addition of Anja Lyngbaeck to their staff, they promise to be a tremendous team that in a near future could become one of the most important demonstration centers of the Biointensive Method in the Spanish-speaking world. Las Canadas already has a 40-Bed Mini-Ag Center/Soil Test Station and they will soon have five staff members skilled in overall Biointensive with each specializing in one of the following areas: Soil and Compost, Diet and Nutrition, Trees, Seeds and Income. They already have facilities for short-term workshops and lodging for up to six longer-term Interns. As a result of a new Ecology Action GROW BIOINTENSIVE Goals paper and conversations between Ricardo and John Jeavons, Las Canadas will soon have a three-tier program of learning opportunities for Biointensive: One-Week, Three- to Four-Week, and Six-Month. Karla has begun a seed growing economic mini-farm and the University of Chapingo will be studying its effectiveness this year.

Dr. Angelica Ma. Arango H., Academic Director of the Mexican Institute de Diencias Avanzadas, A.C., also a Costa Rican Workshop participant, expressed interest in supporting Biointensive work during a meeting with John Jeavons.

Two six-month Special Interns from Mexico are already scheduled for Ecology Action’s training program in conjunction with the Golden Rule Community. They are a couple from Aguascalientes state, Jose Augustin Medina Macias and his wife, Marisol Tenorio Lopez.

12. Nicaragua: In November 2006, ECOPOL will be giving a course to some small scale organic producers in Jinotega that want to use the Method to reduce their food dependency and to produce organic seeds.

13. Panama: Panama is working on scheduling a Biointensive course for sometime in the first months 2007—possibly with other participants from the Workshop teaching.

14. Paraguay: In August 2006, after he finishes giving workshops in Bolivia, Juan Manuel will visit Paraguay and will join Fernando PÌa to teach a course there.

This visit is of particular importance because the Paraguayan Foundation and its farming school have among their plans the production of organic seeds and the installation of a GROW BIOINTENSIVE demonstration garden for demonstration and research. Juan Manuel suggested that they establish a 40-Bed Mini-Ag Center/Soil Test Station. They were interested and will hire one more person to be able to do so. Already this school has 800 Biointensive growing beds run by a graduate of EARTH University. The school’s 100 students work the growing area as part of their 3-year farming education program.

15. Peru: Juan Manuel will spend three weeks in Peru during June 2006: one to take a course about organic seeds with Dominique Guillette, another one to give a course in Cusco with Ruth Huayta Mango, a Costa Rica Workshop participant, and the last week to attend the organic agriculture annual fair in which three conferences will be given to the participants and the working area of the Instituto Rural Valle Grande high-altitude herb farm will be visited. This institute is planning to use the Biointensive Method in their “andenerÌas” (Incaic balconies from the prehispanic period). The two proprietors of this institute have been doing Biointensive for some time, were participants in the Costa Rican Workshop, market USDA Approved organic herbal teas of high quality, and also employ children in the harvesting of the herbs, so they will have healthy jobs and a positive farming experience. Juan Manuel will also visit the national university to invite them to participate in a line of investigation to compare present yields in those “andenerÌas”.

Yesica Nina Cusiyuipanqui, Ecology Action 6-month Special Intern at the Golden Rule site in 2005-2006, will be invited to participate in the Cusco course. Yesica and her family have a farm in this area. Yesica was sponsored by the US-based MESA program in her Willits learning experience and received a $700 grant from MESA for her project upon returning to Peru. Yesica’s goal is to establish a 40-Bed Mini-
Ag Center/Soil Test Station for the people of Peru on her farm. Tania Zuniga Moreno of Peru, also a MESA-sponsored farming student in 2005-2006 in California will be assisting her. Tania received a 3-Day GROW BIOINTENSIVE Introductory Workshop scholarship and was a participant in the one given in March 2006. Yesica is also sharing her learning with two Peruvian university professors.

16. Uruguay: In May 2006, people in Uruguay will begin giving courses to young people to teach the Basic principles of the Biointensive Method (like was done for years in Palo Alto, California by Ecology Action and which is still done). Before the year ends, they will propose a date for a visit by Juan Manuel to give a course to organic producers in Montevideo.

17. Dominican Republic: With the participation of the Universidad Catόlica a workshop will be given in the communities of organic peasants in July 2006. This is one of the most interested countries in starting the practice of the Method immediately. They consider this urgent due to their geographic situation and closeness to Haiti.

18. Venezuela: In September 2006, after visiting Colombia, Juan Manuel will be giving a course in “El Convite”, the center of a Venezuelan participant at the Costa Rican Workshop. Other Venezuelan NGOs that are interested in spreading the Method will be invited.

Future Budgets and Funding: All the countries requested a visit by ECOPOL, because they want us to be with them when they give their first workshops. We asked each of the countries to look for funding to pay for the airplane tickets through their organizations. This is not likely to be possible. Alternately, some of their governments can ask the Mexican Embassy for support, due to the fact that there are technical cooperation agreements with some of the countries involved. Some additional travel funding will also be needed to make all the trips possible.

The food and lodging and transportation expenses within each country are covered with ECOPOL’s regular budget and the people who organize the workshops in each country.

Universities: It is imperative to draw up a GROW BIOINTENSIVE research program and propose that the universities of each country use it. This will allow us to validate the results and adapt the principles of the Biointensive Method to each particular situation. Among the elements that should be included are the following:

  • To provide each university with recommended books and readings
  • To make an inventory of available resources in each participating university
  • To design a catalogue of lines of investigation
  • To negotiate minimum resources through the twinning of universities in each country and their equivalent in the United States
  • To periodically exchange and publish in Spanish and English the development of results, challenges, and discoveries

We have already explored this possibility with the following and they have agreed and are willing to participate:

Colombia. Universidad Catolica de Oriente
Guatemala. Universidad de San Carlos
Nicaragua: Universidad Nacional Agraria
Ecuador: Universidad Central del Ecuador
Republica Dominicana: Universidad Catolica Tecnologica del Cibao

Interaction between participating countries: It happened spontaneously among some countries during the workshop. In addition, we will continue promoting this with the purpose of strengthening the friendship and exchange of experiences between all these countries.

