BfR People 

BfR's Eurasian Partners:
arrow Natasha Demenkova
Natasha was referred to Carol Vesecky by Volodya Shestakov, the right-hand man in St. Petersburg, Russia of Sharon Tennison and her organizations the Russian-American Fund and, earlier, the Center for Citizen Initiatives (CCI). Volodya having also recommended Albina Kochegina, Natasha Krestiankina, and others who have made great contributions to our cause, Carol knew she should take him seriously when he wrote that Natasha could provide us with excellent English-Russian translation and typesetting services.

With a bachelor-level degree in economics with a strong business and conservation focus from her native Ukraine, Natasha has studied and practiced English to a high level of written and spoken expertise. Her work experience since her move to St. Petersburg has included directing programs to recruit Russian business people for trainings in the U.S. More recently she coordinated the Angels for Angels program, which assists orphans in getting a good education and provides them with continued support them after graduation. She has worked to produce environmental publications for Children of the Baltic, an environmental nonprofit in St. Petersburg, and coordinated Ukrainian publication of the international journal Nuclear Monitor for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and the World Information Service on Energy (WISE). She is currently working with a program sponsored by the Theo Trust and the Foremarke Trust to bring children from Russian orphanages to England to study.

Her work with Biointensive for Russia is convenient for Natasha, since her daughter, Dasha, is only six years old, and Mom can stay home with her and also work a few hours a day on the computer. To date she has completed translating and typesetting a 30-page training manual and the Biointensive Self-Teaching Handbook. Natasha's Russian translation of the Handbook can be found at, along with its translations into French, Spanish, and Portuguese! Carol and Natasha have made much progress toward completion of the editing of two books by John Beeby: Future Fertility, and Test Your Soil With Plants. But when John Jeavons published the 8th edition of his book How to Grow More Vegetables in 2011, they knew that updating its Russian translation was top priority. With Natasha's mother's and Igor Prokofyev's editorial assistance, they have been collaborating on it ever since. They hope to get it published, at least as an e-book, by the end of 2013.

arrow Aleksandr and Larissa Avrorin, Moscow, Russia
The Avrorins were an important part of the management of Ecodom, Inc. in Novosibirsk, Siberia, when Carol Vesecky originally appealed via the Internet for applicants to Ecology Action's 3-Day Workshop in Willits in 1994. Serving respectively as Director and Educational Director of Ecodom, Aleksandr ("Sasha") and Larissa were collaborating with Igor Ogorodnikov, Ecodom's president, to research and disseminate information on environmentally sound home design. GROW BIOINTENSIVE (GB) was the gardening approach that was chosen to integrate with the "ecohouse" for an ecologically based homestead.

In November of that year, Larissa became the first teacher from Eurasia to attend an Ecology Action workshop in Willits and serve a short internship. Meanwhile, Carol traveled to Novosibirsk to get acquainted with other Ecodom staff, including Sasha Avrorin and Igor Ogorodnikov. Returning to Palo Alto, Carol worked with Larissa before her departure to co-author successfully a grant proposal to ISAR, which was running a USAID-funded cooperative grants program. The Ecodom/Ecology Action grant funded several workshops held in Novosibirsk, computer equipment, some translating work, and a major experiment that showed Biointensive vegetable yields at 83% to 230% greater than the control groups. The test results were detailed and well documented in a report that is available from

In July 1997, Larissa attended the 5-Day Teacher Workshop in Willits. A month later, with support from Ecology Action, Larissa co-presented with Carol Cox a major workshop for 55 teachers, journalists, professors, and dacha gardeners. Hosted by Ecodom, the workshop was held in Akademgorodok/Novosibirsk. During her years of teaching in Siberia, Larissa taught more than 1500 people, and adapted GB techniques to Siberian climate and soil conditions.

Sasha assisted Larissa in the early years of teaching GB, but became the main presenter when Larissa's work at nonprofit support organizations took her away from the garden. Further deepening his GB knowledge, Sasha attended a 3-Day Workshop in Willits in 1999 during an architectural tour of the western US that was conducted and sponsored by Alan Buckley. Cooperating with the Siberian Ecological Foundation, Sasha presented workshops in the Altai region in the late 1990s, in Maikop in Southern Russia, and in Novo-Sin'kovo and St. Petersburg in 1999 and 2001, the later three with BfR's support. During all this activity, the Avrorins' 600-square-meter dacha plot in Akademgorodok became a model GB garden!

