This episode was originally published on Apr 25, 2016. In tomorrow’s episode I will be talking about amaranth and I thought this would make a great replay. It’s definitely in my top ten most memorable interviews! What a rockstar millennial!
Jes Pearce explains the Bio-intensive Method.
Jes Pearce is another one of those amazing rockstar millennials who do exciting things while being advocates for the planet and great stewards of our land here today to inspire you with her story!
Coming to us from the Jeavon’s Center for Research and Education sharing passion and knowledge that’s gonna get you excited to dig in that dirt right now!
Grow Bio-intensive Mission
The Growbiointesnive.org says their mission is to: “is to train people worldwide to better feed themselves while conserving resources”
Get ready to here about the bio-intensive 8 step method, crops you can grow for a complete diet in your backyard garden with a little power adventuring thrown in!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am currently the mini-farm manager at the Jeavon’s Center for Research and Education. I’m originally form Baltimore, MD. I grew up with a classic suburban upbringing. No memorable experiences gardening in my childhood… grew up … went to college, cause that’s what I was supposed to do, put in my 4 years. … But I no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to make a difference, but I had no idea how
Well, if I don’t know what I want
I should just go serve other people
Maybe I will figure out what I
Americorps program with adults with disabilities, I moved out to Tucson AZ, and started this job and thought I’m gonna help people!!!
did that job for a year,
this is really cool. I help people
what about the environment?
it’s really cool to help people
if they have no where to live
I got another Americorps job for a trail crew in Oregon.
so what is helping them gonna do
Im gonna get a job in Oregon for a trail crew
I pretty much lived in the woods for a whole year, mounting these hiking trails, I felt like I helped the environment,
This is cool, but how do I bring these together and help the environment?
I had the fortunate opportunity to move to Hawaii
a friend was like let’s go to Hawaii and we’ll work on farms there and we’ll figure something out!
I love those kind of friends!
so we moved to Hawaii and we were working on a farm out there…
it really only took me about a week of working on a farm to be like This is IT!!!
I found it I was in love!
I WAS IN LOVE!
I knew this is what I want to do for the rest of my life!
it really became clear to me, that this was the way to mix serving people and growing them nutrition food and serving the earth by practicing ecological farming practices!
- You could tend the soil!
- Care for the earth!
- Give back while receiving healthy nutritious food for myself and for the community there!
AWESOME! That is a beautiful story, but your painting it over and make it sound easier then it was,
It was tough work, but it was a cool experience for me, because it showed me how rewarding hard work is
never had an experience … that pushed me and challenged me … going through that process
Im still alive! And I survived. It really made me feel, how much I am capable of and how capable all humans are we are never pushed to our limits!
I love the whole service piece, and IDK what I want to do so I’m gonna go help these people. IT’s interesting when I came to plant trees, the University I went to has this Wilderness and Civilization program, I wasn’t really active, I rode my bike, and you know I was in college, so pertly young and healthy, and he was like Jackie it’s all about attitude…
We have to we have potential to break-free of the boxes we put ourselves in and we can accomplish anything.
Tons of golden seeds, a lot of times in college, it’s always good to step outside your comfort zone and
What a great story to meet your love!
We’re about to celebrate 23 years. I was like this little girl from NY, it seemed like a big deal to move to Montana, so for you to go from Maryland and then I’m gonna take this Americorps job in Arizona! And Americorps if listeners don’t know its like the Peace Corps, you can do here in the USA, and there’s a part of that called the Food Corps helping provide healthy nutritious food for people in America.
Now you’re in California. You’r parents are in Maryland.
They’re still in Maryland. Baltimore County, I grew up right near the city line.
