By Sarah Weber, Research Program Coordinator, Biodynamic Association
In January 2014, I enjoyed an intensive ten days visiting with friends and colleagues in the Mexico biodynamic community, many of whom I originally met when they attended biodynamic courses at C-Dar Lodge Farm in British Columbia, Canada. With many thanks to the hosts, who organized numerous events, I was able to learn directly about a range of biodynamic initiatives in Mexico and possibilities and desire for collaboration.
Ana Luz’s Orchard, Guadalajara
January 20: One of the first visits was to the orchard and gardens of Ana Luz Zepeda, in the municipality of El Salto, near the large city of Guadalajara. The orchard serves as an oasis in the middle of a low-income, urban-industrial zone. The land includes avocado trees, other fruit trees, vegetable gardens, bee hives, and fallow areas that may be brought into production in the future. Three people work at the orchard, with a larger group involved in learning about biodynamics. A number of group members participated in the visit — including Mariana Gimenez, Laura Mendivil, Roberto Nava, Silvia Martinez, Cesar Marino Cuevas, and Romina Barreto. The group is about one year old and had their first workshop in March 2012. They recently began making preparations, applying them at the orchard and sharing them for use in home gardens around the city. They began with spraying 500 and 501, then valerian to the avocado trees. Jose Maria Anguiano (Chema), who is based in Colima, visits every three months to provide advice on biodynamics.
Ana would like to increase their production, to provide healthy food for the people who request it at local markets. People at the market specifically seek out their produce and say that it tastes different.
El Rancho Jabali, near Colima
Jan 20-21: After a three hour bus ride from Guadalajara, I arrived in the city of Colima on the Pacific coast. Here I was greeted by Dr. Jose Manuel Palma and Dr. Jose Maria Anguiano of the University of Colima,who had arranged for a visit to El Rancho Jabali, a large ranch in the highlands above Colima. Juan Oseguera Parra (who I met at C-Dar and works at El Jabali) had written an article in the Colima newspaper about the visit. El Rancho Jabali is a diversified operation that combines ecotourism, cattle ranching, dairy, fruit tree orchards, coffee plantations, vegetable gardens, and a plant nursery. Products such as cheese and coffee are processed directly on site. The property has been managed organically for over thirty years. The owners place great importance on sustainability and quality. Ever present and ever changing in the background is the Volcan de Fuego, intermittently blowing out puffs of smoke and ash into the clear blue sky.
Dr. Palma and Dr. Anguiano are working with the managers to transition to an integrated biodynamic system and to record the changes thus observed. They have applied biodynamic preparations in some grazing pastures and orchards, are experimenting with biodynamic composts made of native plants, and are making biodynamic preparations on site. The ranch and its sister property (Cuixmala Ranch) present unique opportunities as a setting for biodynamic research.
Jornada Agroecologica y Biodinamica, in Comala and surrounding areas
January 22: Miguel Angel Rosas Urzua and colleagues organized an action-packed day of visits to agro-ecological projects, with community groups, university and government representatives involved in or interested in biodynamics. Four organizations worked together to organize the event — Agricultura de Vida A.C., Del Granjero Verde, Centro Cultural Comalli A.C., and Centro de Innovación para el Desarrollo Sustentable. A number of other organizations, including El planeta siente A.C. and Turismo Extremo Volcan de Colima, were present and shared about the work they are doing. The day included great discussion and learning among all those who attended.
Beginning with a delicious breakfast (many thanks to the chefs!), we visited the Huerto Agrobiodinamico of Grupo Eco Tenaces. The group aims to help create a community garden for each neighborhood in the city. We then walked over to visit the Waldorf school across the street.
In the nearby town of Montitlan, we toured the greenhouse of Del Granjero Verde, an enterprise that promotes the growth of home vegetable gardens and sale of ecologically produced food.
Next, in the town of Caja, we visited the site of a project that aims to create a municipal biodynamic composting system. The project is organized by the Instituto del Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable de Colima and H. Ayuntamineto de Comala. The organizers have already educated residents to separate their organic materials and have begun producing organic compost in a central location. The next stage is to make it a biodynamic compost and then use the compost in community gardens.
