The most defining characteristics of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming system are the following :
- the use of the double-dig method to obtain good soil structure,
- the high density of the crops,
- taking into consideration the complete food diet (not just vegetable crops) and, in particular, the total calorie requirements per person,
- the goal of producing all the required compost on the farm in order to have a closed-system farm that doesn't require external inputs.
The full name for GROW BIOINTENSIVE is "GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming".
Agrology Action offers the following definition:
What defines a GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farm?
GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming is not just an organic farming technique, but a system that combines nutrition-based food production with closed-system soil fertility management, emphasizing reduced space.
The elements of GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming include:
- Deep soil preparation
- Close plant spacing
- Companion planting
- Carbon-farming (the growing of mature compost crops to produce sufficient compost for the maintenance of sustainable soil fertility on a closed-system basis as well as a significant amount of calories)
- Calorie-farming (the growing of crops for calories on a small-scale basis with an emphasis on special root crops which produce a large amount of calories per unit of area)
- Open-pollinated seeds (using and saving), and
- Treating all of the elements as parts of a whole system with a focus on long-term, ‘closed-system’ sustainable soil fertility.
In order to ensure closed-system sustainable soil fertility, the GROW BIOINTENSIVE mini-farm allocates approximately 60% of its growing space to carbon/calorie crops, approximately 30% to special root crops for efficient calorie production, and approximately 10% to vegetable crops and possible income crops.
GROW BIOINTENSIVE allows each of its practitioners to acquire the skills and dedication to take responsibility to grow sufficient food with a fraction of the water, energy and purchased nutrients in the form of organic fertilizer required, compared to chemical mechanized agriculture.
GROW BIOINTENSIVE provides the tools needed to grow food in a way that is truly sustainable: requiring no nonrenewable resources and capable of maintaining and improving soil fertility within a closed system.
GROW BIOINTENSIVE is a farming system that evolved in California. The initial ideas started in the late 60's the Student Garden at the University of Santa Cruz under the impulse of Alan Chadwick. Chadwick was himself influenced by the ideas on biodynamic agriculture of Rudolf Steiner and the French intensive farming methods of the early 1900's. The GROW BIOINTENSIVE system found its current definition at the Common Ground Garden in Palo Alto in the early seventies, and from the 80s onwards at the Common Ground Mini-Farm in Willits, California, both managed by the Ecology Action association. The leading figure of Ecology Action is John Jeavons, author of the book "How To Grow More Vegetables..." who gave the system widespread recognition.
Name and trademark
The complete name is GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-Farming. The name GROW BIOINTENSIVE is registered with the U.S. Trademark Office. According to Ecology Action's guidelines on the usage of the name:
In order to distinguish Ecology Action’s biologically intensive sustainable mini-farming processes, developed over more than four decades, from the practices of other organizations using the term (Bio-Intensive Integrated Pest Management, for example), Ecology Action has decided to use the name GROW BIOINTENSIVE. In effect, GROW BIOINTENSIVE is the "brand name" of Ecology Action's publications and educational services and is also used for the certifying of seeds and produce complying with GROW BIOINTENSIVE guidelines.
- Jeavons, J. (2012). "How to grow more vegetables than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine", 8th edition, Ten Speed Press, 2012.