Attendance: The biggest number in the classroom was 130. Between 10 and 15 Costa Rican participants were absent in some periods during the workshop because a law to promote organic agriculture in Costa Rica is being approved in the Chamber of Deputies of that country. All the people that participated in the workshop signed a letter in which we requested the Chamber to void a motion presented by one of the deputies to postpone its approval.

A Team: The energy and empathy among the participants, John, and the rest of the instructors was amazing. There were not any kind of negative incidents. Isidro Alejo, participant from the Dominican Republic, summed up in a very good way this situation in his last e-mail:

Monday, April 3rd, 2006
La Vega, Dominican Republic

Dear Mr. Juan Manuel

Hoping that you are fine and satisfied with the results achieved in your workshop, I’m writing on behalf of Juan Santos and myself to thank you enormously for all the efforts you made to make our attendance to said workshop possible. Not to mention the efforts made in Coronado so that all of us would feel comfortable and at home. We really seemed to be a family that had wanted for a long time to see each other again, and that was the place to meet. I’m saying this because organizers and participants were all the same, there were no differences or distinctions made, so all of us felt were at the same level and “among our families.” THANKS FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY.

I’m writing today because I arrived home on Sunday night because the plane that was going to take me from Costa Rica to Miami broke down and couldn’t leave until late that night. So I had to stay in the United States for one more day until I was able to get a flight to travel to my country. But everything went well thanks to our patience and calm and especially thanks to GOD. I’m with my family right now and tomorrow I’ll return to work.

I think that I will start spreading and diffusing the BIOINTENSIVE METHOD today. I had a conversation with a couple of coworkers from the university and they went crazy and said they wanted to promote and program the first talks.

Well, I think that I’ll stop for now because in the future I will write more to tell you everything about this.




Anecdotes from other participants who were scheduled to attend but were late or not able to:

  • A person from Guatemala realized his passport had expired when the people at the airport checked his documents. He got to the workshop one day later. Marco Vinicio.
  • Another man from Guatemala–Cesar Lineo—was visiting Peru and was stranded there for two days between two rivers due to landslides. He arrived three days late.
  • A man from Bolivia–Roberto Pozo—missed his flight because the level of a river rose and so he couldn’t get to the airport on time. He was not able to find another ticket and therefore could not attend the workshop.
  • A woman from Argentina and two from Honduras did not attend because their flights unexpectedly were not confirmed. (Adriana, Sara, and Jacqueline.)
  • A group of 4 Mexican people did not attend because their leader’s father died. He died one day before they were supposed to travel.
  • Two men and a woman from Peru got their visas at the last minute and were able to attend!
  • Five indigenous people from Colombia were not able to find funds to attend.

Of Special Interest

  • The exotic touch came from the participants from Belize. All of us were amazed at the fact that they are Mayans (pure) and that they speak English!
  • Celso Tarcisio Roso of Brazil captivated the participants when he gave his presentation in Portuguese. All of us understood his Portoñol (a combination of Spanish and Portuguese) and never felt closer to Brazil. In addition, his energy was fantastic!

Detailed Costa Rica Perspective

Approximately sixty Costa Ricans attended the event, representing every major agricultural region of the country, from the Pacific to the Atlantic and border to border. All important organic growing coops and growers' groups had at least one participant and many paid through locally raised funds. There has never been a practical workshop in Costa Rica with this broad attendance. Many of the participants, and the groups they represented, were known to each other only by reputation, and even Ticos (Costa Ricans) had to read name badges to know their 'neighbors.' A very important group of participants were the fifteen field agents of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) who attended. They represented all parts of the country and are officially charged with supporting organic production."

It is already clear that many local events will be held to share what was learned at the workshop. The event served not only to impart knowledge but also to bond growers in a common experience. Jack Perella, the Costa Rican Coordinator for the Workshop says, “Costa Rica may become the most 'double-dug' (per capita) country in the world."


1. Escuela Manuel MarÌa Gutièrrez, San Pedro de Coronado

This is an elementary school that is a close neighbor of Finca del Lago and a personal project. Jack Perella and his wife Brigitte have supported the school for over ten years in a variety of ways. The Director, 6 instructors, and 18 students attended Monday’s inaugural event.

While the area developed had been used before as a vegetable garden, long neglect made the site difficult, with hard soil and uneven ground. The number of beds needs to increase, and Jack is going to send his workers to train parents and staff. The site itself is well-protected from both wind and intruders, and can be further developed.

2. Finca Cristina

This was the dream site. It is near to Escuela Gutièrrez, but has been a working organic farm for years. The soil was loose and fertile. The team was able to develop over 20, 100 sq ft prime growing beds, and cut green material for compost for use at other field sites that needed this. The owner, Cristina RodrÌguez, is an older woman who simply did not have the physical strength necessary for double-digging. Now that this has been done, the beds can be maintained. This parcel will† become a model of organic production.

Cristina receives school children to learn about gardening regularly, and agriculture students from the University of Costa Rica do their field work with her. The forecast for this site is excellent.

3. Centro Diurno del Tercero Edad de Coronado

This is a senior citizens home in the center of Coronado, next to the Centro Agricola. They have had a vegetable garden for years, but never one that was properly planned or developed. When the work group left, a central section had been developed and a compost unit added. Four residents received training, and were happily integrated into the work crew.

This site provides both food and therapy. The prospects for development are excellent.

4. Escuela Marie Ana MarÌn

This is the largest elementary school in Costa Rica, with 1600 students in two shifts. The need for fresh vegetables in their cafeteria is obvious. The Director, Rosa Otiz, attended the entire workshop, has enormous energy, and is dedicated to organic agriculture. The site is relatively small, with about 10, 100 sq ft growing beds with good soil, but hidden pipes and concrete slabs under the soil made the work difficult. The site also has drainage problems.

