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November 2007 : News

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•  Marco Bustamante from Coahuila, Mexico, who was an intern at Ecology Action in 2003, sent us a summary in July of his activities since. His report is edited and excerpted:

            In 2004 I prepared a research project to test the effect of different compost made from cattle manure on the production of corn, sorghum, oats and alfalfa in a milk production area of Coahuila. I also prepared a project to evaluate the effect of compost from goat manure in a goat production area of Coahuila. However, neither was approved so I only taught a course on Plant Mineral Nutrition and read books I bought in Willits.

In 2005 I became Head of the Horticulture Department and started to prepare an area with 30 GROW BIOINTENSIVE beds with the help of my students, to start to teach them the basics of GROW BIOINTENSIVE. The first crops that were planted grew so well that in March 2006 this area became the Teaching Center for Biointensive Organic Agriculture at the University of Antonio Narro. Since that time the center has been visited by many students from kindergarden to high school as well as by both rural and urban women to receive some training.

            In August 2006 I attended a meeting in Korea and presented some of my last research work on Tissue Culture (which I have now abandoned for my new research area in Organic Sustainable Agriculture). I continued planting different crops in both the small and large organic gardens so the students could experience establishing, managing and harvesting of the crops. The soil in both gardens is very poor and alkaline, but is improving. I am preparing some compost from the crop residues and the weeds and I hope to eventually replace the commercial compost with my own compost.

            In November 2006 I finished my assignment as Head of the Horticulture Department and became Vice-Director of Educational Development. Among my duties is Distance Education, and I hope to use this technology to teach GROW BIOINTENSIVE techniques to rural and urban communities in different parts of Mexico.

•  Drew Harwell, who is the Manager of the new Common Ground Demonstration Garden in Palo Alto, California, sent us this description of his experience at Manor House Agricultural Centre in Kenya in 1994.

            It was thirteen years ago that I flew to Kenya as part of a semester abroad program through the School for International Training.  As part of my preparations for living overseas for six months, I spent a few evenings with family friends Sandra Mardigian and Doug Burck getting oriented to what life would be like in Kenya.  During my time with Sandra and Doug they showed me a video of their trip to Kenya called “A Journey in Kenya”.  I was very inspired by the stories of how Kenyans had changed their farming practices to Biointensive farming and had experienced many positive changes in their lives.

            The focus of the semester abroad program was to learn the necessary skills to carry out an independent research project.  We had classes in Swahili, Field Research and a Life and Culture Seminar to help us choose our project.  Whenever I thought about possible research projects, the Manor House Agricultural Centre kept coming up.  After I talked to my advisor to get some clarity, going to Manor House was the obvious choice.

             I arrived there, nervous and not sure if they even knew I was coming (this was long before email, and phones only worked some of the time).  I was greeted with such incredible warmth and hospitality that I immediately felt at home.  They showed me to my room and invited me to share in a wonderful dinner from the garden. 

            The focus of my research was to study how they were training local villagers in Biointensive farming through the Local Outreach Program.  I spent the first week getting more acquainted with Biointensive farming by going to classes and spending lots of time in the gardens with the students.  I was amazed at how lush their gardens were and how much food they were producing.  I had been studying Natural History and Ecology in college, so I was also impressed at how much the local students knew about the local flora and fauna.

            The remainder of my time there was spent accompanying teachers on visits to local communities for trainings.  We visited a different farm each day where a member of a local women’s farming group hosted her group to receive training in Biointensive techniques like double-digging or composting.  The women were all very grateful for the opportunity to improve their lives and those of their families and local community.  After a training, we would all sit down for a feast and share in the collective abundance of their farms.

            Upon returning to college I changed the focus of my studies to include sustainable agriculture.  I have been growing food now for 13 years, and I look back to Manor House as the inspiration for what has become my life’s journey of caretaking the Earth and growing healthy organic food.

•  We received this letter in August along with a donation:

I moved to West Virginia around 1980. I worked for the phone company which helped me meet lots of people. There were many people moving from the cities “back to the country” in my neck of the woods. One of those people was Sally Naas and her husband Mike. She was the person responsible for getting an organic foods buying club started in our area. In its heyday the buying club was touching a lot of people. But as the years wore on and people got away from growing their own food, corporations demanded more and more of our time, people wanted things now and would not wait a month for their food to come in plus the time it took to make a co-op work. To make a long story short our co-op folded at the death of Sally. We had a little money in our co-op account that was built up over the years from a service fee. So my wife and I decided, since Sally cared so much for good natural food, she was a vegetarian, she had her own raised bed garden and cared about organizations that tried to make a difference in the world, that we would send a donation to Ecology Action in her name.



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