Alas, when Larissa was offered a position directing a program to establish community foundations in Russia at the UK-based Charities Aid Foundation in Moscow, the Avrorins were obliged to pass their GB dacha plot on to other gardeners. An outcome of Larissa's work at CAF can be viewed at . It is a documentary produced by the Avrorins' son Dmitry ("Dima") about a coastal town in the Russian Far East which has benefited from grants from a community foundation that Larissa helped to set up.

Before and after their move to Moscow, Sasha worked to facilitate further publications of Russian translations of Ecology Action's books on GROW BIOINTENSIVE. He collaborated with the publisher of the second Russian edition of How to Grow More Vegetables, and managed the transfer of the remaining copies to Moscow after his and Larissa's move there. In Moscow, he became Director of the Vozvraschenie Historical-Literary Society, which publishes the writings of returned gulag prisoners. He edited the Russian translation of The Sustainable Vegetable Garden, and worked toward its commercial publication by the society. However, that project was not completed due to Sasha's return to working in physics. A glimpse into the cutting-edge research that he and other Russian physicists are conducting into the phenomenon of neutrinos -- lowering telescopic sensors through the ice in the middle of Lake Baikal in the dead of winter -- can be viewed at .

In their limited time, Larissa and Sasha have started a small GB garden at their new dacha near Moscow. They stay in contact with Carol, and even managed a brief visit to Ojai in 2012 during a stay with Dima, who now lives with his wife and small son near San Diego.

arrow The NGO VIOLA, Bryansk, Russia
Members of this highly effective nonprofit organization have taught GB in classes, workshops, and consultations ever since 1999, and have conducted experiments within and outside of the radiation zone since 1997. They include Ludmila Zhirina, Igor Prokofiev, Oleg Zavarzin, Natalya Karagina, Ludmila Kuznetsova, and Albina Samsonova. Currently, VIOLA members are our most active teaching partners in Eurasia.

The organization NGO VIOLA was established by Dr. Ludmila Zhirina after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, with the mission of educating the affected population on how to ameliorate the effects of radiation. Meeting Carol Vesecky at ISAR's Eco-Forum in Kiev, Ukraine in 1995, Ludmila expressed interest in the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method and its potential for the radiation zone. In 1999, Vesecky accompanied Albie Miles and Darina Drapkin to Bryansk under USAID's Farmer-to-Farmer program. During their visit a 3-day workshop was presented to university and high school teachers, after which the method was incorporated into secondary and tertiary curricula.

Ludmila Zhirina, Natalya Karagina, and Oleg Zavarzin participated in the 5-day workshop presented at the Educational Methods Center in Novo-Sin'kovo by Steve Moore in 2002. Igor Prokofiev and Oleg Zavarzin both participated in Ecology Action's 3-Day Workshops workshops in Willits, and Igor attended the 5-Day Teacher Workshop (1996). Zavarzin and Karagina are both school principals and teach GB in their schools. Zavarzin anticipates promotion to the directorship of biology education for the Bryansk region and will include Biointensive in the curriculum, as we learned during his 2007 workshop visit that was co-sponsored by the Palo Alto Kiwanis Club.

VIOLA's experiments began in 2002 and continue through 2009; reports are available from Carol Vesecky on all of them. Those from 2002 to 2004 in six locations in the Bryansk radiation zone showed that two of the method's basic elements Biointensive composting and double-digging can enable a reduction of the radionuclide content of vegetables of up to 30%.

In the autumn of 2005, four VIOLA members and a driver participated in an expedition, sponsored by BfR, to visit over 20 radiation-contaminated towns and villages in Russia and Ukraine. They used radiation dosimeters to test the fall harvest and found that much radiation remains in the topsoil and is still being absorbed by vegetables, as well as by traditionally wildcrafted food products such as mushrooms and berries. Therefore, they concluded that it is important to continue to teach double-digging and Biointensive composting to the residents of the radiation zone.