The school has many unused areas that can be developed in the future, and the present site should be viewed at a preview of future work.

5. Liceo de Coronado

This is the local high school, with about 1200 students. The enthusiasm could not be higher. Many students and instructors spontaneously came to work on the site, and at the end of the workshop ten beds had been developed. The Board of Directors of the school is willing to invest money to build a fence to protect the site.

This garden was long-planned by the school, but there were never enough resources to build it. Now it is started. If enthusiasm and commitment can build a garden, this is the place.

6. Misiona de las hermanas de caridad

This is a senior citizens home run by a Catholic order of nuns, who prefer to be anonymous in their work.

The situation at the site is similar to that at the Centro Diurno, except that they have a professional gardener who received training. There has been a vegetable garden for many years, but this was substantially upgraded during the workshop. Their interest is not only in growing vegetables but in developing theraputic gardening.


IICA has had a vegetable garden for a couple of years, developed by their two gardeners in their free time. The leader of the work crew reported that, in spite of the history of the site, it was not well developed, and many stones were found in the soil. Both gardeners received training, have started compost production, and will have the maintanence of the site as part of their duties.

Because they are professional staff, and because the Costa Rican delegation to IICA is directly interested, this site is very likely to be maintained.

8. Finca Leitόn

This farm is the property of Antonio Leitόn, the Costa Rican coordinator for Long Island University. He was formerly a member of the local Finca del Lago producers' group (as was Cristina) but his University duties kept him from properly developing his site. LIU students come to his farm for training in ecology, and now this garden and Biointensive techniques will be part of that training.

9. Escuela Filomena Blanco

This elementary school sits on a windblown hilltop which we dubbed "Heartbreak Hill." In spite of this, the team did a tremendous job building a 200 sq ft double-dug bed and compost unit. This was our most difficult site, and will require a windbreak (designed by John Jeavons during his visit) to survive.

The will is there, but so is the wind. It we can keep this site growing, Biointensive will work anywhere.

A Look Ahead

The test for all of the school sites comes soon with Easter Break. If those responsible water the gardens during this week, the commitment is real. If the gardens die, it was just initial enthusiasm. Jack will review all of these sites the week of April 17 and the non-school sites April10th-14th.

Evening Presentations

Country Presenter Organization Title
1. Ecuador Mônica Medina ADYS DVD “Lago Agrio” Project
2. Guatemala Marco Vinicio Fern·ndez Universidad San Carlos  
3. Mexico Ricardo Romero Las Cañadas Agroecology
4. Mexico Karla Arroyo Las Cañadas Biointensive Method and Seed Production
5. Belize Armando Choco TCGA Organic Chocolate
6. Venezuela Jorge RamÌrez Acción Campesina Unit Project and Cassava Processors
7. Brazil Celso Tarcisio Rosso ECOA
Rede Pantanal
Sustainable Community Development
8. Bolivia Urbelinda Ferrufino ASEO Asociación Ecológica de Oriente Projects
9. Costa Rica Juan Arriaga Sol Verde Our Daily Sun
10. Colombia Jorge Madrid Universidad Católica de Oriente Carrot Seed Production
11. Colombia Juan Carlos Montoya Universidad Católica de Oriente University Programs
12. Chile Lilian Barrientos Escuela Bahai Nueva Imperial Agroecology Project
13. Uruguay Pablo Machado
Yvet Yvet Álvarez
JardÌn Sol y Mar Productor Org·nico Ecostore and Ecofair Organic Products Sale
14. Panama Jeremías Concepción FUNDICEP / MIDA Soil Conservation
15. Argentina Fernando PÌa CIESA Biointensive Method
16. Peru Ruth Huayta Mango AEDES Organic Agriculture
17. Paraguay Adolfino Acosta Escuela San Francisco de AsÌs Achievements and Work with the Biointensive Method
18. Nicaragua Isabel ChavarrÌa Universidad Nacional Agraria Experience with Organic Fertilizers
19. Peru Mauro Sarmiento
Juan Pablo Álvarez
Instituto Rural Valle Grande Cañete Organic Medicinal Herbs
20. El Salvador Cristóbal Barrera
Tomás Urías
Proyecto “Flora Salvadoreña” Projects
21. Panama Melquíades Rojas A. Asociación de Productos Org·nicos de Panam· Organic Agriculture: An Alternative to Panama

* From Tuesday the 28th to Thursday the 30th at night, the participants spontaneously presented to the group the projects they are working on and in which they are planning to include the Biointensive Method.

Interviews – An In-Depth Sampling of a Few Participants


Fabián was born 27 years ago and was raised in a family with idealistic values and principles in a rural area in the Costa Rican Pacific. He grew up seeing people working the land, and since he was a little boy he felt attracted by the peasant movement of his region. That’s when he discovered his agricultural vocation.

Fabi·n became an activist and has participated in the Movimiento Ecologista Social (Social Environmental Movement) since he was 15 years old. This movement is for him like a family that not only creates alternatives but is also unwilling to accept a world that constantly looks for privatization and sterilizes the planet’s biosphere. Later, he became a graduate in Agriculture at EARTH University. Since then he has actively participated in different organizations and has fought for the rights of indigenous people, environmental groups from Costa Rica, Creole (heritage) seeds, and a Latin America free of GMO’s among other things. He is also a producer and a broadcaster of a national radio program that talks about topics related to social ecology.

One day he was searching for more information about agroecology on the Internet and was suddenly attracted to the GROW BIOINTENSIVE model, and so he decided to contact Jack Perella (a Biointensive Method expert in Costa Rica) and ask him for more information. The proposal presented by Jack motivated him even more, and in the year 2003 he decided to go to Willits, California, in order to do a 4-month internship with John Jeavons to learn more about the Biointensive Method.

His contact with Ecology Action changed the course of his life because he deeply connected with its people and its goals. To Fabian the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Method is an ideal tool for agroecology that incorporates a production model to rescue seeds and to achieve a sustainable and efficient food sovereignty within anybody’s reach.

