A Growing Culture
  • Outreach


AGC conducts numerous outreach activities that strengthen communities, build and solidify partnerships, and set up long-term farmer autonomy. The organization has adopted a new outreach approach that works equally on the ground and online. Our work online is not meant as a replacement to grounds movements, but as a way to amplify stories and broaden reach and impact. Moving away from ideal farm models, fixed agroecology methods, and instructional training, AGC is pushing collaboration to the forefront of all activities. We have decided that our outreach programs should be directly collaborative with the amazing and inspirational farmer-centric movements already established throughout the world.  Instead of re-inventing the wheel, or establishing regional headquarters, AGC is hoping to partner with peasant universities, grassroots NGO’s, farmer groups and coops to assist their ability to drive development from within the existing community.

The organization’s curriculums will be site-specific, collective, and involve innovations of multiple local actors involved with projects. Most importantly, farmer-led documentation (FLD) will be incorporated into curriculums to ensure successes and challenges are recorded, exchanged, and shared with wider communities. The innovations happening on the ground will have a new avenue for dissemination: The Library, an online platform for hosting, organizing, preserving, and sharing farmer-led innovations and grassroots movements. For the non-digital communities that we work with, we will have equally stimulating compilations of our work seen in an annual yearbook, directories, analog curriculums, visual materials, and more.


An Overview of A Growing Culture’s Previous Outreach Projects

As climate change becomes more apparent, farming conditions are changing and the need to find site-specific local adaptations of ecological agriculture principles is essential to feeding a population of nine billion by the year 2050. AGC is committed to helping farmers around the world find low cost, long term solutions to environmental degradation that help farmers feed their communities more effectively.

Since it’s inception in October of 2010, AGC has worked with local farmers around the world to promote and develop ecological agriculture practices. We believe local farmers must be kept at the center of innovation and change. This is why rather than teach or lecture, all AGC Outreach work is conducted with the support of local lead farmers, who co-facilitate training workshops that encourage local adaptation of sustainable agriculture principles. Our approach relies on developing relationships with local farmers and community leaders and learning from them about the challenges they are faced with and the resources they need. AGC does not bring in any products or technology, but looks for sustainable solutions within the existing community. We offer technical assistance and support through the sharing of sustainable agriculture theories and principles, which are used to inspire and drive farmer innovation. We believe that by empowering local community members to innovate, we can help build a global community of growers that will thrive long after AGC has an on the ground presence.

The following is a brief overview of several AGC Outreach projects:

Kenyan Food Forest Training Site  

Project Location: Rhongo, Kenya
Project Date: 2014-2015
Group of Local Farmers:  Caleb Odondi Omolo
AGC Staff: Paul Muindi, Will Rutherford and Loren Cardeli

Developing and Assessing Appropriate Ecological Agriculture Technologies in Vietnam

Project Location: Ba Vi District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Project Date: Fall 2014
Lead Local Farmer: Mrs. Hue from Ba Trai Commune
AGC Training Staff: Pham Nhu Trang

Throughout this region of Vietnam, much of the agriculture is small scale and highly localized. This is primarily due to the geography and the lack of large scale fields that are seen in other regions of the world such as the U.S., Africa, and Europe.

Like most farmers of the world, in Vietnam they are continually looking to improve their yields and maximize their land’s productivity without compromising it’s ability to produce for future generations. But also like most farmers of the world, industrial agriculture chemicals and technologies are prevalent and heavily marketed. In an effort to spread ecological agriculture practices, which are affordable, simple, and easily adapted for each system, Trang began working with local farmers in the Ba Vi District to develop appropriate technologies for improving their systems.

When adding or creating farm systems the first step is observation. After taking a careful survey of the land and speaking with the farmers Trang was then ready to begin implementing the new systems, or as it was written in the report, “transferring technologies”.