In 2008, Viola conducted a very interesting experiment comparing six different organic potato methods. GB's yield was not nearly as high as those of the "Method of 100 kg from 1 sq.m." and the Ushakov method, but the higher yields of those two methods were presumed to be due to the greatly increased introduction of air to the soil around the roots via special tubes and earthworms, respectively. The Chinese method, the Square-nest method, and the Holland method were also tested, with lower yields.

With support from David Buckley, VIOLA also conducted an experiment in 2008 studying the role of earthworms in phytoremediation of soils contaminated by Strontium-90 and Cesium-137. Buckley presented the paper at a major conference in Houston in October of that year.

The experimental program continues in the radiaiton zone in 2009, this year's experiment consisting of a comparison of composting methods. We have also just received news regarding an experiment guided by VIOLA member and GB teacher Natalya Karagina. The experiment was conducted at the school of which Natalya is director in the village of Domashevo. It compared GB with chemical growing on several vegetables, while testing the capacity of introduction of compost to improve sandy soils. The \vegetables grown with GB compost yielded higher than those grow in soils amended with chemical fertilizers, perhaps due to the latter being washed out from the sandy soil.

If interested, please write to Carol Vesecky for the English translation of the experiment report. We are also planning to post this report and reports on all of VIOLA's experiments and its expedition We are also planning to post them to this website, but for now, they are available from Carol.

For three days each in 2005 and 2007, VIOLA graciously hosted BfR's ecotour groups in Bryansk, Orel, and Smolensk. Sightseeing and home and garden visits were organized, including in the radiation zone. The organization remains ready to organize workshops for teachers from the Chernobyl Centers towns in Russia and Ukraine, among others, and to host visitors seriously interested in their work.

arrow Irina Kim, Chirchik, Uzbekistan
Irina Kim had performed 15 years of graduate and Academy of Science research in soil chemistry before reading the Russian translation of How To Grow in 1994. The book inspired her to obtain permission from the Education Ministry to establish and teach a new course of study, Biointensive Mini-Farming and Soil Science, in a Chirchik high school. Irina founded a nonprofit organization, Agrocenter, in 1995, a year when environmentalists had the right to register their projects legally. She also started an Eco-Farmer Club at the school, and led its student members over six years to two remote regions, the Nuratau Nature Reserve and Brichmulla Forestry District. Irina and her students team-taught in 12 village locations, from 1999 to 2004.

With Farmer-to-Farmer (Winrock International) support, Irina coordinated the visits to Chirchik and Nukus (capital of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic of Uzbekistan) of teaching teams tfor three years running: Patrick Williams, Darina Drapkin, and Carol Vesecky in 1998, Albie Miles and Vesecky in 1999, and Daniel and Amber Vallotton and Vesecky in 2000. Irina and her students assisted Daniel and Amber Vallotton in teaching the 5-Day Ecology Action-sponsored workshop in Nukus, as well as a two-hour presentation at an institute in Samarkand in 2000.

Following the 2000 workshop, Irina conducted a three-day tour of four mountain and two desert villages for the team visiting from the US and her students. These villages are located in the Nuratau Nature Reserve where she and local teachers had already been teaching over three years.

Between 2001 and 2003, Irina traveled to California three times to make presentations at conferences (Soil, Food and People, Davis, and the Eco-Farm Conference at Asilimar) and to participate in Ecology Action's Teacher Workshop. She was awarded a $10,000 grant by the C.S. Fund in 2004 to conduct a one-year program promoting a legal status for the soil as a "living organism." The grant was rescinded after Uzbekistan's government showed increasing resistance to acceptance of foreign funds.

With BfR's grassroots support, Irina began her international workshop tours in May 2005 in Kazakhstan, at the Sariagach Agroecology College near the Uzbek border. The next year, in May 2006, she conducted a five-day workshop jointly for staff and students of the Osh and Jalalabad universities at the Jalalabad campus. In October, she conducted two, three-day workshops with 83 participants in Shimkent, Kazakhstan at the Central Asian University and the People's Friendship University. She conducted a follow-up workshop in July 2007 in Shimkent, Kazakhstan.

Beginning in 2006, Irina coordinated a UNDP program to train local residents in methods of establishing fruit and nut orchards organically in state-protected land areas that had been degraded by livestock grazing. This work was conducted in several regions of Uzbekistan, including the Nuratau Nature Reserve where Irina had taught GB in eight villages. Repression of internationally supported nonprofit work was on the rise in Uzbekistan through the early 2000s, and in 2005, Irina's organization Agrocenter was shut down.