Tell me about your first gardening experience?
really, my first experience was in the Farm in Hawaii, I’m sure I went to a garden or was in a garden or went to a farm before then
wasn’t really till I went to Hawaii, that I really understood what it was all about! It was really cool to have my first farming experience
stronger sense of the issue of food insecurity, maybe because they are islands, they seem to be a there seem to be a greater awareness of the food insecurity because what if the boats stop coming
only had 10 days worth of food on the island at any given time
The importance of stronger systems to be able to sustain themselves
so if the day came, the boats stopped coming, they would have enough food to eat!
The early exposure, to that mentality
really true of any city anywhere in the world, most of the food is brought in, and what if that system stopped?
our conventional food system is pretty fragile
based on these fossil fuel imports, chemicals, and things that are not healthy for our planet and our bodies, and it really could fall apart what do we want to do to make it stronger and more sustainable?
I was asking myself these questions in Hawaii, there’s not a lot of farmland. So how do we do this?
I met this amazing couple.
farming on Kwai
had this tiny growing area
packed full of plants they were attempting to
grow for their whole diet
growing crops for soil fertility
for market to make an income
crops adapted to growing in their tropical environment!
They were just amazing! I was like how are you doing this? How can I do this?
They were like have you ever heard of John Jeavons?
I open the book and it’s all there! This simple, accessible method to growing food in a small space. This is how we do it! This is how anybody anywhere can grow food to work together to create a more resilient food system! More sustainable communities!
Man, it was such a relief for me, I was like, this can be done! I felt so empowered! Suddenly I realized this is possible! I felt so empowered! I could go out in
So were you working for the WWOOFer Program? So how did you meet the farmers that taught you this?
so we met them through the farmers we were working for, I never worked on their farm full time, but I would go there on my day off!
It was amazing! It’s only through an odd chain of events, that I’m still not their on their farm in Hawaii! But I’m grateful into where I am today.
Let’s tell listeners how I reached out to you and where you are!
So, I am currently working at the Jeavon’s Center
we practice this method
This method attempts to grow a complete diet on the smallest area possible while maintaining soil fertility and conserving resources. So it was originally started by John Jevins in 1972 by John in Palo Alto CA. These techniques have been practiced for over 40 years, and beautiful simple method of agriculture. That is truly accessible to anyone anyone anywhere in the world!
Now where I found you, is in the catalog, from the Bountiful Gardens catalog.
Originally the Jevin’s Center for Research and Education is under the Ecology Action non-profit umbrella and Bountiful Gardens is under the Ecology Action non-profit umbrella and so while we function on a day-to-day basis as separate organizations, we grow some seed for them and receive some seed as well and we will table with them at events, and they are also located her in Willets California, we partner with them on a lot of things.
The seed company was started as part of Ecology Action, because when John was starting this back in the ’70s he had trouble accessing high quality open pollinated seeds, so he was like let’s have them here!
idea that was born out of necessity And then this amazing company was born
that offers very great high quality seed and really exciting special varieties
You’re gonna talk about the bio-intensive method, one of the things was that impressed me was that something like 60% of what you grew was for the soil and only a part for calories.
8 Steps to Bio-intensive
The method has these 8 guides enable you to grow a complete diet.
it’s actually the 8th principle, the last principle
the idea of a whole interrelated farming system, so any time you walk into any growing space and taking that mindset and this perspective, that this is parts of seeds an plant and soil… its a whole living dynamic system
when we approach, farming and even our backyard garden we need to think about how the parts are interconnected. If you try to isolate a single principle, it will not function properly.
So do you want to go through the 8 steps then? We’ll start at the top!
The first principal is
Deep soil prep = double digging
preparing the soil so we can grow a lot of plants in the small space
root structure can grow and receive nutrients.
close plant spacing
This goes along with principal of close plant spacing
how we achieve the ability to achieve
the soil is deep, we can plant the plants very close together. This also, when they are that close together,they create this living micro climate, their leaves just touch each other, and forms protection for the soil below and fosters really healthy life that grows under there
one of the principles is the use of compost
we can’t plant close together in this small area if we don’t have fertility
Our garden has gotten bigger and bigger a little bit each year, when we first started mike had thesis little beds. Mike built these deep beds that are like hip high, having that dirt they could go down into, made a huge difference in his success.
