Start Planting a Biointensive Future for Your Garden!

Ecology Action
5798 Ridgewood Road
Willits, CA 95490

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and consider getting one of our books on the Biointensive method such as the newly updated 7th edition of

How to Grow More Vegetables

How to Grow More Vegetables

and/or the Biointensive book especially for beginners:

The Sustainable Vegetable Garden

The Sustainable Vegetable Garden

You may also want to explore the following:

John Jeavons

• John Jeavons' website:

Common Ground Garden Supply in Palo Alto

• Common Ground's Website:

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A New Internship in 2017:
A 2:4:2 Program with Ecology Action

8-Month Internship Curriculum/Syllabus (216KB PDF)

  • Internship
  • Internship
  • Internship
  • Reading
  • Program
  • Internship

8-Month Internship

2017 Season

Applications for the 2017 Internship are now being accepted.
The internship will start April 1st, 2017 and end December 10th, 2017
Application Deadline: March 7th, 2017
Participant Notification by March 15th, 2017



Despite technological advances in agriculture there are still more than 1 billion malnourished people in the world.1 Rising food prices have led to political unrest in many countries.2 In addition to the social problems of our global food system, current farming practices are unsustainable. Conventional agricultural techniques depend heavily on non-renewable resources, outside inputs from other soils, and deplete farmable soil - our most important finite resource. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has stated that the solution to these problems can be found in small scale, localized, low-input agriculture:

"Global food production is more than enough to feed the global population, the problem is getting it to the people who need it. In market-marginalized areas, organic farmers can increase food production by managing local resources without having to rely on external inputs or food distribution systems over which they have little control and/or access3."

Aware of the intensifying world challenges and the basic need of people to feed themselves, Ecology Action has been working since 1972 to develop an elegant, small-scale, truly sustainable agricultural system. This system, known as GROW BIOINTENSIVE, is a high-yielding agricultural method that emphasizes local food production (based historically on intensive food raising systems) while building and regenerating the soil that feeds us. Ecology Action has a network of affiliate organizations and former interns working around the world to enable people to promote good health and sustainable food security.

The GROW BIOINTENSIVE® method focuses on using small-scale, organic, non-mechanized food-raising techniques as a way of life. The work we do requires commitment, responsibility, patience, time, attention to detail, willingness to follow detailed instructions, self-motivation, and mental and physical stamina. While we do not wish to discourage those genuinely interested in the program, we also want to make sure that applicants are looking to enjoy a lifestyle of simple living with a focus on wholistic health and sustainability.


Ecology Action offers an 8-month internship program where qualified participants who want to be key GROW BIOINTENSIVE resources for their region can get involved in hands-on demonstration, teaching and research in sustainable agriculture and closed-system food production. The internship focuses on the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming technique and the low-technology lifestyle appropriate to development work, and results in certification as a GROW BIOINTENSIVE teacher. It begins April 1st of each year.

Participants will learn practical skills that address issues of food security through a combination of online classes, hands-on fieldwork, and onsite classroom teaching. They will learn to use a closed-loop, soil-building, resource-conserving, sustainble organic approach to food production. In addition, interns will learn about positive social solutions to food security issues.

Optimally, these internships are intended for people who already have an established understanding of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method and want to take their skills to the next level. Specifically, we have developed these internships for people who:

  • Have already taken a workshop or other course in the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method, or are involved in established projects and programs that use the GB method already;
  • Are interested in an in-depth understanding and experience of why GROW BIOINTENSIVE works and how to modify it for other climates, soils and cultures; and
  • Expect to be actively involved in public service in this kind of work (with selective preference given to those who have a strong interest in applied sustainable farming and/or demonstrate a significant ability to use the skills they gain through an internship to benefit their communities and the planet).

The internship is a combination of online and on-site activities, including:

  • Lecture and demonstrations,
  • Study,
  • Field work, and
  • Living the method.

This combination is designed is so that participants learn Ecology Action's processes both theoretically and practically, and can understand the processes that are involved in starting this type of work (GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming, low-tech living, teaching the method to others) as well as performing these activities over the long-term. The internships are an opportunity to assist Ecology Action in accomplishing its mission to teach people to grow food and soil fertility while conserving resources, with both direct and indirect learning occurring in the process.

