>Carol Vesecky                                                                                              
>Growing One's Own Sustainably in Russia
>The cost of oil is rising, and with it our food production and delivery costs.  
>What will you do when buying your current diet at the supermarket becomes
>prohibitively expensive?  Do you think you'll be able to "grow your own" in
>your back yard to feed your family?  To help us all do this, Ecology Action
>has been developing the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method since 1973, and
>How to Grow More Vegetables, its primer on the method, has been
>translated into seven languages and disseminated in more than 110
>Carol Vesecky, director of Biointensive for Russia (BfR), will describe her
>efforts to spread the method in the former Soviet Union. Using software
>donated by Adobe and Apple, she succeeded in computer typesetting the
>Russian translation of How to Grow ... in 1993.  She then coordinated its
>publication in Moscow, enabled 21 former Soviets to attend author John
>Jeavons' workshops in California, and later accompanied US presenters
>five times to offer ten workshops in Russia and Uzbekistan.  Aided by the
>technological miracles of electronic mail and desktop publishing, she
>continues to promote the method through partner organizations, and has
>begun sharing the experience of Russian-speaking gardeners with BfR's
>US network in return.

Carol began her talk by asking us to visualize the world of a hundred years ago. Much of the food was grown on the same land where it was eaten. There were garden vegetables, fruit, chicken, dairy and grain that could have been milled nearby. Everything was cooked from scratch using fresh nutritious ingredients and served to people in groups. Then she contrasted that with today's diet, which has much more variety, but is heavily processed, sweetened, and packaged for people eating alone.  She then asked "How can we create a new blend of traditional values with the wise use of science-based knowledge?¨ to be what Paul Ray calls "Cultural Creatives" and change our lives by returning to the vales of "Health", "Connection to Earth", and "Connection to each other."

Biointensive for Russia is a part of that. The core of it is John Jeavons' proposed method of gardening that includes techniques for soil sustainability. The details can be found at www.growbiointensive.org and in the books coauthored by Jeavons. Carol explained that the components of the method are double-digging, composting, intensive planting, companion planting, carbon farming, calorie farming, open pollinated seeds, and a whole gardening method. She explained double digging in some detail, because it is the most distinctive part of the method. The idea in double digging is to get as much air as possible into the soil, enabling nutrients to reach the plant roots, the better to maintain the health of the entire plant.  Loosened soil also makes it easier for the roots to grow deeper so that plants can be set out more intensively in wide beds.  Using these techniques, you can get all the food for a person from 4000 sq. ft.

Carol first became aware of the Russian love of dacha gardening in the '60s when she visited Russia and learned that many families there grow much of their food on their country plots. Returning to Palo Alto in the '70s, she learned of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE (GB) techniques for her own back yard garden. During the '80s she got involved with bilateral citizen diplomacy through the Earthstewards, and decided to spread the GB method as her contribution. Using software donated by Apple and Adobe, she succeeded in computer typesetting the Russian translation of How to Grow More Vegetables in 1993, which was possible in Silicon Valley, but unlikely in Russia, at that time. Since then Carol has organized quite a few trainings in the method, both here and over there.

Carols work has yielded some success stories. One testimonial came from Norgul Bekmuratova, a schoolteacher in the desert village of Ottakurgan, Uzbekistan, who wrote, "We have to carry the water we use for irrigation from a well, so you can understand how we need to conserve water.... our corn, carrot and onion harvests have increased.   I believe that Biointensive methods should be further studied and practiced. They are very important where there is little water and the soil is poor." There were many others. Also, some of her Russian partners are sending her their gardening and herbal remedy books to be translated into English, which hopefully will improve our possibilities here.

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Tian Harter