John Jeavons: Biodynamic Gardening Expert

In the following interview, John Jeavons discusses how became involved with research into biodynamic gardening and methods of growing the maximum amount of produce on the smallest amount of land while supporting soil viability.

  • John Jeavons Waters Garden
    John Jeavons preparing and watering a garden bed.

  • John Jeavons Waters Garden

Those of you who read our overview article on biodynamic gardending/French intensive gardening will already be familiar with the nature of John Jeavons' work. To summarize some of the information from that earlier article, Jeavons has made it his responsibility—over the past nine years—to subject the biodynamic/French intensive method developed by Englishman Alan Chadwick to careful yield and technique analysis.  

In the process, John has taken the original system—which combines deep (24") digging, organic fertilizers, companion planting, interplanting, and so forth—and made it accessible to the backyard or subsistence farmer (who can, Jeavons says, "put in 10% of the effort and get 90% of the yield ").  

MOTHER EARTH NEWS wanted to learn more about this remarkable fellow. Why, for one thing, did he abandon a career in systems analysis to take on the next-to-impossible mini-farm project at less than minimum wage? Furthermore, how does Jeavons plan to reduce the space necessary to grow a $20,000 cash crop to a mere 1/8 acre . . . and cut the land needed to produce a balanced one-person vegetarian diet to as little as 700 square feet?  

Staffer Bruce Woods sought the answers to these and other questions during a recent day-long interview with John Jeavons. This edited transcript of their talks may well increase your understanding of the food production problems that will soon face our world, and it will also let you see a few of the ways that the looming dangers can be overcome . . . by methods that will enrich the world's soil—and perhaps the lives of many men and women—in the process!  

PLOWBOY: John, you have, as our tour of the Common Ground experimental gardens clearly demonstrated, taken a piece of worse than marginal land—in the middle of an industrial park, no less—and transformed it into an incredibly productive mini-farm . . . all the while pioneering intensive gardening techniques that just may help feed the world some day. How is it that you came to be the foremost proponent of the practical use of biodynamic/French intensive methods? Did your background influence you toward a career in horticulture?

JEAVONS: No, not really. I was born in Texas—into an army family—and moved around a lot during my early years. After finishing high school in 1960, I enrolled at Yale University, majoring in political science. During my college years I worked—over summer vacations—as a systems analyst for Motorola Aerospace and Electronics. The job involved such tasks as reducing the amount of paper work people in the firm had to handle . . . sort of helping the engineers do more with less.

peggy beardsley_1
4/3/2010 11:11:16 AM

I am trying to find how to build a broad fork and all I can find is the interview, I do not find any dimensions, can someone help me?

12/31/2007 8:40:21 PM

i would like to get access to the drawings of the U-bar described in the above article. the article makes it sound like the drawings are part of the article but i do not see them. thanks for the help! marty



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