Technologies Transferred:

  • Compost system using Toptex plastic for higher temperature composting. This replaced more expensive petro-fertilizers and closed a waste loop by allowing on-farm organic matter to stay within the system and not simply decay where it falls or is left. The compost was used in all soil preparations and consisted of plant OM, pig manure, dry weeds and fresh weeds.
  • Redesigned vegetable beds to maximize space and increase on-farm biodiversity. Integrated pest management (IPM), intercropping, N-fixing plants, and the use of a locally developed bio-pesticides (chinaberry leaves and tobacco leaves) all helped increase yields. The new design expanded the planting area by 2000 m^2 and increased the yield 1.5kg/m^2!
  • Created a fermented, living-bed system for the swine operation. All materials used where available on-farm or locally at no-cost other than labor. Ingredients for the living-bed where dry leaves, sawdust, rice husked and EM (Effective Microbes) that was created on-farm. The pigs help create an amazing compost through their bedding which is then used as fertilizer.
  • Created a fermented feed for swine using banana stems. Microbes are able to break down the fibers of the banana stems which unlocks nutrients for the pigs. The microbes themselves also provide a source of protein and nutrients as they are living on the banana stems at the time of consumption. Fermenting of the banana stems turned a previous waste product into a viable feed, which helped to decrease off-farm feed inputs.

Below is Trangs assessment of the Living Bed Technology for swine, there are currently 4 farms in the region using this technology.

1. Economic:

–  Save 60 % labor

– Save 80% water

– Pigs are healthier and meat is better –> farmers save money because living bed reduces disease on pig and they can sell pig with good price.

   2. Environment:

– Reduce gas emission

– No smell

– Via living bed, farmers can make dry weed, leave, rice straw to be compost –> farmer use that compost for planting –> no burning; improve soil

3. Society

– Farmers and people work and live in the fresh air –> healthier                                                                                                – Burning rice straw is one of reasons of accident in Vietnam –> reduce accident

188805_345722845534241_1991295003_nAdding EM


556679_345722925534233_1988596029_nCreating living bed for swine

Screen shot 2015-02-15 at 10.02.39 AM








Adding composted living bed to vegetable bed

Screen shot 2015-02-15 at 10.03.27 AMFermentation of banana leaves for swine feed

Screen shot 2015-02-15 at 10.08.05 AM






Newly designed,  intercropped vegetable bed


Effects of Raw Milk  Fertilization on Mixed Cool Season Pastures

Project Location: Reidsville, NC, USA
Project Date: Spring 2013
Lead Local Farmer: Worth Kimmel
AGC Training Staff: Asher Wright

In forage-based livestock operations, forage quality and quantity are paramount to the success of the operation. Forage is a general term that refers to any plant that is used by the animal to meet it’s nutritional needs and sustain life. Examples are grasses, legumes, and forbs (various broad-leaf plants).

Raw milk has been an alternative fertilizer of curiosity to many pasture managers as a means to promote productivity and quality in forages. Several articles have been circulated in eco-ag literature as to the wondrous effects of raw milk as a foliar fertilizer. There are claims that even in a concentration of 2 gal/acre of application, that cool season forage production may be increased by 1,200 lbs/acre compared to non-fertilized plots.

Individual producers have experimented with treatments and seem to concur that raw milk is a cost affective means of boosting yields.

Raw milk may provide a microbial boost to the pasture system by actually inoculating the soil with milk-borne microbes and by providing food for microbes through milks natural sugars. It has been suggested that this improves the soil food web as well as plant quality by making available to plants, nitrogen and other nutrients when the bacteria die and are mineralized.

We sought out to test these claims in a plot study at Pine Trough Branch Farm in Reidsville, North Carolina, USA. Parameters tested where, total dry matter yield, soil compaction, and plant nutrient quality. The findings were interesting and a published summary of the results will be available by the end of the year. Stay Tuned!