During the internship, emphasis is placed on the ability of the intern to learn to farm and develop GROW BIOINTENSIVE diet and sustainability designs and approaches, in the belief that the most creativity and strength come from people joining forces and working as a team after they have fully developed strength and independence. We have found that skill levels can be dramatically upgraded with this type of training.

Timeline: 2:4:2 internship structure

Formerly, interns spent 8 months onsite at Ecology Action, returning to their homes after completing the program. The long absence from home presented an obstacle for many participants, and was not an efficient use of time. To correct this issue, the program now spans 8 months, but is structured to provide participants with an optimal learning experience, while causing as little disruption to their normal schedule as possible. The structure of the program is as follows:

  • Months 1-2 of the program are spent in your home location performing assigned reading and viewing webinars, ensuring that your skill level and knowledge of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method are at the correct levels.
  • Months 3-6 are spent at one of Ecology Action's Mini-Farm sites in Northern California. Activities include classwork, working with Ecology Action trainers and learning hands-on techniques in the field.
  • Months 7-8 are spent in your home location, establishing your new project, and finishing any final requisites to complete your GROW BIOINTENSIVE Teacher Certification.

Ecology Action's research, demonstration and education mini-farm garden sites, while beautiful and enjoyable to work in, are first and foremost research gardens where a multitude of experiments are run concurrently. The research focus is on using the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method to conduct scientific tests and collect data to provide practical solutions to the challenge of growing food, creating and maintaining sustainable soil fertility, and conserving resources on a closed-loop basis, while living a sustainable life.

While onsite at Ecology Action, interns have minimal administrative responsibilities, and are able to focus on learning through reading, classes, and work in the field. Time may be available for an independent study project, and there are periodic one-hour meetings with an Ecology Action staff member to ensure progress is being made. There are also weekly meetings with staff and other interns to discuss progress in the research garden. The Interns will take part in seasonal courses and workshops. Provided that the required work is completed, interns will be certified by Ecology Action as GROW BIOINTENSIVE teachers at a level appropriate to their skills..

The program will overlap Ecology Action's other, shorter internship, class series, and 3-day workshop programs and will host farmers and food-growing activists from the U.S. and abroad, giving all the interns a chance to network with additional people interested in similar work. The 2-month internship program takes place from June through August each year.

An internship at Ecology Action is an opportunity to learn valuable techniques and information, to experience an alternative living style, to make lifelong ties with other interns from different states and countries, and to assist Ecology Action in accomplishing it's mission to help farmers, gardeners, and communities around the world to raise food, conserve resources and build fertile soil sustainably.

The 8-month internship information booklet is in preparation and will be posted on this page by June 2017. In the meantime, for general information, you can download and read the Internship Information Booklet created for the 6-month Internship.

2, Helped-Trigger-Arab-Spring-135576278.html
3 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization,

Estimated Expenses

Since Ecology Action is a small, non-profit organization, financial aid is limited, and this is a fee-based internship, with cost estimates indicated in the tables below. Sponsoring organizations in each country or region normally need to be the source of funding.

Special scholarships or stipends may be available depending on the situation of the applicant (demonstrated merit and financial need) and the ability of the applicant to use the skills they gain through the program to benefit their community, region, country and the planet. Funding can be provided by the program sponsoring the participant, by the participant him/herself, and/or corporations, foundations, and/or individuals. Please be sure to explore funding through all avenues available to you.

Cost for a 8-Month Internship at Ecology Action, 2017

Direct Costs
Interns from the U.S.A.
Interns from Other Countries
Tuition US$2,000* US$2,000*
Room 800* 800*
Food 600 600
Utilities 200 200
Publications 320 320
Supplies 200 200
Phone/Internet 160 160
Incidentals provided by participant 800
Medical Insurance provided by participant 400
Administration 500* 1,000*
Co-Sponsoring + visa 3,100
Embassy Interview 100
SEVIS Form 180
Transportation provided by participant ~1,800/ varies by location
SUB-TOTAL $4,780 $11,660
*Costs covered by Ecology Action if scholarship is available.