I think he figured he could go down to 27• I know where eI live and probably other people live, where there are a lot of deer, having chicken wire covers or plastic covers. I was just thinking those deep beds were really nice.
its amazing that deep fertility, how much water and nutrients can be held in that
It’s cool to hear about,
exposure to deer because you din’t have fence up, with that smaller space you were able to make productive covers in that little area. IT’s really cool that a little talc can go a long way in a small space.
We didn’t have a lot of weeds because it was a smalls pace.
probably a lot more productivity in that smaller area
potentially higher yields
that’s a great point about the water too. when you’re working in a a smaller space you need less water…
You have less ground to cover, you can be more intentional about where you put your water, it’s a much more resource efficient.
Yep there’s nothing like hauling water to make you intentional where you water your plants.
crops that benefit each other, another way to grow efficiently. Not only do we look at the beneficial companions that you read about traditionally companion planting books. But we are also thinking about root structures of crops, how will they grow next to each other? How could we stack crops together to benefit each other?
This past year, I experimented with lettuces with my quinoa (keen-wa). By putting lettuce in-between the quinoa, it created this microclimate and protection for the soil. By the time it got big enough to cover the ground with their own leaves
the lettuce was mature and I could harvest it out from under the quinoa.
So that’s a grain that’s a mixture between cous cous and rice is how I describe it. I just had some delicious quinoa at a potluck a few weeks ago.
while in time and space they were good companies
longer growing time then lettuce
there are numerous varieties
hardy adaptable crop, can come in different heights, and times to mature.
4 months about how long it takes for most varieties. to mature in most climates
quinoa fits right into a big part of our growing system, because we grow a lot of grain
fits into one of our principles
Where we’re trying to grow these crops that will help maintain soil fertility. So what that means for us is we want to grow crops with a lot of biomass so we have more materials to use in compost. So grain is a great example of the crops we can grow that have the potential to grow tall long stalks to give us for compost building but they also provide us with food and grain we eat ourselves. So we grow 60% of our growing area in these crops that can provide both food for ourselves and food for the soil!
We bought a chipper a few years ago because corn stalks and sunflower stalks are harder to compost. Is quinoa like that? I love that you can eat, too I mean I guess you can eat lentils, but like we bought clover and buckwheat, and you could probably eat the buckwheat…
You can eat buckwheat, it’s a little harder to clean the seed by hand you need a de-hulling mechanism, buckwheat has a tighter shell but definitely edible …
Quinoa has a similar, very structural carbon stalk with a lot of linen. Not quite as fibrous as a corn, definitely a sturdy piece of organic material. We like having that high structural carbon materials … It can take a little bit longer to break down, that structural carbon, helps create a diversified carbon in our pile, and when we have that we’re feeding a wide range of microorganisms and then we’re having this diversity of carbon we’re putting in our soil, so with all that diversity, it creates this resilient growing system, that’s much more capable and adaptable to conditions that might occur!
With the climate change potential, the more resilient and adaptable you can be!
I was just seeing this poor woman in the flower farmer group the other day was in a panic because all her seedlings were in a hoop house and she was supposed to plant them next week and a big wind had just ripped the plastic off the hoop house and shredded it and she was worried about her babies were gonna die or something she was just about to plant. Soil health has been a big theme on the show. I love the way you’re growing! That’s always been a questions where do you get good soil? Could we grow quinoa?
I think you could, slightly
find a variety
we’re always trying to grow the tallest variety possible, but there’s definitely shorter varieties.
I remember when we first talked about that, thinking about picking a variety that’s taller so you get the most biomass out of it! The first time we talked it took me a while to wrap my head around that.
modern grain varieties have been bread to be shorter
older taller varieties, ti takes a little time to go through to find these , so it’s fun to be naturally encouraged to go not only plants that will provide me more biomass
more heirlooms varieties and be part of preserving them.