Diversified Orchard Project

Project Location: Homabay, Kenya
Project Date: Spring 2013 
Lead Local Farmer: 
AGC Staff: Loren Cardeli

One of the biggest challenges to implementing orchards into impoverished communities is developing long-term goals for financial stability. Farmers do not have the ability to wait for several years before income is generated.  Thus the long term planning to plant an orchard is rarely considered a viable option in these communities. In the Spring of 2013, AGC attempted to create an orchard model that allowed for both short term and long term benefits with the help of local women. A diverse selection of mango varieties were planted at normal intervals with papaya trees in between.  The papaya trees matured faster than the mangoes and will produce income within a few years.  In between the rows of papaya and mangoes were cassava plants and a variety of native, nitrogen fixing short-season vegetables.  This model incorporated immediate return (vegetables), intermediate (cassava and papaya) and long term (mangoes).

To minimize labor during the dry season, soil was always covered with nitrogen fixing plants, and the fruit trees were surrounded by an outer circumference of vetiver grass.  Vetiver with its deep roots, aids in water retention and organic matter building, which hastened the rate of growth for the fruit trees.  The design of the orchard is great example of how the permaculture method of layer farming can be implemented to a allow all layers of crops to be incorporated from groundcover to canopy and to short term and long term models for economic stability.

Orphanage and Neema Women’s Group Group Training Project

Project Location: Kabarnet, Kenya
Project Date: Spring 2013 
Lead Local Farmer: Dan Kiprop Kibet
AGC Staff: Loren Cardeli

Many social issues are tied into access to food and land.  Sunrise Children’s Home in Kabarnet, is home to a large number of incredibly energetic and vibrant local youth. AGC co-founder Loren Cardeli resided with Sunrise Children’s home for a month where he helped the orphanage and “Neema,” a women’s group, build an organic farm.  The project involved a weeklong training workshops on the principles of sustainable agriculture and culminated in the implementation of an organic farm providing the children and their community with access to healthy, safe food. AGC also provided the women with organic seeds, materials and all the resources they needed to build their organic farms. The training was provided free of cost and covered a wide range of topics as companion planting, integrated pest management, composting, soil building, legume incorporation, grazing management, and more.

“Having the team of AGC joining our Project for a month was without doubt one of the best experiences we have had in ‘’Neema’’ our women’s group in Kabarnet (Kerio Valle, Kenya).

Loren and Kiprop provided us with invaluable and profound lessons. With AGC something as simple as planting a bean becomes an awakening of consciousness and ultimately a road to freedom. Such a simple lesson for each and every woman, a lesson to help them, not just as farmers but also as mothers. A lesson to encourage them to pass on a new way of thinking, living and being for generations to come.

AGC embodies a timeless yet ever relevant philosophy that may, hopefully, seed by seed, change the world for the better.”


Watch the Video here:

Empowering Farmer Workshops

Project Location: Kenya (various locations)
Project Date: Spring 2013 
Lead Local Farmer: Dan Kiprop Kibet
AGC Staff: Loren Cardeli

Throughout Kenya, from Nanyuki and Embu, to Rift Valley and Lake Victoria, AGC conducted several workshops for farmer groups in the Spring of 2013.  These workshops were geared to breed innovation and farmer research as sustainable agriculture was taught through principles and not techniques. From hands on instruction AGC was able to empower farmers to become agents of change. There were always large turnouts for these demonstrations and constant request for more to come. AGC looks forward to cultivating more relationships with farmers around the world and using their existing farms as learning sites for future workshops.

“The group was very pleased with the training AGC did and as a result we are implementing AGC’s teachings on ecological farming and pest management without using harmful chemicals which are in the long term bad for both people and the environment. We are also applying fish fertilizers to our gardens. As a result of AGC’s trainings we are doing a program of implementing Kitchen gardens in every home of our farmer group.”

