History of BfR 

Three years before establishing the project name Biointensive for Russia, Carol Vesecky (who is fluent in Russian and has translating and typesetting experience), worked with John Jeavons and Sharon Tennison of the Center for Citizen Initiatives to host 10 gardeners from a Moscow gardening collective at a one-week workshop at Stanford University. Local and national newspaper articles were published and three experimental Biointensive gardens were established that year in the Moscow area.

In July 1993,Vesecky facilitated publication in Moscow of 50,000 copies of a Russian translation of How to Grow More Vegetables, the primer on Biointensive by John Jeavons. Vesecky had coordinated translation (in Siberia), editing and typesetting (in California), and printing (in Moscow), her dream since she had first met a Russian publisher during his visit with Soviet youth to the USA in 1986. Following its publication, from 1993-95, Vesecky and Liza Loop, Executive Director of the Learning Options Center, enabled 300 copies of the book. to be given by Americans to their Russian-literate friends living in Eurasia. This was accomplished via a service enabling books to be mail-ordered in the U.S. and sent out from Moscow. (See the timeline in the Summer-Fall 1995 BfR newsletter, The Integral Home and Garden Companion, Vol. 1 No. 1.)

While continuing the book service described above, at Jeavons' suggestion, Vesecky turned her efforts in another direction, to bringing Eurasians to Willits for Biointensive training. Larissa Avrorina of Ecodom Inc. (a group of scientists working to design and develop environmentally sound housing in Akademgorodok, Novosibirsk, Siberia) was the first to participate, in November, 1994. Avrorina's visit led to the ISAR/USAID-funded, Ecology Action/Ecodom/BfR joint project "Toward an Integral Home and Garden" (see the Summer-Fall 1995 newsletter), which supported several well-attended Biointensive workshops, including one with participants from the Republic of Georgia and the USA. The grant also funded purchase of computer equipment and a copier for Ecodom, a full-scale experiment comparing yields of Biointensive versus traditional Siberian gardening methods, and publication of a translation of an Ecology Action booklet. Numerous newspaper articles and TV and radio broadcasts publicized the project. The 1995 experiment report showing a two-fold increase in yields the first year was translated and thoroughly checked and edited at Ecology Action. It is available upon request.

The ISAR grant, travel funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the Trust for Mutual Understanding, and grassroots fundraising by BfR enabled three more former Soviet environmentalists and teachers to come to Willits in 1995, five in 1996, and one in 1997. The geographic spread was broad: St. Petersburg, Bryansk, Kurganinsk (near Krasnodar) and Novo-Sin'kovo in Western Russia, Irkutsk near Lake Baikal in Siberia, Komsomol'sk-on-Amur in the Russian Far East, and Zhambyl, Kazakhstan. Nearly all have lectured in their respective organizations and gardening societies, some have made radio and TV broadcasts, and many have published articles in local newspapers.

Meantime, in 1994, a copy of Kak vyraschivat' was brought from Novosibirsk and given to Irina Kim, a soil scientist in Chirchik, Uzbekistan. The book inspired her to establish a high school-level program in Biointensive and soil science in Chirchik, which continues to this day. Kim and environmental club members teach BI in Chirchik and in 6 remote villages; to date Kim has taught over 600 young people and adults. She is now proposing to establish a permanent Mini-Ag Center for Central Asia, with an office in Chirchik.

Following the success of the book publication and donation project, Vesecky was invited by ISAR to attend a USAID-sponsored EcoForum (see Summer-Fall 1995 newsletter) near Kiev in late May, 1995. The forum's purpose was to bring American environmental groups together with "green" groups from all over Eurasia, with the dual longer-term goals of strengthening democracy in the former Soviet republics via nongovernmental organizations and of working together to protect and restore the environment in Eurasia. Representatives of environmental groups from Moldova, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia expressed interest in Biointensive training seminars.

In July, 1997, Larissa Avrorina attended a one-week teacher workshop at Ecology Action. The following month, Carol Vesecky and Carol Cox, in turn, visited Ecodom in Akademgorodok, where Cox and Avrorina co-presented a 3-day workshop on Biointensive to 38 participants including agriculture professors, environmental ed teachers, environmentalists, botanists, and ecogardeners from the Novosibirsk region and other Russian towns and cities such as Irkutsk, Tomsk, and Kostroma as well as from Buryatia, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan.

Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development co-sponsored three consecutive workshop missions to Uzbekistan and Russia under the USAID-supported Farmer-to-Farmer program in 1998, 1999, and 2000. The first took Carol Vesecky, Patrick Williams (Co-Director of the Santa Cruz Homeless Garden) and Darina Drapkin (a native Russian speaker, like Williams a Biointensive gardener) to Chirchik and Nukus (Karakalpakstan) in Uzbekistan, and near St. Petersburg, Russia. They were hosted by Irina Kim (Director of the Ecopolis project) and taught 50 students and gardeners in Chirchik, by Rustam Arzykhanov of the Farmer Center (70 newly private farmers) in Nukus, and by Albina Kochegina of the Young Naturalist program (30 ag researchers, professors, teachers, dacha gardeners, and others) in the St. Petersburg area. USAID per diem funds were used to pay for a dacha house and garden plot for Kim after she lost her old one due to her divorce. Scott O'Connor of Central Asia Free Exchange and his Karakalpak colleagues also began experimenting with BI on their test plot in Nukus that year.

A Russian translation of Lazy-Bed Gardening was typeset in Moscow with support from Winrock, and distributed at the seminars, along with copies of Kak vyraschivat' bol'she ovoschei and other Russian-language materials.

The second Winrock-sponsored workshop tour, in June of 1999, took Albie Miles, Darina Drapkin and Carol Vesecky to Chirchik (Irina Kim served as host, 40 students and gardeners were taught), Novo-Sin'kovo (Evgeny Shmelev and EducationalMethods Center staff hosted, 25 technicum teachers were taught), and Bryansk (Dr. Ludmila Zhirina and Igor Prokofiev, co-directors of NGO Viola hosted, 85 were taught in seminars of varying length)

The second edition of Kak vyraschivat' bol'she ovosche was published in 1999 in Novosibirsk (5000 copies). Aleksandr Avrorin (who served for five years as Director of Ecodom), took over teaching Biointensive, along with ecodesign, from his wife Larissa. Aleksandr has taught numerous seminars in the Novosibirsk and several locations in the Altai, coordinated by the Siberian Ecological Foundation. BfR supported his 1999 tour to Kurganinsk (Krasnodarsky krai) and Maikop (Adyg Republic) near the Black Sea, where he gave four days of workshops.

In July 2000, Daniel and Amber Vallotton, Basic-level GROW BIOINTENSIVE-certified teachers, and Carol Vesecky were hosted by the Farmer Center in Nukus, Karakalpakstan, presenting a 5-day workshop to 72 ag professors and researchers, environmentalists, teachers, journalists, dacha gardeners, and students. Rustam Arzykhanov of the Farmer Center formed an academic study circle, and Central Asia Free Exchange (including soil scientists Bakhtiyar and Berdiyar Jollibekov and local Director Scott O'Connor) continued their BI experiments begun in 1998.

In January 2001, BfR began inviting "ecotourists" to accompany us on the workshop tours. Five artists came along that year to Moscow and St. Petersburg, and we held 3-day workshops in Novo-Sin'kovo and St. Petersburg, with the Ministry of Agriculture's Educational Methods Center and the Young Naturalists' Alive Earth Center as venues. Aleksandr Avrorin taught Biointensive and passive solar home design at both places, to 30 technicum teachers, NGO activists, and gardeners, including visitors from Bryansk, Tver', Yaroslavl', and Murmansk in Novo-Sin'kovo and to 30 ag researchers and 12 ecodesign enthusiasts in St. Petersburg. Young teen students presented their horticulture experiment results in a poster session at the Alive Earth Center, where our workshop for the adults was also held.

In July, 2002, Steve Moore, a certified GROW BIOINTENSIVE basic-level teacher and successful commercial Biointensive farmer from SE Pennsylvania, taught a 5-day seminar at the EMC in Novo-Sin'kovo that is equivalent to Ecology Action 3-day workshops in its basic-level teacher certification program. Steve also taught a one-day seminar on passive solar greenhouse design at the EMC, and one-day seminars on both BI and greenhouse design (22 participants, most from technicums in Western Russia but 6 from NGOs in Uzbekistan, Siberia, and Bryansk) at a Ministry of Agriculture state farm technicum in Novgorod and at the Alive Earth center in St. Petersburg (about 12 participants at each; the turnout was low due to most gardeners being busy at far-off dachas).

A far-reaching result of the Novo-Sin'kovo seminar is that Ludmila Zhirina has begun mailing to the technicum teachers the curriculum materials her NGO Viola has been using in the Bryansk oblast' for several years. With approval and funding, she plans to send them also to all the Ministry of Agriculture colleges (289), schools and to NGOs in all 85 administrative divisions of Russia. Another exciting result of our visit to Moscow, including a session visiting with the staff Novyi Sadovod i Fermer (New Gardener and Farmer), a Rodale-supported monthly journal, is the prospect of marketing Kak vyraschivat' and other publications through the magazine!

Biointensive for Russia
913 Oso Road
Ojai, CA 93023 U.S.A.
(805) 640-1897  cvesecky@igc.org

Home | Events | Newsletters | People | Photos | Related Links | Join Us