I’ve been reading whole bunch about seed vaults etc. I was just reading this book called Seeds it was a YA book from my library. That we have like
such a small diversity these days and most modern ag. When we’re growing in this small area and in backyard gardens we have a lot of freedom and flexibility to experiment with varieties. The more varieties and diversity the more options we will have of crops to grow when the weather changes. It’s very exciting to experiment with
very exciting to me to experiment with these variety
growing grain crops, making sure we have enough
want to grow whole diet on smallest area possible, we are really trying to focus on calorie efficient crops so crops that will give us a lot of calories in a in small areas…
the book lists crops that we found are really efficient for this.
insure we can have enough food
- sweet potatoes
- socifuy – is an old root crop
- Jerusalem artichokes
- oyster plant
the final 10% we’re growing in your classic vegetable crops
make sure you have a holistically healthy diet…
I think a lot of listeners are gonna think I can do a lot of things differently. If you really only want to grow those 10 potatoes. These other things can help you grow the other parts of
A lot of these techniques are applicable if you are not trying to grow a whole diet. how easy it can be to grow more of your diet in such a small space. It may not be a way to make money but a great way to save money! The more food you can grow in your yard the less you have to buy from the store! And you can assure it’s gonna be the healthiest quality, depending your soil.
I really believe that food with your love and intention is gonna be the healthiest quality food for us!
You’re in Northern California.
Northern California, about 3 hours north of San Francisco.
It’s not super hot down by LA etc where it’s super hot all the time. The more that you can grow, a packet of seeds is not that expensive, being able to build your soil is gonna be exciting to put a cover crop on part of my yard.
we like to use the terminology,we actually call them compost crops
they start off their life thinking they’re gonna help us build compost and fertility
not only they provide us for our compost pile, most of these grain crops have deep and amazing root systems, that can go really far down in your soil system they will grow down and they can build the soil up from below
they put out
attract micro0life to the root zone and making this
creating this living system around the microorganisms with all that life in your soil.
that’s healthy soil
that life around the root zone
lightly amend with your home made compost
potential hummus added to your soil
can be as simple as growing crops with a lot of biomass…
I thought you were gonna say and besides they’re really pretty.
and they are really pretty
quinoa is a gorgeous
Another one we grow is amaranth
its often ornamental, they are still edible, they’re bred for beautify
We talked about the calorie crops? You said potatoes?
There are 7 crops that fill this niche, that gave us the calories
- sweet potatoes
- Jerusalem artichokes
- socifuy – is an old root crop some people call it oyster plant
These seven crops are very efficient at achieving our goal of calories in a small space.
Are we talking about counting your daily calories? You should get x amount of calories a day
so a big part of this method, that we practice, is diet design
its the opposite of dieting and because we start with how can we be growing enough calories? If we need enough energy to work in the field, we plan to have enough calories to have that energy, then we also get into micro macro nutrients to be a healthy human
kind of a funny thing to think about in our world of abundance and eating less calories when you are trying to grow your own food, you’re trying to worry about getting enough calories.
The last and final step is
open and pollinated seeds
We focus on using open and pollinated seeds
saved for growing in the following year.
versus hybrid which if you do save it, it won’t grow true to type the following years
In an attempt to create a more resilient growing system, if we save our seeds, we don’t need to be reliant on outside seed sources, if we are intentional about how were are breeding a variety that is adapted to our micro climate
So in the micro climate of your garden, this seed is adapting to live there and survive there among any other place
It’s amazing that a we can interact with our food system that way to partner with a plant and have it thrive in our garden
that’s a big part of
why the Bountiful Seed Company to help people achieve that goal.
