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Mendocino, CA: John Jeavons Speech

  • Subject: [cg] Mendocino, CA: John Jeavons Speech
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2006 20:27:37 EST

Here's the web link: 
(http://www.mendocinobeacon.com/Stories/0,1413,94~3593~3269508,00.html) #

Green gardening guru John Jeavons gave gloomy  message to gathering
Thursday, March 16, 2006 -  
By FRANK HARTZELL Of The Beacon -  
Green gardening guru John Jeavons provided a gloomy message to a gathering  
organized by Coast Economic Localization Link (CELL) Saturday about the future  
of market-based agriculture on a planet with a steadily worsening population  
More than 150 people overflowed the Mendocino Community School to hear the  
renowned Willits author deliver two hours' of statistics and a brief look at 
his  remedy he calls bio-intensive farming.  
The principle is to invigorate and reuse more soil and to grow communities of 
 organisms from compost to healthy vegetables on a smaller surface area.  
In an inimitable professorial style, Jeavons showed slides that repeatedly  
pointed out that chemical-based and even sustainable and organic farming is  
depleting the world's soils, and that growing crops that bring the highest price 
 will starve the future.  
Jeavons is the author of "How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought  
Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagine." He operates the nonprofit Ecology 
 Action and has a Website at _www.johnjeavons.info.  
_ (http://www.johnjeavons.info.<p>/) Jim Tarbell of Caspar said Jeavons has 
long been an icon of the movement for  more responsible growing practices. 
Tarbell has been familiar with the author  since he was a young hippie who wanted 
to live off the land.  
"I've read and known about John Jeavons for about 30 years and never seen him 
 so I wanted to come out tonight and see what he looks like," said Tarbell.  
Jeavons wore a hat and had a inscrutable deadpan style that was free of  
politics and heavy on statistics. The highlight of his presentation was when he  
ate a spoonful of applesauce then demonstrated how much soil that "pound" of  
food cost the planet. He did that by shoveling six tablespoons (pounds) of dirt 
 into a bowl saying U.S. chemical fertilizer-based agriculture uses up six 
pounds  of topsoil for every pound of food produced.  
In a community where banana slugs and powdery mildew are a greater problem  
for farmers than large corporate farms and clouds of herbicides, the world  
population nightmare script seemed more geared to a Central Valley audience.  
Members of the crowd implored Jeavons for more details on the solutions, like 
 how to make the compost and how to deal with specific soil challenges.  
"It may seem a little slow, but if I just tell you the answer, you might lack 
 the motivation to use it," he said when people pushed him to cut to the  
Jeavons' big picture  
While Jeavons' famous book is very specific on how to feed plants, test soil  
and plant, Jeavons' talk was more of a missionary effort to get people to see 
 the big picture in every contact they have with the earth.  
He said disaster plans in places like San Francisco call for an exodus to  
places like Mendocino County. He said each person in Mendocino County might  
someday find themselves with two Bay Area residents to feed.  
He said bio-intensive methods will grow two to six times more food and are  
not the same as sustainable practices, which simply grow the crops the market  
wants using better methodology, although often borrowing from soils in other  
areas. Jeavons' vision is a world where food is created locally using local  
resources and does not rely on borrowing resources from soils in other areas.  
While he insisted his plan is not a panacea, he said the answer to earth's  
problems are everywhere. He described how there are 6 billion microbes in a  
clump of compost that will fit in the palm of your hand nearly the same as the  
human population of the Earth.  
Like a professor unraveling a complex syllabus to his class, he told the  
audience that the most important thing they could do for the planet is to stop  
growing crops and grow soil. He then said they should stop growing soil and  
start growing more people who know the importance of growing soil.  
His sense of humor was often that of a college professor, as in the  
appearance of a human head where an artichoke should be when he talked about the  need 
to grow more humans who know the importance of growing soil.  
Many of the practices that Jeavons preaches are throwbacks to old-fashioned  
farming, in the days when farming was primarily based on community, not 
For example, wind-break rows of trees, which were used nearly universally by  
old school farmers across America in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, 
 were ripped out in most of the American Midwest starting in the last half of 
the  20th century, to allow for a few extra rows of crops to be grown and 
larger  tractors to be used. This came at the expense of large amounts of topsoil 
lost  to erosion.  
The continued drive to maximize profits above all else in the late 20th  
century isn't confined to America developing countries are twice as bad at  
causing soil erosion in the global competition to raise the highest dollar  crops, 
regardless of local food needs. Jeavons used 12 spoons of soil to  illustrate 
the cost of one spoon of food in the developing world.  
Crop rotation and the resting of fields, mandated in the Bible and practiced  
until the advent of corporate agriculture, along with the disadvantages of  
scientific hybridization and super pesticides are part of Jeavons' message. So  
saving seeds that produce true to type with open pollination rather than the  
unpredictable offspring of hybrids.  
While he said a vegan diet is better for the planet than an animal-based  
diet, he said repeatedly he wasn't anti-animal. Plunking an apple into his mouth  
to symbolize the end of the Earth's capacity to produce food for its people, 
he  said that would happen in 38 to 76 years, depending on whether current 
practices  are modified. He said if everyone in the U.S. switched to a vegan 
diet, the food  would last 39.5 years instead of 38.  
Much of the crowd was familiar with his work and had come to learn more of  
the gardening techniques.  
"I have read most of his books and I'm here to get some answers to the  
nightmares out there," said John Canfield of Comptche.  
CELL's goals  
CELL is energizing action to organize work parties to go to different homes  
to promote creating raised beds or compost piles of the type Jeavons describes 
 in his book.  
One effort hopes to get people locally to eat only food grown within a  
100-mile "food shed" for a month, possibly October, CELL member Marty Johnson  
"It will involve identifying at local markets what foods are grown or  
processed within 100 miles, classes on canning and preserving, educational  programs 
for the schools, and inviting different restaurants to showcase meals  with 
local foods," Johnson said.  
CELL is also working on developing a map that will show local micro-climates, 
 the food infrastructure, viable agriculture land, energy infrastructure and  
water resources.  
"I am also working with other communities who are developing questionnaires.  
I will look forward to having others on the coast who may be interested in  
joining us as we work on this project which I think will be ongoing in its  
development and refinement," he said.  
CELL is at _localize@mcn.org_ (mailto:localize@mcn.org)  .  

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