-Caleb Odondi Omolo, Kenyan Farmer



Zero Waste Training Farm

Project Location: Quoc Oai, Vietnam
Project Date: February 2012
Lead Local Farmer: Nguyen Hong Long
AGC  Staff: Will Rutherford and Loren Cardeli

Vietnam’s rich biodiversity in the north region provides an excellent climate for an abundance of different crops and livestock species.  In February 2012, AGC along with SPIN (Sustainable Product Innovation) and several local farm families, built a zero-waste training farm where over 30 techniques were taught and implemented to a community of farmers.  Some of the concepts covered were companion planting, homemade fish emulsions, EM technology, living bed technology, composting, free-range chicken production, fermentation, duckweed and azolla production, bio-char production, and many more.  AGC worked closely with five families in a two-month period where AGC staff Loren Cardeli and William Rutherford lived, worked, and built strong relationships on mutual respect and hard work that laid the framework for effective knowledge sharing. This project helped define AGC’s outreach principle of integrating into the community rather than attempting to educate in a paternalistic way. In the end, the entire project was a success, as in less than two months products were already being brought to the market and land that wasn’t previously in cultivation was bountiful with produce.

“A Growing Culture enables the sharing of sustainable agriculture technique that is crucial to sustainable development. The AGC team worked very closely with a handful of families in Quoc Oai, Vietnam, to promote independence from expensive foreign inputs, while increasing profits and protecting the environment. Together with AGC we promoted zero-waste agriculture practices on our Knowledge Farm.  We look forward to working with AGC in the future!”

– Mr. Nguyen Hong Long, Senior CP and SPI expert, Vietnam Cleaner Production Centre


Perennial Peanut Polyculture  

Project Location: Dalat, Vietnam
Project Date: Fall 2011
Group of Local Farmers:  Jangala and Local Highland Montagnards
AGC Staff: Will Rutherford and Loren Cardeli

In Vietnam, like other developing countries, many farmers plant permanent cash crops close together to maximize their production and thus increase their income. This technique is frequented by farmers in the Central highlands of Vietnam who grow coffee, tea, and fruit plantations. There are several environmental and economic problems associated with these mono-crop systems and local farmers have experienced significant erosion, nutrient loss, loss of topsoil, polluted water sources and compacted soils. Most of these environmental issues increase the dependence on the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, which can have severe consequences to human health and the earth’s future food productivity.

As Vietnam has become one of the world’s largest producers of coffee, and as the crop has been widely planted throughout the country, Vietnam’s agricultural landscape has experienced a large amount of deforestation along the mountain slopes which has caused countless environmental problems.  Specifically, the coffee monoculture has led to the wide scale use of herbicides, and commercial fertilizers.

Biodiversity and polyculture are key factors to any sustainable agricultural system because they aid in pest control, cut environmental impacts and can provide different means of income. In the Fall of 2011 AGC worked side by side local farmers and a French organization called Jangala, to introduce perennial peanut (Arachis pintoi) into coffee plantations in Vietnam. The planting of perennial peanut in Vietnamese coffee plantations is a great example of how the principles of polyculutre and biodiversity can be applied to soils to improve soil health and crop productivity.

Perennial peanut originate in Brazil and is well adapted to low fertility soils. It is a stoloniferous plant, which means it is a creeping horizontal plant that takes root along its length to form new plants. Planting perennial peanut into coffee plantations with significant soil issues, can help solve issues of erosion, add nitrogen to the soil, making it an ample ground cover.

Perennial peanut meets all of AGC’s requirements for appropriate eco-ag outreach, as it is almost free to implement, requires no fertilization, and effectively stops the needs for any herbicides to be used in the future.  It either eradicates the need for conventional fertilizers or drastically reduces the amount needed while preventing erosion and building soil organic matter.

AGC trained a community of minority Montagnards in how to cultivate, plant and implement perennial peanut as a ground cover. In just one year the peanut covered the whole area effectively.  With a strong ground cover present, small animals like chickens could be introduced and grazed on its high protein forage, adding to the fertilization of the coffee trees.  Also as the perennial peanut flowers at the opposite time as the coffee flower, bee production can be introduced allowing farmers nectar all year long.