”I graduated with a degree in Agronomy,” he says, “but if there is something that has been useful for me to work with the indigenous communities in my country, that is what I learned with John Jeavons in Ecology Action.”

Fabian is currently working as a professor at the Centro Especializado de Agricultura Org·nica (Specialized Center in Organic Agriculture) at the INA–Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje (Nacional Institute for Learning). There he has given a lot of workshops to indigenous communities in Costa Rica and has discovered that the people connect with the Biointensive Method very quickly and effectively because it is an easy to understand method based in the ways of the environment.

His vision is to continue working as a professor, to carry out pilot projects with Biointensive Agriculture at the INA Center, to continue working with environmental movements in all Latin America and in the far future to retire, lead a quieter life and produce his own food in a natural, sustainable way.

For the moment, he feels that he still has a lot to give to communities regarding training and direction.

“The Biointensive Method has broadened my horizons and has taken me towards a kind of agriculture that has fulfilled my expectations and interests for a fair and environmentally healthy world.”


Ten or fifteen years ago, the Instituto Rural Valle Grande (Rural Institute Valle Grande) which belongs to the Catholic Church (Opus Day started a project in the Peruvian mountains.

Currently, the Institute is working with 11 mountain communities and benefiting with productive projects children from 7 elementary schools and 300 families. The objective of these projects is that the children value their parents’ small farms and learn organic agriculture techniques in their schools’ plots so that later they can carry out these techniqueds in their homes. In this way, when the children finish school they will go back to their small farms and achieve food security.

The projects are carried out in the schools’ plots, and it is stipulated in the curriculum that the children will have to devote some hours to their small farms (2 hours per week minimum). During vacation the parents also getinvolved and give support to their children to take care of the piece of land.

On the pieces of land, people grow vegetables, but mainly medicinal herbs which the Instituto Rural Valle Grande buys from them at a fair price in order to make different kinds of tea. With the money they get from the sales, the students finance their graduation party or pay for their school materials, and in this way they help their parents–who have very limited buying power.

“These communities are facing a problem now: there are not any young people in their communities, because when they finish school their parents want them to move to the city and look for a job … but now with this project, young people are motivated to stay on their small farms. In this way, the project improves the quality of life of the people and avoids the migration of young people to the cities because now they have new alternatives to live.”

In the past, alfalfa (lucerne) was grown on many pieces of land, but people didn’t get a lot of benefits from it. Now, with the medicinal herbs project, children receive money every 2 or 3 months. Their schools are in charge of distributing the money in an equitable way.

An important part of the project is to teach people to appreciate their traditions again, so every year in the month of June or July a fair is held. The 11 communities take part, and each of them gets ready to participate in the Creole (heritage) seeds contest, and in the typical food, traditional medicine, dance or music events. A selection of the best presentations is made, and the children who turn out to be the final runners-up explain presentation in detail to the public and the judges. The prizes they receive are educational materials, encyclopedias, desks or bicycles. The technicians in charge of the project say: “The presentations are incredible, and the way in which children learn and get to know their roots is amazing, too.”

The Instituto Valle Grande supports its beneficiaries with loans in kind and technical consulting. We do a follow-up by visiting each small farm twice every month. “Many times we have to start from scratch with the children because they have lost their ability to work the land.”

The pieces of land are worked with traditional organic agriculture, but the technicians assured me that, now that they know the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Method, that’s the model they are planning to use because it is going to help them improve their productivity in a significant way. “We want to apply the technology of the Biointensive Method as soon as we go back to our country because it is easier to handle the crops in beds. The market demands a bigger amount of medicinal plants, and we are not able to meet that demand. However, this method opens up a new possibility to improve our yields and to include people who own small pieces of land because if we produce more in a smaller space it means that the model adapts perfectly to the small-scale production.”

At the Institute, they have an experimental center where they also want to implement this agricultural model to share it with more people.

”What we want to transmit is not only technical training but also human values. Our intention is to continue working, to leave something, to see happiness reflected in people’s faces, to see the face of an excited child, to be an example, and to give love to people.

”We are really grateful to John Jeavons and we are going to continue his work and help him spread it, like seeds that germinate in different fields.”


”I worked for an Association of Carmelites. The nuns there have as a mission to rescue children who live in the streets. They started with 50 children 3 years ago, and now they have almost 100 from newborn babies to 15-year-old teenagers. They become the children’s family and pay for their studies, home, and food. In order to be able to achieve this, they look for international help for their shelter.”

Among the people who have supported this cause are a doctor who donated approximately two hectares of land and some people from Canada—friends of Mr. John Jeavons—who gave them the English version of How To Grow More Vegetables .

Francisco was the person in charge of the production of the land, so he started working with those elements. At the beginning it was not easy at all because the land was not good for growing food and was located on a very steep slope with a lot of grass. Besides, Francisco does not understand English, so he interpreted the text as well as he could and put into practice the production model that had been entrusted to him through John Jeavons’ book.

The first thing he did was to devote his time to making compost. “There were two of us working on compost from Monday to Monday. At the beginning we were not very organized, and since we were learning, it sometimes took us half a day to make one pile of compost; besides we didn’t have the necessary tools. For example, we didn’t have a wheelbarrow so we had to carry all the materials in buckets. We got the materials for the compost from the people who live in the surrounding areas and also from the market waste.”

They also devoted time to working the land—in the area with the steepest slope—in order to maintain the soil with living barriers and contour lines. Little by little, they started to make the beds and bought two forks. However, since tools were very expensive they couldn’t buy the spade and they had to work with what they had. “In the shelter, I was asked to transmit to the children and teenagers the knowledge related to the agricultural method we were using both in a theoretical and in a practical way.”

”We started with 5 beds and began spreading the method’s philosophy in the minds of the children. Two years later and thanks to the desire of 5 teenagers and 3 children who helped us from 3 to 5 hours a week, we had 300 beds. We were finally able to plant a beautiful garden!”

