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May 2005: News

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News from the Mini-Farm, Friends and Colleagues

Ecology Action staff gave a Three-Day Workshop in March at the Mini-Farm for 16 people. One participant was a young woman apprenticing at a CSA farm in Massachusetts. She is part of the CRAFT program, whereby apprentices on different farms in a region receive training on a regular basis on different aspects of farming from the farmers themselves. One man had attended a Peak Oil Conference and started working with the Post Carbon Institute. He feels that learning how to grow his own food and teaching others can be his contribution for life in the future.
Common Ground Store in Palo Alto co-sponsored a conference in February for networking opportunities with others wanting to grow edible organic food gardens.

On April 11 John Jeavons made a presentation to the WEL organization in Willits to well over 100 people. (See article about WEL in the May 2005 hard copy of the EA newsletter.) On May 2 John was interviewed and videotaped by Julian Darley, founder of the Post Carbon Institute.

In February John Jeavons received an email from Marion Cartwright, who was assistant garden manager in the original Ecology Action research garden in the Syntex parking lot in Palo Alto, California-almost 30 years ago. She sent information about her current project: helping restore the garden at Elawa Farm in Lake Forest, Illinois. The farm was originally built between 1915 and 1917 by Elsa and A. Watson Armour as a gentleman's farm and has now been designated an American cultural landmark. Garden operations ceased in the 1950s and "the garden was eventually lost under a 15-foot-high thicket."

The following are excerpts from Marion's letter to John:
There has been a long hiatus in our communication, as is the way with life. I think of you often as you know because you have been a major teacher in my life. I hope I gave you help and support in return and can once again, as this gutsy group of us gets started in a 2.2-acre production garden. I remember how you sometimes felt like a gas station pump where people came to fill up, pump from you and then take off on their own without giving anything back to the pump. I believe in two-way filling.
Now that I will be back into a raised-bed market garden, I hope to teach classes once again and spread the word about your publications and your years of research and dedication. I have enjoyed many a snowy wintry day this winter pouring over all of the files kept from the sunny days in the Syntex garden and your books and pamphlets from Ecology Action.
Raised-bed market gardening came to find me rather than me seeking it out as a career change. For right now, our dedicated little group is focused on just getting started. We have no tools, no shed, no hoses, no wheelbarrows, no money. Just recently cleared ground. It took us a year to get the brush cleared away and to reshape the original garden tiers. Done on the weekends when we could find the time. You know the drill. We'll grow annual flowers, cover crops and pumpkins the first year as we prepare the ground and secure funding, build a loyal cadre of volunteers and discover just how bad the deer damage is going to be out there.

The following was written by Allan LaValier, Certified Basic-Level GROW BIOINTENSIVE teacher from Minnesota, who spent time at the Willits Mini-Farm in February helping plant spring grains. With several other people he attended a permaculture workshop in another area of Mendocino County. We are including his description of the event because of its celebration of local agricultural resources.
[The event] took place at the Anderson Valley High School Domes in Boonville. The warm, sunny day illuminated the venue as we arrived and saw the school orchard, a small field of knee-high grains and fava beans, greenhouses, and fellow earth tenders. Grafting, pruning, advanced propagation, and garden seed saving were to be offered as workshops. The workshops were most informative, casual in approach, and provided much breadth from the wealth of each presenter's base of experience. In one of the domes a table was spread with related books and catalogues for perusal, another was laden with seeds for exchanging, sponsored by the Emerald Earth Seed Savers, and another was set with a Mexican lunch by the Salsalitas offering tamales, beans, rice, flan, chips, and perhaps a dozen different salsas! On the outside, rootstocks of gourmet fruit varieties were for sale, several walnut varieties in the shell were open for tasting, local apple cider and syrup were sampled, and scions were being exchanged along with relationships, knowledge, garden wisdom, and friendship. Throughout the day spontaneous conversations of the heart and mind erupted, and information joined the free domain.

The following are edited excerpts of two emails received at the end of February from Alex Kachan in Israel:
The research/demonstration and teaching GROW BIOINTENSIVE mini-farm is steadily growing in the Kefar Galim Youth Village, just outside the city of Haifa. There are 15 school students, 9th to 11th grade, who work regularly under my supervision 4 days a week, 2 hours each day. Each kid has a bed which he double-dug, fertilized and planted. The kids also maintain a big compost pile with organic waste from the Village's kitchen (that otherwise would have gone to the dumpster).
Under my initiative, Kefar Galim High School has launched a new pilot program for academically disadvantaged 12th graders. They are being trained to lead community groups (hopefully their own community) in creating a community garden. They will work under and with the local municipality and teach community members GROW BIOINTENSIVE food-growing skills. The intention is to use this program to draw to this school young people who are specifically interested in learning this; at the end of the program (which is planned to be 3 years), they will receive certification from the Ministry of Employment as Urban Mini-Agriculture and Community Garden instructors.
Besides them I have another 15 students who work with me in the afternoon. All but one are Ethiopian who were also born there. Their parents were all farmers, but here in Israel they are losing this aspect of their culture so I'm trying to bring it back.

Notes from an April 1 email from Calvin Bey: All is well here. I had another class of 25, using How to Grow.. They were very interested students who will all be here for a field day on Saturday. I have started a chapter of the Weston Price Foundation here in NW Arkansas. I'm getting some of these folks interested in Biointensive. Spoke at the Ozark Natural Foods annual meeting and will be on the program for Earth Day.. Just plugging away.

Following is an edited short email from Melina Hurtado of Colombia, a student at EARTH University in Costa Rica, who was an intern at Ecology Action last year:
I miss you so much, and I miss the garden. Thanks for everything. I learned a lot in all my time in Ecology Action. I had the most beautiful experience in my life and the most amazing memories. Sometimes I have tears in my eyes when I think of you and also an immense happiness to have met you and to learn a little bit about the Biointensive method. I have so much work in my class, and I am so excited with my graduation project. It is about Ecology and Holistic Education for a sustainable life. Also, I am working on the design of the Biointensive garden at EARTH University. The people here are open to learning about growing healthy food with the Biointensive method. It is great!



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