Click here to donate
About us


Matt Drewno, Green Belt Mini-Farm Manager

I first got excited about agriculture when I came across the word permaculture on the Internet about 10 years ago. It hit me at the right time. I was studying architecture in Rome, Italy, watching the sunrise and set of the beautiful ancient and modern city. For me it was poetic. I saw that man creates monuments to himself and that in time it all falls, and Nature reclaims her raw materials: ruins covered in vines, soft and gentle plants taking back the stone that was once hers. I had visions of my own country in ruins. It was a very powerful experience for me and led to me asking some deeper questions and some more playful ones.

I realized that much of the story of civilization is the story of politics, corruption and greed. How do we break from this cycle? We develop our own systems and empower ourselves and our communities to move in new directions and to explore greater potentials.Matt in the Garden

And so I got into permaculture: care of the Earth, care of the people and share in the abundance. I started working on organic farms, received a permaculture certificate, and explored community. I was (and still am) seeking the tools and experience to become self-sufficient and an asset to my community. I always look to learn from the master! And so I ended up at Ecology Action in 2010 and was lucky enough to find a place at our research garden at the Stanford Inn in Mendocino, California. 

I first came across John’s book through permaculture events in the Midwest. Then, in 2010, I left the Midwest to travel to communities and farms on my way out West. I had spent time in Northern California many years back, and heard about the garden projects of Alan Chadwick. And I knew several former students of his. While volunteering at Occidental Arts and Ecology in Occidental, California, I was told that John Jeavons lived in Willits. I was living in a nearby town, and decided to pay a visit at the next garden tour, which happened to be that weekend. John, the generous man that he is, invited me to be a guest at some of the intern classes and eventually offered me a spot. For me, what we do is more than just double-digging and close plant spacing. It is a whole-systems approach: it is a real solution.

Matt dwarfed by Green Belt tree collards.

The mini-farm site I manage is about 5,000 sq ft right on the coast in Mendocino. It is a beautiful site, and we have a great demonstration garden! It’s been a fine experience working with the soils here, and the climate and plants.

This year, the garden is in three sections. The first section is the Demonstration Garden and is roughly 2,000 sq ft. Here we will demonstrate how to grow a complete diet and all of our fertility for the year. The second section will be a Trial Crop Section where we will trial different crop varieties that might fit into our growing situation here. This year it’s varieties of quinoa, upland rice, triticale, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, sorghum and amaranth. We like to go after the high-calorie crops because they enable us to scale down and tighten our garden designs. By making it smaller we make it more efficient in time, space and resources. The last section is Raven’s Restaurant Garden where we will grow food for the vegan restaurant at the Inn. Here we explore the relationship of gardens to restaurant and how that works out for planning, production and marketing. We are also running trials on the use of compost teas, foliar feeding and low tunnels and have installed a series of water flowforms and a solar grain dryer. We have a lot going on! Come and visit!

I believe that the work we do here, and the work of Ecology Action, is important because it addresses so many issues: food security, local economies, exercise, nutrition and education. It is therapeutic and stress-relieving; it is ecologically sound and encourages life to thrive in all forms and functions. Biointensive gardening is appropriate.

top | Newsletter Home | Article Index | Archive

Please donate $40 to our 40th Anniversary Fundraiser! Click here to donate!