They were also able to dig a well and to get some chickens, rabbits, doves, and even some horses. Besides, they planted 700 different kinds of fruit trees.

With the work experience he obtained, Francisco became really interested in the situation of the peasants in his country; therefore, he started spreading the Method and his experience outside the shelter and also organized fairs with the peasants and with the help of the Ministry of Agriculture.

With great happiness Francisco exclaimed: “I planted a seed in the shelter, and now I’m moving to plant another seed, but this time among the peasants who live in my area. My goal is to work in order to pass the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Method on to them. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to achieve that because I don’t have any help or resources to do it, but that will be my struggle. I’ll figure our how, and I’ll do it!”

For the time being and in order to support himself and his family, Francisco works his father’s land (approximately 2 hectares). There he grows different kinds of flowers in Biointensive beds and also different kinds of native trees that he uses to give shade to part of his field. Over time, by using compost, he has been able to improve his soil and flowers. “The plot is now beautiful, and my family is very happy!” says Francisco with some sparkle in his eyes.

In his free afternoons, he teaches catechism and gives talks to children and teenagers.

His mission now is to continue fighting to take the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Method to the farmers in his country. “I want to see a change among my peasant brothers, that’s my goal. Through the Biointensive Method, I understood that nature talks to us, and we have to learn to listen and understand what it is saying. I ask God to give me the strength and wisdom to be able to spread this.”


Mercedes was born in the historical Center of Quito. “I’m totally urban, I grew up surrounded by churches, bells, convoluted streets, etc. I strengthened my historical identity and my roots through the stories my grandmother told me.” Since she was a little girl, she realized she needed to teach and to recreate the history of her country in her games or by telling stories and tales to whoever happened to be with her.

Some years later, she became a Professor and taught some groups how to read and how to write. She studied Educational Psychology and took a postgraduate course in Group Therapy and specialized in Human Nature. Then, she started working in projects to benefit the society in Latin America and the Caribbean. Life continued giving her opportunities to teach, and later she became a facilitator in projects related to Non-Formal Education for Adults.

During those 10 years, Mercedes understood that people in Latin America share the same dreams and ambitions but also the same challenges and poverty. At that moment it was really frustrating for her not to know how to respond to those needs.

In the year 2000, Mercedes lost everything she had–including her hope—due to the terrible economic, political, and social crisis that hit her country. Around the middle of the same year, Juan Manuel MartÌnez invited her to participate in the making of a manual about the Biointensive Method that would be done in collaboration with John Jeavons.

Finding the Biointensive Method and learning about John Jeavons’ life commitment inspired Mercedes in such a way that she undertook the challenge of continuing her mission as a teacher “to educate people to face life by giving them the potential they need to do so. I want to show people that the possibility of making their dreams come true is in their hands, that we have to open our hands, minds, and heart to organize ourselves and to grow stronger together…

Among the many projects which Mercedes is currently working on, there is one carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare in Ecuador, and whose purpose is to eradicate child labor. Mercedes’ work is to support those children’s families in order to decrease the economic pressure in the home so that parents do not make their children work. To achieve that, she got some funding and a 3-hectare farm to create a Biointensive Agriculture Community School that represents an initial impact in Ecuador’s northern region and that has 3 associated demonstration gardens in other regions of the country. “It is a long-term project which we are working on with the purpose of guaranteeing the food security of the families and the creation of employment through the making of costume jewelry based on natural seeds, the drying of medicinal plants, the production of natural seeds, the production of marmalades, and the organization of business cooperatives, all of this around a Biointensive garden.”

In the future, Mercedes wishes to continue working with the Biointensive Method and plans to establish Demonstration and Training Centers in all of her country’s provinces (she has already done this in three of them). Around these centers there would be associated gardens to produce healthy food and seeds and to be permanent models for other groups. Then, she would link these gardens with productive networks to form a Biointensive Farmers National Network and share the experience with other countries to finally create a Big Latin American Network. “This is one of my dreams, and I know I can make it come true. In this workshop here in Costa Rica, I’m already making some contacts and reaching agreements with some partners from other countries. For example, our friends from the Dominican Republic will give a course about organic cacao, our friends from Paraguay will teach us how to process milk and handle organic sugar cane, and we will teach them how to make marmalades. Our friends from Las CaÒadas, Mexico, will teach us about seed production, and a friend from the United States will go to Ecuador to give us some advice on how to look for funding. I can see a spirit of solidarity is emerging, a spirit of reciprocity towards life itself that makes us give to others what life has given to us.”

With a childish smile she says, “As you can see, right now I’m telling you about my dreams. I also dream of forming a convoy of young people from the different universities to visit every province and teach the Biointensive Method as an alternative for a sustainable life. This convoy could become a convoy of nations that walks all around Latin America, little by little, that goes from town to town, and then in each town more people become part of that convoy, and we hand on the message to others. I wonder if there are other people who are as crazy as I am!”

”The Biointensive Method has taught me that I need to be respectful toward t natural processes. At the beginning, I planted my seeds, and I wanted to see them sprout immediately. If that didn’t happen, I became anxious. Then I learned that I have to wait for things to happen at their own pace. I became patient not only with the technique but also in my life, and that led me to reflect on the way in which I lived. Now, I feel I am another element in the life cycle. This is the kind of learning that has changed my life.”

In her book “Agujas de Hilo Azul” (“Blue Thread Needles”), Mercedes tells the story of a woman who dreams of being a writer and a sower. The book ends by saying that the Sower is the one who writes on people’s skin and that the Writer is the one who plants in people’s. I believe that has exactly been Mercedes’ philosophy in life.


”I’m Quechua and come from a very poor family”, says Urbelinda. “Because we lived in abject poverty, my father decided to go to Argentina for a few years to look for a job and left my mother without a house, without land, and with a lot of children. It was a difficult period, but we managed to get through it.“

Urbelinda had to work since she was a little girl with a “small mattock” in the field and had to take on a series of responsibilities to help the family. Because of the economic situation, not all of the children in her family could attend school. “I did attend school for a while, but we were so poor that some days we didn’t have anything to eat—sometimes due to natural disasters among other causes—so we survived with the food we were sometimes given at school.”

