A Real World Grow Biointensive Farm in New Zealand

Jodi Roebuck is here for a 5 day workshop and gave a presentation to ALL the interns and then some today. It was super inspiring to see how someone who was inspired by Grow Biointensive over a decade ago has persevered and progressed through the years.

Jodi has A LOT of design experience (outside of his farm) having an educational background and completing a good number of landscape jobs over the years. Jodi showed us this original sketch he used to design his farm. It’s pretty amazing that his farm still follows his design from 8 years ago:

Check out his facebook page for more photos and information.



Class Day 5: Site Design Considerations For Your Mini-Farm

Matt Drewno dropped some gems on the 2 month interns today from his garden design experience over the years and currently in Mendocino. The central theme that came through was that you really need to get to know YOUR site.  Climate, water, soil, etc. can all be generalized from local reports but there is absolutely no substitute for really intimating the specifics of how your site system behaves.

Matt lead us off with some key concepts to keep in mind with site design:
  • Start small and with the most important things.
  • Nature is a template that is already there so take care to understand it.
  • Focus not just on your different areas but the interaction between them as well
  • Understand the land use history and patterns is invaluable.
  • Know your hardiness zones but realize they may change in different parts of the site and that the hardiness zones themselves are changing.
  • Try to observe with an open mind – don’t force your predispositions/objectives on what’s happening on your site.
Then Matt went into resource analysis and began by simply defining a resource as “something we could use.”  Further, that a “wasted resource is waste and that pollution is wasted waste.”  He then gave us this comprehensive checklist of items to understand and consider in your design:
  1. Topography – slope, elevation, aspect orientation
  2. Soil tests – texture, structure, minerals, nutrients, geology
  3. Water –  larger rhythms, management (swales, etc.), quality, dependability, infrastructure needed, potential pollution sources
  4. Temperature – highs and lows, know your own micro-climate
  5. Wind – how it affects the weather, seed and pollen movement, micro-climates
  6. Sun – path, shade pattern, how to store and harness
  7. Sector & Zone analysis – from permaculture design
  8. Legal Issues – zoning, building permits, water laws, planting regulations

Class Day 4 with Mr. Jeavons: Seed Saving and Insect Control

To start class John threw out this list of books as worthy reads:

  • — “Dirt”
  • –The Starch Solution
  • –Eat to Live
  • –How To Build Your Own Greenhouse
  • –Herbal Remedies
  • –101 Foods That Could Save Your Life
  • –Pure Vegan
Also you should check out the Growbiointensive.org Bibliography

Seed Saving

John’s short list of “wonderful” seed resources:

  • -The Vegetable Garden 1885
  • -Cornucopia II
  • -The Garden Seed Inventory

We spent a lot of time with Booklet #13 and the logistics of seed production but here’s a few other highlights/helpful tips I took down:

  • John LOVES a cantaloupe called the “Navajo banana cantaloupe” as he calls it exquisite.
  • Every 5 yrs for the last 25 yrs, 10% of total varieties go extinct …
  • The 3 places where agriculture is most vulnerable are 1) seeds 2) tools and 3) fertilizer
  • As little as 0.002 sq. ft. can grow all cabbage you need to plant a 100 sq. ft. bed
  • John recommends everyone save seed in the next year and that you start with the easy ones like Tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, wheat
  • Big Question: Are you going to coddle the plant your saving for seed or let it tough it out … John says let it tough it out … But a combination is probably the reality ..
  • Too much nitrogen or water inhibits seed production
  • 100RULE — You want to save the seed so that the humidity is 5-10% and temp is 55 degrees, if possible . You don’t want humidity and temperature added together to exceed 100.
  • TIP: Order your seed day after Christmas -sometimes you’ll get last years prices and you’ll get your seed faster .

Pest Control

John’s favorite book here is “Rodales Complete Garden Problem Solver, instant answers to the most common questions.” He went on to offer this acronym AWOMB of the most important aspects for a healthy and effective soil – like “a womb” in which to nurture your plants – if you do not provide well for these elements, you are to have pest and disease issues:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Organic Matter
  • Minerals
  • Biointensive

He mentioned several other details but summed it up by “know the life cycles of your pests, know that most insects are beneficial, 90% of attacks are on vulnerable/sick plants, and most pests can be controlled pretty easily.

John talks about the utility of planning all 52 weeks of your garden. Each crop is a row, each column is a week and in the cell is what happens.



A graph that shows how over the years, for the exact same yields, Fertilizer needs have increased 6 fold and pesticides 33 fold.


John tells the story of how a a gopher ate 25% of his beans and another insect kept ea ting all the leaves off the plant and the plant kept growing more leaves. Rather than fight the pest, he did nothing and got 3.9X the US average yield from 75% of the bed.

Photos from Class Today:Compost, Diet, Income, Philosophy, and History

Ryan Batjiaka simplifies photosynthesis and then takes us for an organic chemistry and compost deep dive.



Lucas, in his professor’s best, breaking down Grow Biointensive Diet goals.  On the lower right there we see that, given 1-5 acres of land you can grow about 430,000 calories of beef or 21,283,416 calories of potatoes.



There was a lot of discussion of “Weight efficient” (crops that have high calories per pound) versus crops that are “Area Efficient” (crops that have a lot of calories per square foot of growing space required).  Below we see in the top table we can grow 2,333 calores in 20  beds or 2,386 calories in 43.5 beds.  It all depends on the weight and area efficiency of your crops.



John breaks down the math and techniques to show how you can gross $30,ooo from one 100 square foot bed.  The answer is seed!


The 10 year path towards becoming a Grow Biointensive expert.  Year 1 “How, Year 2 “Why, Year 3 Deeper/Broader etc.



The case for Grow Biointensive, growing soil … by the numbers.  If you have any questions about the explanation below use this form:http://www.growbiointensive.org/contact.html


How Many Calories DO You Need? And Eat? – There’s an App for that

So for class today we completed a “Solving the Diet” worksheet with our age, sex, weight, activity pattern, hours of sleep, and climate.  At the end of the worksheet, an estimate of your daily calorie requirements is provided.  The worksheet recommended 4500 calories for me when I am about twice as active as I was today.  So, I was curious ….

How many calories do I eat in a day???  I downloaded the app “myfitnesspal” and found it very user friendly to type in what I ate today. The app counted up my calories among other things as as you will see below:



A Special Day in the Classroom with Mr. Jeavons …

A lot was covered today including the standard 47 tangents that were as always weaved back in. As a result we covered many topics but the overall lecture topics were:

  1. Sustainability
  2. Principles of Watering
  3. Future Fertility

Also, in between stories of farming in Russia, Philippines, Iran, Eritrea, India and legends of Fukuoka and Chadwick, John dropped these gems (among others):

  • “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
  • “Old farmers don’t die, they just compost.”
  • “Whenever you find yourself thinking the reason is only one thing it’s usually 3-5 things. Try to think of the 3 things and just accept that you can’t think of the fourth.”
  • You can learn 90% of what you need to know with 10% of the effort. However, it takes 90% of the effort to get to the last 10%. Basically you just need to know 100%.
  • “We treat the earth as we treat ourselves.”