The event finished with a delicious comida at the Hostal Comalli house of culture, and a discussion attended by representatives of numerous groups. Common themes included the local and community production of healthy food, creating economic opportunities, and providing training in ecological and biodynamic food production. The mood of the day was one of great enthusiasm. Participants decided to form a network to support learning. They would like to stay in communication and collaborate.
Lime tree orchards and University of Colima at Tecoman
January 23: Today I went with Chema on a site visit to some of the Mexican lime tree orchards where he and Dr. Palma are working, using an integrated biodynamic approach to address Diaphorina citri and HLB disease. The two professors made a presentation about this research at the 2012 North American Biodynamic Conference. It was wonderful to have an opportunity to visit the orchards in person. This was followed by tour of the University of Colima at Tecoman.
Diplomado Agricultura Biodinamica, Huerta de Vinci, Cuernavaca
January 24: The next leg of the journey took me to Cuernavaca, a two-hour bus ride south of Mexico City. Over breakfast Berenice Escobar and Pedro Cruz discussed current and past Camino Verde projects and Pedro’s experience of applying biodynamics at his ranch. We then visited the Camino Verde office, biodynamic preparation storage area, and Cuernavaca Waldorf School.
January 24-26: It was an honour and pleasure to participate in the fourth and final session of a biodynamic `diplomado`at La Huerta de Vinci in Cuernavaca. Organized by Camino Verde, the course included a balance of activities and topics such as the esoteric background of biodynamics, practical aspects, calendar rhythms, geometry, and clay modelling of Platonic solids. Over twenty participants attended, including both newcomers and farmers with extensive biodynamic experience.
Rancho Ecoturistico Campo Real, Atotonilco
January 27: Berenice Escobar, Pedro Cruz, and myself travelled to Atotonilco, to visit the farm of Abdias Sanchez Barrera — Rancho Ecoturistico Campo Real. Abdias is five years into the process of converting his lands to biodynamic management. Prior to this they were farmed chemically for over thirty-eight years. He is doing applied research, from a practical business perspective, of how to convert to biodynamics while maintaining a viable business. He views the switch to biodynamics as a long-term investment.
At this point, Abdias has 1.4 of his fifty hectares of land in alfalfa production. Next, the alfalfa area will be converted to vegetable production. The remainder of the land is currently fallow, being given time to rest. All is being treated with biodynamic preparations. Most of the alfalfa is sold for horse feed. One of the main customers, a high-end horse trainer who competes in the United States, visited the farm with us.
Abdias would like his farm to become a demonstration research site where people in the region could learn how to change to biodynamic methods. He suggested there should be a demonstration farm like that in every region of Mexico, as the climate and ecosystems vary greatly across the country.
This post describes only a few biodynamic initiatives. There are many more across Mexico — including the first biodynamic coffee plantation, Finca Irlanda in Chiapas. Throughout this journey, it was energizing to be with people with such warmth, enthusiasm, and openness. I am deeply grateful to everyone who helped organize events, provided and prepared food, and contributed to the discussions. Gracias a todos!
For more information, see the Mexico contacts on our regional groups page and visit the Camino Verde website. If you are part of a biodynamic initiative in Mexico and would like to be added to the regional groups page, please contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Weber is the Research Program Coordinator for the Biodynamic Association. Based in Squamish, Cascadia, Sarah conducted a biodynamic apprenticeship at C-Dar Lodge Farm, has long taken part in biodynamic preparation making, and organized and helped teach biodynamic courses. In order to see how biodynamics is practiced and understood as widely as possible, she has traveled to attend an array of biodynamic workshops and conferences. She is motivated to explore applications of biodynamics in agriculture, forestry, and land restoration.
By Lily Frey, with photos by Luke Frey
Originally published in the December 2013 newsletter of the Biodynamic Association of Northern California (BDANC), this is the second in a series of articles relating to what Luke Frey has coined “The Agricultural Culinary Folk Arts” (www.freywine.com). See the first installment, by Christian Saretzki, here.
Welcome to the Primrose Café!