Urbelinda showed great interest in studying, but when she finished elementary school she couldn’t continue her studies because her parents decided that her oldest brother should be the one to continue studying. So at 12, she had to work in the cotton, tomato, and sugar cane fields. The conditions in those fields were terrible: all the workers had to sleep on the floor in very limited spaces, drink water from ponds, get up at 3 o’clock in the morning to work all day long in the sun and receive a wage that was not enough for anything. “I went through this for four years.”

She went back home and one Sunday her mother sent her to visit one of her aunts in the city, one who had a good economic status and high social standing. When she got to her aunt’s house, there were two other well-to-do relatives visiting, and Urbelinda remembers that all of them looked at her from head to toe and said she was a very beautiful girl but that she was very poor and didn’t go to school. Her aunts sent her mother a message saying they wanted to see her. When she got home, Urbelinda told her mother about it, and she immediately went to the city to talk to her relatives. When her mother got back, she told her to get ready because she was going to go to the city to live with her aunt. For her mother, the opportunity for her daughter to go to school was a blessing, and that’s why she decided to send her to the city.

Urbelinda remembers that she got to her uncle and aunt’s house with a small suitcase made of wood and the hope to study. However, her life with that family was one of suffering, abuse, and mistreatment because they didn’t recognize her as a niece and used her as a maid. They made her work at top speed, and in exchange she could attend a public school located across the street from the house. Urbelinda turned out to be one of the best students at school, but the work she had to do at her aunt’s house became heavier and heavier every day. “The only thing that gave me the courage to continue was to know that I was studying to have a better life.”

Some years passed, and Urbelinda saved the little money she earned so that her mother could buy her a cow with the purpose of selling it to pay for her registration to enter the university. And so it happened: she sold the cow, entered the university, and studied seriously and at the same time worked hard until she got a scholarship with boarding at the university, and then she could leave her uncle and aunt’s house.
Everything turned out wonderfully at the university. She majored in Medicine and when she finished her studies she did her internship in Santa Cruz. There she fell in love with a doctor and got married. Soon, both of them got a 4-year scholarship to specialize in Italy.

Once back in their country, they started working enthusiastically but faced a lot of discrimination on the part of their colleagues, and so it became harder and harder to get a job.

Urbelinda started teaching at universities and worked on the periphery of her region. She had a lot of experience in Pediatric Medicine but no job opportunities.

Due to the lack of a job in her region, she decided to major in Biology in 1992. Because of that she found out about and became involved in topics related to the health of the planet, pollution, loss and mishandling of natural resources and the consequences people suffer due to all of that. So when she finished her major, she chose to take jobs related to those topics.

She became a collaborator in the Asociación Ecológica del Oriente (Ecological Association of the East) and got a master’s degree in Epidemiology and Advanced Pediatrics. Because of the high degree of malnutrition in her country, she thought it was of the utmost importance to find a solution for food security and since very little could be done to heal people, she focused on preventive medicine.

”In the year 2001, Juan Manuel MartÌnez, representative of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Method for Mexico and Latin America, who was in the province of Santa Cruz in Bolivia started looking for ecological associations in his hotel’s telephone directory and found ours. He called the office, and I got the call. To start with, I became enthusiastic about his approach to the topic of growing food, and so we agreed to meet to talk in-depth about it. That afternoon, Juan Manuel explained the Biointensive Method to me, and I became really interested in its methodology and results. So I started looking for publications and promoting the Method among some groups, but I felt I was a liar because I had never tried it myself; all I knew came from the books.”

In 2003, she contacted Juan Manuel and asked him for a training course on the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Method for Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia. That course would be given at the San Francisco de AsÌs school through the Red de Lucha contra la Desertificación (Struggle Against Desertification Network). It was a very successful workshop! Urbelinda attended and learned more about the Method, but since she was a part of the coordinating group she could not participate in the practical sessions because she had to take care of other tasks.

In 2004, she won a scholarship from the Instituto Ambiental (Environmental Institute) to attend a conference in Mexico. When she heard that, she contacted Juan Manuel and told him of her great interest to get trained in the Biointensive Method. Juan Manuel arranged a 15-day course for her to become trained in the Biointensive Garden of the Agroecological Ranch “Las CaÒadas” with Ricardo Romero in Huatusco, Veracruz. In 2005, in collaboration with Fernando PÌa, an Agronomist with a great deal of experience in the Biointensive Method in Argentina, she organized a course in Bolivia addressed to professionals and the general public. Thirty-five people were trained in that course.

She implemented Biointensive, demonstration beds in the Ecological Association’s garden to show the neighbors and the communities the results that can be obtained with the Method and to convince them of the fact that it works and that it is worthwhile to practice.

”I have had to face, together with some groups of peasants and women, the economic limitations to introduce the Method because at the beginning you need economic support to start a garden. I’m 100% convinced of the fact that if this Method were implemented and given a boost in the suburban areas, the problems of hunger and malnutrition would disappear. But politicians are not interested in solving these problems. I have already presented several projects to create Biointensive plots of land on the periphery of the city of Santa Cruz with which we would solve many of the social, environmental, and economic problems of the region, but until this day I haven’t received any kind of support.”

Urbelinda’s plans for the future include continuing to work for the AsociaciÛn EcolÛgica de Oriente to mainly promote the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Method, the “meliponas” (bees without sting), and agroforestry projects with the idea of forming whole systems. One of her projects is to start a model agricultural school on a piece of land that she owns. That school would have numerous opportunities to transmit the Method through demonstrations and not only through theoretical sessions. “The possibilities to spread it are abundant, but the main constraint is limited economic resources. In order to achieve what we want, it is extremely important to be constant and loyal and to have a clear goal. It is said that with persistence, mountains can be moved, and that’s my philosophy.”