The 8-month internship information booklet is in preparation and will be posted on this page by June 2017. In the meantime, for general information, you can download and read the Internship Information Booklet created for the 6-month Internship.

Schedule and Routine

While onsite at Ecology Action, interns will begin their day at 8:30-9am and end at 5:30 -6:30pm depending on the site. Most days will be spent learning in the mini-farm garden. A typical day could involve preparing beds for planting, seed propagation, harvesting, taking and recording samples, transplanting, seed saving, and other garden tasks. At least one day a week and some times more will be spent in the classroom.

Online and on-site classroom days will include lectures, discussions with teachers, and multimedia presentations covering a range of topics. Interns will have readings and homework to complete each week. At least one day a week will be spent inside the classroom. A multi-month GROW BIOINTENSIVE Curriculum is part of the internship, with the introductory portion of the program occuring during the first two months of the program, during which the participants will be reading foundational material. Field training parts of the program will occur during the onsite portion of the internship. Homework pertaining to the practical and conceptual aspects of GROW BIOINTENSIVE and food security issues around the world will be part of the internship throughout the 8-month period. While onsite, interns may also visit and learn in the gardens of other Ecology Action mini-farm sites and so should enjoy physical labor. The experience is demanding, but rewarding to those willing to engage themselves.

(The types of activities in the schedule may be adjusted
depending on the weather/season
8:00 - 9:00 Breakfast
9:00 - 12:30 Garden Work / Class / Reading
12:30 - 2:30 Spot Watering / Lunch (one hour)
2:30 - 5:30 Garden Work / Class / Reading / Cooking
5:30 - 6:30 Evening Watering / Break *
6:30 - 7:30 Dinner *
7:30 - 9:00 Dishes and Kitchen Clean-up / Evening Watering */Studies and relaxation

At least one and a half days and as much as two days a week - consecutive when possible - will be free for personal time. In addition to the scheduled "week-ends", each intern receives one three-day weekend, at times that do not interfere with scheduled classes or mini-farm activities. The internship program is intensive, and other than the designated days off, time is generally not available for extracurricular sight-seeing, travel or farm visits. If you are interested in traveling while you are in the US, you should make sure that you schedule any longer trips to occur either before you begin the internship or after you finish it.

Please note that Ecology Action is a non-profit organization focused on teaching motivated people about the principles of small scale, sustainable food raising and community involvement. It is not a market farm. If you are looking for experience in production and marketing on an organic farm, visit the WWOOF or ATTRA websites. Also, we appreciate that people who are interested in sustainable agriculture are interested in exploring other methods. Please note though, that this internship will focus exclusively on the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method. The internship program is not for people who are "shopping" for a method to use in their lives, but, rather, for ones who have decided biologically-intensive farming is their choice. For more information about this method click here.


To download a copy of a sample curriculum/syllabus for the 8-month internship click here.

Follow-Up Activities

During the internship, participants will be able to work with a staff member to plan their future activities program. Ecology Action interns are expected to return to their home sites to continue and/or initiate GROW BIOINTENSIVE mini-farms, classes, and other related activities for the foreseeable future (at least two years, preferably more), and to work with others, using and teaching the method to grow a better community, region, country, and world.

We ask for a long-term commitment from our interns to become GROW BIOINTENSIVE teachers/practitioners because our goal is to grow a team/network to meet the earth's food, soil, and resource challenges and grow a healthy thriving world.

Reading List

This course will be fast-paced, and will cover a lot of material. In order to facilitate a deeper understanding of the material, participants will be required to do additional readings and watch instructional videos before the first class, and between subsequent classes.