really how these principals fit together the holistic mind set One of the big ways that I fell in love with this farming method is that it happens on such a small scale
accessibility factor and the ability to work on such a smaller space,
which is empowering for me and for anyone
ability to work on such a smaller space gives you the opportunity to interact with the whole growing space, when you have the ability to make every plant the best plant it can be… and if every plant is producing as efficiently as it possibly can, you’re gonna have productivity. When you see how life is this way, you get to interact with the lifecycle growing in the garden. When you can reconnect with this natural system you stat to see the human place and your
our role in this greater
wen we start to experience this
The endless impact to create positive change in the whole world and planet. I really think it’s powerful what we can do in our backyard garden and the small space garden and that’s why I love this method! I feel so lucky to find myself to be the farm manager.
We’re lucky your out there working in your garden and
One thing I didn’t realize as much is how the biggest people changing the world today are the people who are saving seeds and how if you save seeds it will get acclimated to your environment. He has a great book on seed saving i think it’s a pdf for free you can download from his website that’s really easy to save seeds. I think it will in spire people you can grow. It is amazing how much produce you get from one plant. I mean you could put a tomato plant in your apartment if you wanted to just grow that. But people are gonna be excited to be more successful in their own backyard. That there are ways out there to do it easily. I like that a lot of your things are not very expensive.
That’s a big aspect trying to do things with limited resources, WE do have some small inputs
rubber hoses they break sometimes
we keep our resources down.
Tell us about something that grew well this year.
I feel like I already talked about quinoa so much, but it was definitely our star performer in the garden last year, it got like 7 feet tall, really full and colorful. We grew this variety that starts out with these sherbet colors and then pastels and then a whole rainbow of deep pinks and greens and oranges! It’s just absolutely one of the most gorgeous crops and it was very successful for us last year, and it’s definitely a very drought tolerant crop as well! and since we interplanted with the lettuce we got a second crop out of all our quinoa beds
It’s very nutritious for you, and it’s got a very nutty flavor to the grain!
Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?
This year I think what I am most excited about is
we’re gonna try to grow a lot of fiber crops in the garden. One of my coworkers is very passionate about fiber arts so she wants to grow flax and cotton she wants to harvest and make fiber so we always joke enough to make our own t-shirts and grow our own food and clothes!
She grew a small plot of flax last year and it did really well.
How about some hemp?
Maybe some hemp, idk the regulations. I think you need a permit…
And the DEA can still come in and be like oh year we didn’t know and sorry or whatever they do…
Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.
Our cabbage didn’t head last year, my suspicious was that it was very old seed that I found in the back corner of my shed. I think it was probably just old seed, it didn’t head. So I just decided to make sour kraut, it was by far the most delicious sour kraut I have ever eaten, the texture of leaves was the in between crispness of the head. It was a delicious in-between. IT was a beautiful happy mistake that happened.
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.
I really honestly love it all, the more I’ve worked on farms, the longer and longer there were things I used to hate doing that I’ve learned to love. Once that its over coming the mental barrier of overcoming a task, and becoming really good at it, and seeing that pattern over and over again, and I know it’s might not be my most rewarding
this is gonna help me , just repetition has given me
It’s inspiring me, making me think I shooed get out there right now!
What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.
I love building compost. I think it can be as simple as throwing things in a pile. But it can be this interactive intentional process, where you’re creating this recipe of materials and you’re building them together
monitoring the amount of moisture and temperature and air space
part could be this magic potion or exciting science experiment.
so cool to me!
To me, compost is this key and vital part of creating a sustainable system! The compost is the recycling aspect so it is what allows us to cycle our fertility and nutrients through the system hopefully we’re closing this loops of fertility by recycling, and the key to soil health and soil fertility I absolutely love it! It’s so cool to participate in that natural process! The natural decomposition on the forest floor! The key to life on this plants…
I agree, I love to make compost too! And listeners you know if I can do it! anyone can do it, if you forget to turn it, it’s really forgiving, it get’s you outside to throw it away. And our compost pile usually turns to compost in about 2 week,s with fresh grass during the heat of the summer, my brother on the other side, in Long Island, he just does it and has one pile in the spring…
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
I love the advice John Jevins , when I first got here, do one bed and do it well, just focus on this one bed and do a good job here, it will teach you how to grow all the crops well. That advice to start small, made me feel empowered, much easier to succeed
A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.
