BfR People 

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 䴋 Biointensive composting and double-digging 䴋 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 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.

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

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