In June 2008, Irina presented her first GB workshop in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, and a second workshop in Jalalabad. After receiving support funds for a fall workshop there, Irina traveled to Bishkek in September to present another workshop at the Arabaev Kyrgyz State University.

arrow Dr. Bakhtiyar Jollibekov and son Berdiyar Jollibekov
Dr. Jollibekov chairs the Agrochemistry and Agricultural Soil Science Dept. at the Nukus, Karakalakstan, Uzbekistan branch of the Tashkent Agrarian University. Rising early after learning about Biointensive compost at the 5-day seminar taught by Daniel and Amber Vallotton in Nukus in 2000, he built a compost pile before the session began. Following the workshop, he immediately began practicing Biointensive at home, reclaiming salinized soil by introducing compost, and teaching in several communities in the Aralkum and Kyzylkum deserts

Son Berdiyar and father Bakhtiyar worked with Scott O'Connor at the experimental station run by Central Asia Free Exchange (CAFE) with Swedish support in Nukus. Bakhtiyar authored a short article on desert gardening for BfR's Summer 2004 newsletter.

arrow Albina Kochegina and Natasha Krestiankina, St. Petersburg, Russia
Albina and Natasha attended Ecology Action's 3-Day Workshop in Willits in 1995. Following their return to St. Petersburg, they both taught middle-school students in the after-school Young Naturalist horticultural program that during the Soviet era's was conducted by the Young Pioneer organization. Albina taught over 500 students at Alive Earth Center in central St. Petersburg from 1996-2004, while Natasha taught the "Farmer" class of Young Naturalists at the high school in Ozerki. Along with two large greenhouses, the school has a large garden plot where the students were able to grow food for their families.

Albina (who holds a kandidat /PhD-level degree in pharmaceutical science) and Prof. Yury Soskov directed the students in running a Soros-supported comparative potato experiment over five years beginning in 1998 at the Live Earth Center, showing that Biointensive yields were somewhat higher than those of other organic methods.

Kochegina also organized and recruited participants for two international workshops. The first, taught by Santa Cruz Homeless Garden Director Patrick Williams in 1998, was held in St. Petersburg and in nearby Pushkin, Shushary, and Pavlovsk. At the workshop taught by Aleksandr Avrorin and others and held at the Live Earth Center in January 2001, the young teenagers held poster sessions for the participants on the experiments they had conducted over the summer.

Since retiring from the Young Naturalist program after nine years, Albina continued her longtime work as an herbal therapist and authored several popular books on medicinal herbs. She continues to write on related topics such as Su Jok therapy. Her "day job" is at the renowned N.I. Vavilov All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Plant Industry (VIR), as a scientist in the department of forage cultivars, where her longtime colleague , Prof. Yury Soskov, also conducts research.

It was inspiring to read Albina's report on the later education and work of her former students, some of whom are continuing their education in agriculture medicine, and pharmacy. A standout is Peter Sherov, now age 20, who stays in touch with Albina by telephone. Peter is a final-year student at the Garden and Architecture College, and visited an organic farm in Norway in summer 2009. During his childhood he suffered from cerebral palsy, which made it difficult for him to stand, and speech was also problematic for him. However, his work at the Alive Earth Center was excellent, and after much therapy his speech improved to the point that he can now speak confidently. His dream is to create a nursery on a piece of land his family acquired recently near Luga, a city south of St. Petersburg.

The legacy of Albina's GB teaching in Russia lives on through her writing and the TV programs she produced. A search at on Albina's name in cyrillic will call up descriptions in Russian of the several popular books she has authored on medicinal herbs, including Stevia, Echinacea, and Basket Plant (Golden Tendril in Russian, Callisia fragrans). One of them includes a chapter on GROW BIOINTENSIVE; 7000 copies of this book have been sold. Over three years starting in 1999, Albina produced 30 lectures lasting 14 minutes each on GB for television. These are still shown occasionally.