Well, i really love using my hands and feet as tools whenever possible, or picking up a rock and using that, I love being creative with whatever’s around me! One tool I really love is a Japanese sickle, serrated edge on a hand sickle. It’s really great for harvesting by hand.
When our grain crops got to seed, it’s super fast
beds of grain
love that tool
keep it in a special place in our tool shed.
One of my first jobs when I moved to Montana, when I went home, I want to say I worked for the Governor of Long Island? IDK his mansion or something we oiled the tools every night and wiped them down…
Bountiful Gardens sells them, they are in the back of the seed catalog
Didn’t you tell me you are on the cover picture of the catalog?
Yes, me and the two women I work with at the Jevins center for Research and Education!
John Jeavons who is the author of the book how to grow more vegetables, really great book that talks all about what I’m talking about
farm is named after John how started this farm and non-profit
After I was farming in Hawaii, and I told you that story I fell in love passionate about farming, I also realized it was a really settling profession, you really you needed to find a piece of land, settle there, get to know the climate and know the soil, at that time in my life I was 22-23, I wasn’t that ready to be that settled!
So I went on this power adventuring tour:
- I did some more trail work
- I did a bike tour down the coast of California
- I went Rock Climbing and Mountaineering!
- I went and lived in Costa Rica for a little while
and I just like power adventured! At the beginning of 2013, I was like ok, I am ready to find my farm! I am ready to settle down! When I started looking online, And the Jeavens Center, and the Biointesnive method had such a big impact for me and I found out there’s a non-profit and they have farms and I can work there? I sent in my application! I started as a 3 year apprentice, had a lot of fortunate events occur that has led me to be the mini-farm manager, I started that last year 2015!!!
See you can DO IT ALL!!
A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?
We are all, it’s not a formal competition, but definitely a quiet competition who can recycle the leftovers in the most exciting way?
we all share cooking each week.
the best one we have come up with
you have your original meal.
quiona and beans
The next day, the next cook turns it into soup
and the next day you make a quick bread it’s the savory version
it’s the ultimate recycle
make the bread with some of the soup and take the other part of the soup and make a space out of it and then serve the sauce with the bread.
I think the key to enjoying a simple homegrown diet is learning how to transform food into multiple ways.
A favorite internet resource?
Not much of an internet person for my farming info
I always referencing how to grow veg
A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?
sustainable market farming by Pam
crop detail info that on helpful regular basis
Final question- if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
There’s this statistic that I find amazing
Naomi Klien references it in her newest book This Changes Everything!
In 1942 druing the war over 40% of the produce in the country was grown in victory gardens that’s almost 1/2 the produce grown in vegetable gardens people’s backyards gardens. There’s a precedent for this. It’s been done before we could do it again! If everyone would supplement a little bit of their diet in their backyard, and take the pressure off this large scale fragile food stystem
it could have this amazing different
better connection to the world
for humans to get back in touch I think that’s how we could make the bigger difference!
Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?
we need the soil to grow the plants
people who care
We something we love to say here on the farm
- grow food
- gow soil
- grow people
- might be better said in the opposite way
we think we want to grow food, but we need to grow the soil for the food, and
we need people to help us grow the soil to grow the food
How do we connect with you?
WE have 2 websites
which has a link to the other website
growbiointesnive.org which has all of our info about our tours, we host tours, 3 days workshops
how to grow more vegetables on John
Isn’t there online videos? Isn’t there info in the back of the catalog?
YEs there are all kinds of instructional videos! We’re not keeping any secrets up here on the hill!
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