The readings will cover the scientific basis for and findings of GROW BIOINTENSIVE, the details of how to use various GB techniques, as well as the global and local need for transformation of our food-raising systems. The 8-month internship information booklet is in preparation and will be posted on this page by March 2017. In the meantime, for a detailed sample reading schedule, download the Internship Information Booklet created for the 6-month Internship. Readings will be drawn from the following:

  • MANUAL for 8-Month Course

    How to Grow More Vegetables, 8th ed. [SP]
    The Sustainable Vegetable Garden
    The Backyard Homestead, Mini-Farm & Garden Log Book
    One Circle
    Future Fertility

    Self-Teaching Mini-Series Booklets:

    #0 —Biointensive Mini-Farming: A Rational Use of Natural Resources [SP]

    #1— Cucumber Bonanza [SP]

    #11 —Examining the Tropics [SP]

    #12 —Growing and Gathering Your Own Fertilizer

    #13 —Growing to Seed [SP]

    #14 —The Complete 21-Bed Biointensive Mini-Farm [SP] /

    #15 —One Basic Mexican Diet [SP]

    #17 —Garden Research for Food and Flavor [SP]

    #18 —Dried, Cut and Edible Flowers for Pleasure, Food and Income

    #19 —Biointensive Micro-farming:  A Seventeen Year Perspective [SP]

    #21 —Micro-Farming as a Key to the Revitalization of the World's Agriculture

    #24 —Comprehensive Definition of Sustainability [SP]

    #25 —One Basic Kenyan Diet

    #26 —Learning How to Grow All Your Own Food A Supplement for Booklet 14

    #27 —Growing Medicinal Herbs in as Little as Fifty Square Feet — Uses and Recipes

    #28 —The Smallest Possible Area to Grow Food and Feed

    #29 —Test Your Soil with Plants

    #30 —GROW BIOINTENSIVESM Sustainable Mini-Farming Teacher-Training & Certification Prog.

    #31 —Designing a GROW BIOINTENSIVE® Sustainable Mini-Farm

    #32 —GROW BIOINTENSIVE® Composting and Growing Compost Materials

    #33 —Grow Your Own Grains

    #34 — Food for the Future, Now

    #35 Low-Natural Rainfall Growing

    #36 An Experimental Complete 33 Bed GROW BIOINTENSIVE® Mini-Farm: Fertility, Nutrition, & Income

    # 37 Energy Use in GROW BIOINTENSIVE Food Production

    PB #1 —Another Way to Wealth

    GROW BIOINTENSIVE Apprenticeship Possibilities  (booklet)
    Composting for the Tropics (booklet)
    DVD- GROWBIOINTENSIVE A Beginner’s Guide in 8 Easy Sessions

  • OTHER Publications:     

    Seed to Seed, 2nd ed., Suzanne Ashworth, 2002.
    Saving Seeds
    , Marc Rogers, 1990.

    Biointensive Mini-Farming: The Challenge; Perspective, Principles, Techniques and History; System Performance—Initial Trials; System Performance—Continuing Trials in a More Difficult Environment and Soil; Future Potential; Some Representative World Applications; Future Challenges and Research Opportunities. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture (Vol. 19 (2)), 2001, p. 49-106, Jeavons, John

  • Possible references to consult after completing the internship:

    World Vegetables , 2nd ed., by Vincent Rubatzky and Mas Yamaguchi. Chapman and Hall, 1997.
    Cereal Crops by Warren H. Leonard and John H. Martin. Macmillan, 1963.
    East African Crops by J. D. Acland. Longman, 1971.



Program Sites

The program will take place at three different sites in Northern California. Each site is unique in climate, soil, living situation, and history. While you can indicate a site preference during the application process, we cannot guarantee that you will be placed at your preferred site.

Ecology Action

Ecology Action's Common Ground Research Garden (Willits, CA)

The setting at this site is rural and rustic. The Ecology Action mini-farm provides a demonstration of what is possible when conditions are less than optimal. The one-third-acre mini-farm/garden is located on a 20-acre site that offers a challenging soil situation on a mountainside slope. Basic fieldtesting compares different cultivars, nutrient and compost amounts, crop spacing, and other practices.

Also, there are usually a variety of crops grown out to seed for Bountiful Gardens, our international mail order company. The soil at this site is rated fair for grazing and has a level of magnesium, nickel, and other minerals that would normally prevent the growing of crops. In addition, it has cool nighttime temperatures and varied mini-climates within its growing area. GROW BIOINTENSIVE practices are buffering these limitations, and food is being grown (although lower-than-normal GROW BIOINTENSIVE yields were initially and are often still obtained). Ground was broken for the Biointensive research garden in 1982. It took 14 years of soil improvement (from 1982 to 1995) to develop a soil system that produces healthy plants and satisfactory yields at this location.