Since she was a little girl, Urbelinda has had a special “gift” because everything she plants, grows beautifully. So her family and her neighbors always looked for her to plant things. They even used to say, “If you want something to grow fast, just put it in Urbelinda’s small hands, and it will grow.”

”God has blessed me abundantly and I always feel He is by my side. I go crazy with water and green things. I love to caress plants and talk to them. When I am among plants, I do not get tired, I do not feel hungry or thirsty, and time passes without my noticing it. It is magical!”


Contributors to the Workshop Report:

Adriana Gusman Salinas
Jack Perella
John Jeavons
Juan Martinez Valdez
Oneyda Martinez

THANKS to Everyone Who Helped with the Workshop!

Amy Melious, Salt Spring Island, British Colombia, Canada - Photography
Costa Rican Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock - MAG, San Jose, Costa Rica - Assistance
Edna Wardlaw Charitable Trust, Tacoma Park, Maryland - Financial Assistance
Erik Erikson, Vazquez de Coronado, Costa Rica – Security Assistance
Everyone at the Central American Institute for Social Studies - ICAES, Vazquez de Coronado, Costa Rica - Facilities and Assistance
Everyone at the Agricultural Center - Centro Agricola, Vazquez de Coronado, Costa Rica - Tools and Agricultural Materials
Felicia Echeverria Hermoso, MAG, San Jose, Costa Rica - Assistance
Helen Hilton Raiser, San Francisco, California - Financial Assistance
Jack and Brigitte Perella - Finca del Lago, Vazquez de Coronado, Costa Rica - Coordination and Assistance
John and Cynthia Jeavons and Everyone at Ecology Action, Willits, California, USA - Coordination and Assistance
Juan Manuel Martinez Valdez, Ecology and Population - ECOPOL, Al Culco, Estado de Mexico, Mexico - Coordination and Assistance
Maria Isabel Araya, Carlos Enrique Sanchez Mendez and Family, Vazquez de Coronado, Costa Rica - Assistance
Melanie Mintz, Oakland, California - Translation
Mercedes Torres Berrones, Self-sufficiency, Development and Society - ADYS, Quito, Ecuador – Assistance
Miguel Castro, Programa Nacional para la Agricultura Organica/National Program for Organic Agriculture – PNAO, Barrialde Heredia, Costa Rica
Oneyda Martinez, Al Culco, Estado de Mexico, Mexico - Translation
Organic Agriculture Movement of Costa Rica - MAOCO, San Jose, Costa Rica - Assistance
Ramon Montoya Henao and Everyone at International Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture - IICA, Vazquez de Coronado, Costa Rica - Facilities and Assistance
Reed Ellis Aubin, Port Townsend, Washington - Translation
Salvador Diaz, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico - Coordination and Assistance, Technician and Videographer
Sonoma County Community Foundation - Schulz Donor Advised Fund, Santa Rosa, California - Financial Assistance
Workshop Participants – Assistance

Upcoming Workshop/Course Timetable

Country Month/Year Activities
Belize May 2006 One 3-day workshop
Bolivia August 2006 Two 3-day workshop
Universities in Cochabamba and La Paz
Brazil October 2006 One 3-day workshop
Conferences at Universities in Curitiba
Colombia September 2006 Conferences at Universities
Costa Rica November 2006 Workshop, Universities
El Salvador November 2006 2 Workshops
Guatemala September 2006 Workshop, Conference
Nicaragua November 2006 Workshop, Conference
Panama January 2007 Workshop, Conference, Universities
Paraguay August 2006 Workshop, Universities
Peru June 2006 Participant in the Seed Production Workshop in Cuzco, Workshop and 3 Conferences
Uruguay February 2007 Workshop, visit to universities
Dominican Republic July 2006 Workshop
Venezuela September 2006 Course, Universities

Programmed - Confirmed

  • Due to the fact that the timing of this agenda is very dense and the funding is not assured, the dates may change. Very probably the activities programmed to take place in November will be moved to the year 2007 except possibly for El Salvador.
  • Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Mèxico are not included.

Some Results


Dear Juan Manuel,

Some days have passed since we said good-bye in San Jose and the truth is that we miss the friends we met in the workshop everyday more; however, in the distance I would like you to know that we are very happy because the workshop was a delightful and extremely valuable experience for us and that we think it will be the same for people here at our university and in our region very soon.

The truth is that there are already many professors inquiring about the Method and in the next days we will be giving a small course to share what we learned from all of you--our teachers. Also, we are organizing together with two students from the last semesters a research project to investigate how to adapt the Method to our conditions, our crops, and our culture but always respecting the theoretical basisÜof the Method and that are really clear to us. Besides, we have been using Fernando's video to show some groups of students some aspects of the Biointensive Method and they are already asking us to give a practical course to teach them how toÜstart out with the Method.ÜIn addition, since the university is developing some programs with poor rural communities that have problems regarding their food security, we have thought about the fact that we have to work with the Biointensive Method with the people that work with those communities. There's another program called Educational Rural Service and through that program it is possible that people who live in the country can finish their basic education (elementary and junior high school). We will try toÜget the instructors involved so that they start working with the Method with the students. This is what I can tell you regarding the results of the work we have been doing after the workshop.

I apologize for not having started this e-mail by asking how you are and how you found everything when you arrived in Mexico. We want you to know that we are really thankful to you for having had the privilege of receiving your invitation to attend the course. We hope that in the near future we can share some time again--hopefully here in Rionegro, Colombia, so that theÜmore people get to know and use the Method.

A fraternal hug to you and please give my love to all our Mexican friends.


Juan Carlos Montoya Vivas.
Universidad Cat€lica de Oriente
Rionegro, Colombia

Dominican Republic


To define the concrete and tangible results that will be brought about by the execution of the planned activities. Those results should clearly contribute to the securing of the specific goal established in advance.

