Ecology Action

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Ecology Action is an organization that promotes Biointensive Agriculture.[1] Their work has spread this form of agriculture around the world. International organizations that practice biointensive agriculture using Ecology Action's methods include the Grow Biointensive Agriculture Center of Kenya (G-BIACK) and Unidad Académica Campesina - Carmen Pampa in Bolivia.

"The first EA office was shared with Zero Population Growth and Community Switchboard in a Victorian office building at the corner of Lincoln and Cedar, where Jack's Burgers now stands. • Early staff members included Burl Moss and Terry Vincent (who were lured in by a sign that read "ask how you can help" at the first Earth Day exhibition, held on the Pacific Garden Mall)." [2]


Ecology Action was founded in 1971 in Palo Alto, CA. Initially, it developed a successful recycling program. However, that year, it invited Stephen Kafka, Senior Apprentice at the University of California-Santa Cruz’s biointensive student garden to give a class on biointensive agriculture. The University garden was run by Alan Chadwick, who had developed the biointensive method in the UK and brought it to California in 1966. In January 1972, Ecology Action began "a Biointensive research and education project whose purposes would be to teach regular classes, collect data, make land available for gardening and publish information on the method’s techniques. John Jeavons became the project’s director. The Common Ground Organic Garden Supply and Education Center in Palo Alto was also started at this time as part of the Ecology Action organization."[1]

"Our work grew out of a concern about worldwide starvation and malnutrition. If we could determine the smallest amount of land and resources needed for one person to supply all of his or her needs in a sustainable way, we might have a personal solution to these challenges. In 1974 we published the first edition of what has become How to Grow More Vegetables, Fruits, nuts, Berries, Grains and Other Crops than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine, (HTG) based on our research. The same year we sent out inquiries to 200 alternative technology organizations around the world, offering our materials."[1]

Between 1972 and 1980, Ecology Action maintained a three and three-quarter acre garden on land owned by the Syntex Corporation. A half acre was kept for the research garden and the rest became a community garden, with gardeners attending classes on biointensive gardening taught by Chadwick and Kafka. Before vacating the garden, they tested the soils and "found an unexpected accelerated rate of humified carbon buildup, a process that normally takes hundreds of years."[1]

In 1982, Ecology Action moved to "a site near Willits, California, with conditions for a garden similar to those experienced by farmers in much of the world: steep, rocky, with heavy winter rains, prolonged summer droughts, and a short growing season."[1]

"In 1984 the Biointensive method began to catch on globally. Juan Manuel Martinez, who was director of the Menos y Mejores project in one of the poorest areas of Mexico, chose the Biointensive system to teach to villagers after reading the Spanish translation of HTG. As a result of this five-year project, 2,000 Biointensive growing beds were established in 67 villages in the area and hunger and malnutrition were significantly reduced. Polly Noyce, on a trip to Kenya, bought a former boys’ school four hours north of Nairobi and offered it to Ecology Action as a site for a Biointensive project. Ecology Action’s Board approved the idea and the Manor House Agricultural Centre was started, with a two-year program for training high school graduates in Biointensive agriculture and other alternative technology methods. The Peace Corps started using the French translation of HTG in Togo, West Africa, and has been using it and other translations ever since. In 1986 Julian Gonsalves, who had attended the 1981 conference, worked for the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction in the Philippines. He helped establish the Biointensive Gardening Project, which initiated 300 Biointensive growing beds on the island of Negros as part of a UNICEF project for malnourished children.
"In 1987 Sandra Mardigian, who had lived in Kenya and was concerned about the marginal conditions under which rural villagers lived, began a two-year correspondence with Manor House. She started Kilili Self-Help Project, which in 1989 began sending groups of farmers to Manor House for one-week trainings in Biointensive agriculture."[1]

In the late 1980s, Juan Manuel Martinez and John Jeavons "strategized the further dissemination of Biointensive mini-farming throughout Mexico and all of Latin America." In 1989, they held a first workshop for participants from the U.S and Mexico. The next year, they expanded that to training people from other countries, including Russia. "As of the beginning of 2005, 1,413 people from 46 states and 24 countries have been trained in these workshops.[1] In 1994, they began a six month training for interns. A few years later, they began a Teacher Training and Certification Program for biointensive agriculture.

Ecology Action decided to brand their form of agriculture as "GROW BIOINTENSIVE" to distinguish it from other uses of the term biointensive.


Accessed May 2013: [3]  

  • Patricia Becker - Manager, Ecology Action's Common Ground Store and Educational Center; Ecological Farming Association Board Secretary
  • Betsy Bruneau - Secretary/Treasurer, Ecology Action; and Co-Managcr, Ecology Action's Bountiful Gardens Internationat Mail-Order Service
  • Stephanie Elson - Community Sustainability Coordinator, currently working for the Massachusetts Audubon Society and the Community Preservation Coalition (a Massachusetts program of the Trust for Public Land).
  • Dick Graham - Retired businessman, most recently co-owner of Harvest Bounty Natural Food Store in Willits, California
  • John Jeavons - President and Executive Director, Ecology Action
  • Steve Moore (EA) - Vice President of Ecology Action; Farm Manager for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems at North Carolina State University and co-founder and Director of Harmony Essentials
  • Geoffrey Thompson - Has been a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia and a Professor at Cuttington University College; currently the Manager of Sparetime Supply's retail store in Willits, California

Advisory Board

Accessed May 2013: [4]

  • Bob Bergland - Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, 1977-1981
  • Everett Dietrick - Director and Entomologist, Rincon-Vitova Insectories
  • Ed Glenn - Research Scientist and Head of the Bioresources Unit, Environmental Research Laboratory, University of Arizona
  • John Doran - Former President, Soil Science Society of America and Member, USDA Agricultural Research Service
  • Joan Gussow - Former Chair and Professor Emeritus, Program in Nutrition, Columbia University Teachers College; and Chair, Board of Directors, Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation
  • Sandra Mardigian - Founder, Kilili Self-Help Project, Kenya; and Managing Editor, Publications, Foundation for Global Community
  • Polly Noyce - Founder, Manor House Agricultural Centre, Kenya
  • David Pimentel - Professor, Department of Entomology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University
  • Jennifer Raiser - Director, Raiser Senior Services
  • Hugh Roberts - Former Executive Director, League for International Food Education; and Methodist Minister
  • Eric Rusten - Former East African Program Officer, Ford Foundation
  • Lenz Schaller - Director, KUSA Seed Foundation
  • Juan Manuel Martinez Valdez - Director, Ecologia y Poblaci6n, Mexico; and Ecology Action's Sustainable GROW BIOINTENSIVE Mini-Farming Latin American Representative
  • Alejandro Zaffaroni - Co-Founder, Syntex Corporation; Founder and Co-Chairman, Alza Corporation; Founder and President Affymax Corporation

Contact Information

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 History, Ecology Action, Accessed December 13, 2011.
  2. Ecology Action History, organizational web page, accessed July 28, 2012.
  3. Ecology Action Board, organizational web page, accessed May 28, 2013.
  4. Ecology Action Advisory Board, organizational web page, accessed May 28, 2013.

External Resources

External Articles