Golden Rule Community Garden (Willits, CA)

This training site is a joint program with the Christ Church of the Golden Rule Community just south of Willits, CA and Ecology Action. The Golden Rule Community mini-farm/garden is located on Ridgewood Ranch, a 5,000-acre home to the Golden Rule Community, a therapeutic riding program, a large heard of free-range cattle, and acres of wilderness. The one-acre garden site has been organically cultivated for over 30 years and in 2001 adopted the Biointensive methods of food raising. Due to its location within a large alluvial flood plane, the garden contains fluffy, rich, uniform soil on flat terrain that lead to good garden yields. While the climate provides slightly warmer temperatures for growing throughout the day than our other Willits site, at night the cool air settles in the valley creating a difficult temperature swing daily. Its main focus is on providing food for the Golden Rule Community, growing an array of seeds for Bountiful Gardens, and training interns and other visitors in Biointensive gardening. It also has the unique opportunity to focus on low-tech alternative technology and processing within the garden and for cleaning seeds. The Golden Rule mini-farm demonstrates what is possible using GROW BIOINTENSIVE under reasonably good conditions and in the summer is a treat for anyone to see! It is beneficial for the training of trainers and staff for projects focusing on production mini-farming and development minifarming in this and other countries.

Green Belt Research Mini-Farm

Victory Gardens for Peace (Mendocino, CA)

The Victory Garden for Peace site in Mendocino, California is situated on the grounds of the Stanford Inn, an eco-resort nestled on the cliffs overlooking the confluence of the Big River and the Pacific Ocean. Our program is focused on: developing the GROW BIOINTENSIVE model for our coastal, cool, foggy climate, improving the soil and teaching the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method. There are many challenges at the site that create opportunities to demonstrate practical and effective ways of maximizing resources and managing fertility. There is an inherently good soil here but it underwent years of compaction as a horse paddock. We are working to build soil structure and fertility to restore the soil health. We experiment with growing complete diets and different crop varieties to find which are best suited to this unique growing climate. Our internships are unique and offer a great experience in water conservation, soil fertility management and food raising through the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method.


8-Month Internship Application

Your internship application must be sent by the application deadline of March 7, but participants are encouraged to apply as early as possible.

Space is limited. The Ecology Action staff will select applicants on the basis of the impact their work is likely to have in the future; priority will be given to those with a goal of using GROW BIOINTENSIVE Mini-Farming practices in outreach and public service projects.

Applicants should note that this is an unpaid, fee-based internship program, but that scholarships and financial assistance may be provided to promising students who cannot afford the fees. Program interns will be placed at three different project sites in Northern California. Housing /accommodations and basic meals will be provided at each site; however, other expenses will need to be provided by intern, as follows below. (Please note that these internship fees are non-refundable.)

To Apply:

  1. Read Ecology Action's 8-Month Internship Expectations (Terms & Conditions) to make sure you understand how the internship will work.

  2. The 8-Month Internship information booklet is in preparation and will be posted on this page by June 2017.

  3. Download and print out the Internship Medical Report Form and take it to your doctor to fill out. You must have this form completed and signed by a medical doctor before you apply for this internship. Applications without a completed Medical Report Form will not be considered.

    When you have the competed form, you may upload it as a single document (PDF or JPEG) to your application.

  4. Gather three letters of reference from people who can attest that you have what it takes to complete this internship successfully. Teachers, employers, and collegues are examples of good references. You will upload these documents to your application.

  5. Complete the Online 8-Month Internship Application Form (our secure online registration form, hosted by DonorPro will open in a new window).

  6. Once you are accepted, pay for tuition and fees. The decision date for this internship is March 15, 2017. You will be notified whether you have been accepted either as a primary or wait-list candidate, and if you have, you will be provided with further information on how to proceed.

***Important Note***: Please remember that scholarships are sometimes available for promising interns. Do not let the price of the internship keep you from submitting your application!

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