With volunteer translators, at BfR we have made draft translations of two chapters of Albina's books: Stevia and Golden Tendril. If anyone who has read this far is interested in helping edit the translations and passing them on to friends, please get in touch with Carol Vesecky! We are extremely grateful to Albina for all the energy she has put into her work promoting Biointensive in Russia, and also for her efforts hosting us and our ecotour groups many times over the years. Ogromnoe spasibo, Albina!

arrow Vera Korsakova and Marina Skakalskaya, Novosibirsk and Salganda (Altai), Siberia
Representing the Siberian Ecological Fund, Vera Korsakova participated in Ecology Action-cosponsored workshops in Novosibirsk in 1997 and Novo-Sin'kovo in 2002. She and her sister Marina collaborated with Aleksandr Avrorin in teaching workshops in Novosibirsk and Salganda, Altai in the late 1990s. Marina's husband Viktor double-dug an area of more than 2000 square feet for the family garden.

Working with Aleksandr Avrorin, the two sisters demonstrated double-digging at several locations in Salganda, a new settlement in Altai where Skakskaya now lives with her family.

arrow Vladimir"Volodya" Loginov, Kurganinsk, Krasnodar Krai, Southern Russia
Along with four others from Russia and Kazakhstan, Vladimir attended the 1996 3-Day Workshop in Willits on a MacArthur travel grant. Returning to Kurganinsk, he not only built a U-bar using his welding skills, but also went online within two months and started a local environmental organization, with the assistance of the Sacred Earth Network. In subsequent years, he produced a TV series on GB, practiced and taught the method to adults and children, and partnered with the local agriculture school to apply (unsuccessfully) for a major USAID grant to disseminate the method in his region. Vladimir returned to Ecology Action for a short internship in 1999, and presented information on GB at a Children's Environmental Health conference in Washington, DC in September, 2001 at the invitation of a Canadian environmental health organization. He ran an apprentice program in various manual trades for orphaned boys from 1998 to 2000.

In 2005, Vladimir coordinated hosting and travel on a route including Krasnodar, Maikop, Kamennomostskii (S. Caucasus), and Sochi for three days in 2005 BfR's ecotour group. He also provided van travel for other local, Moscow, and American visitors in the Caucasus region.

Based on information gained during one of his US visits, Vladimir built a straw-bale house for himself and his mother in 2004. He currently works in straw-bale homebuilding and collaborates with the North Caucasus Environmental Watch, a group that monitors illegal logging, roadbuilding, and other development of pristine protected natural areas.

arrow Evgeny Petrovich Shmelev and Ivan Zakharovich Antiushin, Novo-Sin'kovo, Moscow oblast', Russia
Ivan Zakharovich Antiushin attended Ecology Action's 3-Day Workshop on a MacArthur travel grant with Vladimir Loginov and three other participants from Russia and Kazakhstan in 1996. He served as Director of the Educational Methods Center (EMC) in Novo-Sin'kovo until his retirement in 2005. (The Center is a short-course extension center for agriculture colleges and technicums formerly run by Russia's Ministry of Agriculture. As of 2009, it is now officially part of the Ministry of Education and Science.) During her visit to Moscow in 1997 en route to Siberia to present a GB workshop, Ivan Zakharovich introduced Carol Vesecky to Evgeny Petrovich Shmelev, suggesting they correspond to develop future joint activities.

Evgeny Petrovich, with able assistance from other EMC staff members, hosted workshops taught by Albie Miles from UC Santa Cruz (1999), Aleksandr Avrorin (2001), and Steve Moore (2002) at the Educational Methods Center in Novo-Sin'kovo. He recruited agriculture teachers from the Ministry of Agriculture's network of colleges in 17 locations in European Russia to attend these workshops, along with other members of BfR's Eurasian network. On the EMC printing press, Evgeny publsihed a pre-print of the Russian translations of How to Grow in 1999 and a color-cover edition of The Sustainable Vegetable Garden in 2002.

BfR's cultural ecotour groups paid visits to Novo-Sin'kovo, hosted by Evgeny and the EMC staff, in 2005 and 2007, en route to sightseeing in nearby Golden Ring cities. The groups were able to admire the Biointensive and more traditional Russian aspects of Evgeny's and his wife Tatyana's lovely garden, as well as those of teachers at the local Yakhromskii agriculture college. Evgeny has expressed willingness to co-author cooperative grant proposals to foundations for future workshops held at the EMC.

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

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