• 50 Agricultural Technicians will get to know the Method and will be able to transfer it to other technicians and producers inside their job areas.
• 50 University students will have a new tool to be applied in their future workplaces. Besides, it will be an original topic to be used for their theses.
• 50 Producers and housewives will be able to implement the Method in their production farms and thus will improve the environmental, nutritional, and poverty problems present in their families and communities. Also they will be guided to give these techniques to other settlers in rural areas.
• In principle, 10 high schools–including the Santo Tomós de Aquino Experimental School from the UCATECI–will start the practical sessions to adopt the Biointensive Method in their school gardens.
• A Regional Center for the Development of Biointensive Agriculture will be installed. In that place we will monitor the work started after having been trained by an expert Mexican.
• A Transfer Project with the resident families will be implemented around the Regional Center with the purpose of creating a model community based on the Biointensive Method.


Type Activity Description Beginning Date End Date
Meeting Meeting with authorities of the UCATECI to talk about the Biointensive Method and the work methodology. Press Conference. 7/17/06 7/17/06
Consultancy Awareness Workshop for the implementation of the Biointensive Method in the Dominican Republic. (Technicians and authorities from the UCATECI.) 7/17/06 7/17/06
Seminar Talk-Lecture about the Biointensive Method and the importance of it. (University students, local institutions, and neighbor associations.) 7/17/06 7/17/06
Diagnosis Visit to the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Projects in La Vega and Jarabacoa. 7/18/06 7/18/06
Publicity Interview-Conference for a regional channel’s TV program and a national radio station. 7/18/06 7/18/06
Seminar Talk-Lecture about the Biointensive Method and the importance of it. (Producer Associations and NGOs linked to the sector.) 7/18/06 7/18/06
Training Course-Workshop about the Biointensive Method with technicians and producers. 7/19/06 7/21/06
Publicity Interview-Conference for a regional channel’s TV program. 7/22/06 7/22/06
Consultancy (Continues) Awareness Workshop for the implementation of the Biointensive Method in the Dominican Republic. Project Elaboration. (Technicians and authorities from the UCATECI.) 7/22/06 7/22/06

Subject: Report and Request for Material

Mr. John Jeavons,

As a Principal of the Agricultural Engineering School of the Universidad Central del Ecuador, it is a pleasure for me to write to you to thank you for the knowledge you shared with us during the Workshop on Biointensive Agriculture held in Costa Rica which I attended and from which I keep really good memories.

When I returned, I immediately started working on a 9-bed garden that also has fruit trees, I feel really happy and thankful for this. At the university, we are consolidating a Demonstration Biointensive Garden; ADYS is giving us advice and I already have the support of the Social Welfare Ministry in my country. It is a 50-bed garden and each student has to start one at home or with a neighbor to be able to get a grade; this inÜmy opinion will have a great multiplying effect on what I learned. Besides, we are about to approve the first thesis in which a student will determine the effect several compost treatments would have on the physicochemical and biological characteristics of the soil and production because we are going toÜcarry on a research follow-up in order to show the benefits of this sustainable method. Also, we already reached an agreement to establish another demonstration center in another ranch that belongs to the university. There, we will be working with ADYS to promote the Method in the province of Cotopaxi.

In order to prepare students better, we need to have more bibliographic material. Due to this, I would like to request obligingly your collaboration to help the library that belongs to the Agricultural Science Faculty of the University. We need all the printed material and videos you have published which will serve as reference material for students and professors.
I would like to thank you in advance.

Kind regards,

Ing. M.Sc. Arturo Orquera C.
Director Escuela Ingeniería Agronómica
Facultad Ciencias Agrícolas
Universidad Central del Ecuador

Ciudadela Universitaria
Casilla Postal A-46-07
Quito – Ecuador

Schedule for the 2006 Biointensive Basic-Level Workshop

March 27th to April 1st, 2006

The main language was Spanish, and there were three English translators. Materials were in both Spanish and English.

Monday 27th

8.00-9.30 Registration of Participants

9.30-10.30 Inauguration Staff

10.30-11.30 Introductory Presentation John Jeavons

11.30-12.00 Coffee break

12.00-13.00 Introductory Presentation (continued) John Jeavons

13.00-14.0 Lunch

14.00-15.30 Principles and Techniques of the Biointensive Method

15.30-17.30 Double-digging demonstration John Jeavons

17.30-18.00 Organization of Work Groups Staff

Tuesday 28th

Field Practice: Double Digging Instructors


Compost John Jeavons

Compost: demonstration John Jeavons

Wednesday 29th

Field practice: Compost Instructor


Close Spacing, Crop Rotation and Companion Planting John Jeavons

Demonstration John Jeavons

Thursday 30th

Field Practice: Close Spacing, Companion Planting and Crop Rotation Instructors


Sustainability in the garden, 60-30-10 model John Jeavons

Demonstration John Jeavons

Friday 31st

Field Practice: Crop 60-30-10 model, finish gardens for visitors

12.30-13.30 Lunch

13.30-15.30 Open-Pollinated Seeds and Whole System John Jeavons

Video Summaries of Practice Sites with Live Commentary John Jeavons

Special BBQ Dinner and Social Event with Folk Dancers

Saturday 1st

Organic Seed Production Karla Arroyo Rizo and Fabian Pacheco

Diploma-Giving and Closing Ceremony


For more information. See:


March 27-29, 2000 GROW BIOINTENSIVE conference on the U.C. Davis campus

Click here to go to our information page for this conference.

Highlights from the opening talk by John Jeavons, Director of Ecology Action.
Eleven presentations by speakers from Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Kenya, Mexico, Russia, USA, & Uzbekistan

It was like a cherished dream come true. All the names seen for so long in the newsletter, directors of GROW BIOINTENSIVE projects worldwide, old friends of Ecology Action, Three-Day Workshop participants - as well as leaders in the sustainable agriculture movement, university professors and small-scale farmers, were all there, present in one huge room.

Two hundred thirty-five of us from 16 countries and 24 states, ready to learn, share and network as much as we could during the three days of the March 27-29, 2000 GROW BIOINTENSIVE conference on the U.C. Davis campus.