Squirrel Nut-kin crackers with dancing air bacteria, fine fruit,
aged dairy and prideful pesto
Small green leaves with finery and a lemon gowning
Oven roasted bird with yellow flower sauce and pollinators gold,
served on a bed of Irelands Favorites
Transparently rice with all finery, including plant of egg and other peter rabbit donations
Lemon basil san dia
Roasted garden pockets with goodness busting forth and pre-pickle relishing
Served with: Infused elixer of life
Dessert: Sun milk with food of the goods in a cup
Today is a special day. The Primrose Café only opens on someone’s birthday and today is someone’s birthday! I’m in the kitchen and there are five minutes until the first course will be served. Around me are chopped vegetables, fragrant fruits, ground spices, and blessed salt. Food, in all colors and states of preparation: sizzling sautéing delights, simmering bubbling sweetness, golden hot baking, and things cooling carefully. The head waiter and only waiter is a little person. He is getting the plates ready and excitedly saying, “Is it time yet?” again and again, and again.
Smells waft out the window to a group of people in a orchard sitting around a well set table. There are bright zinnias blooming, and a peach-colored rose bush looking lovely. The people about to be served have just gotten a poetry prompt, and are stretching themselves creatively, with pens, paper, and inwardness. An orchard surrounds The Primrose Café, its branches reaching and swaying, offering sweet apples to eager hands. Stretching out beyond the small orchard to one side are gardens filled with the abundance of late summer: rows of carrots, jungles of tomatoes, dark green basil, forests of kale punctuated by vibrant calendula, and borage flowers. Red beets, yellow chard, and lettuces grow eagerly with radishes, fennel, and dandelion in a hidden garden of life and vitality. Looking past the bee hives on the other side of the orchard, three Jersey cows peacefully rest, awaiting their evening hay. Beyond this, a small flock of meat chickens drink whey from those cows.
And then the young little waiter blows the horn to announce the beginning of the meal. With apron on, he proudly flourishes the first course. The food is displayed beautifully, for what is there to life if we can not experience and create beauty? Then, there is the freshness, all grown within sight of where we sit: aromatic, uplifting herbs; dark energizing greens; spry orange carrots; cheery cherry tomatoes; and cooling, crispy, cucumbers. The list is endless, and the courses are as well.
Each dish is brought separately, in carefully arranged small portions, so that it can be fully appreciated. It is exciting for the guests to guess what might be coming next. They see the menu at the beginning, but its descriptions are enigmatic enough to pique curiosity. And as the little waiter brings out the courses, the mystery is slowly revealed: Oven-roasted bird with yellow flower sauce and pollinators’ gold becomes a tangy and rich honey-mustard chicken. A nutty green salad bursting with healthful herbs and topped by a lemon vinaigrette. For an interlude to these courses we serve a lemon basil watermelon slushy, a pleasing palette cleanser. Then, roasted pockets become a roasted pepper stuffed with cheese, vegetables, and seeds with a cucumber relish. The meal is concluded by a homemade fruit ice cream, for which the waiter joins the table.
Our lives revolve around meals, and eating from the earth’s abundance that literally rests beneath our feet. At the Primrose Café, all the food is tied to the land. In this way each dish becomes a story—something beyond what we see on plates and in pots. Everything we eat is an intricate and interconnected character in a saga of sun, seasons, and spirit. But the Primrose Café is not just about food and having it come right from where we sit. It is also about striving for the best, the most beautiful. This includes how the food is grown and cooked, and it also includes how we eat it. There is always some kind of creative expression before the meal—a poetry prompt, creative writing, or music. It is about breaking out of habits and experiencing a meal in a fresh way. Every moment of our lives is a chance to be inspired and work for the best. In my mind, mealtimes and cooking are a perfect opportunity to work on ourselves as well as the food we create. After all, the kitchen is a place of alchemy and transformation.
At The Primrose Café, we strive to meet the moment of the meal with full appreciation and a wholeness of experience. We attend to all elements that became the meal. Often, when we eat a quick lunch on the go or pull together something for a late dinner, we are not fully present in gratitude and we do not recognize the miracle of the human’s relation to his environment. I realize, at some meals, that I am not actually listening to the person across from me. In fact, I am not responding to what they say, but instead I already have something in mind to say. The Primrose Café attempts to cultivate not only the relation between food and man, but also strives to enrich our interactions with each other. It is not about a particular formula or recipe to becoming awake. Rather, it is about maintaining an interest in life and never falling into the automatic. It is about questioning our actions, and measuring them against our ideal of the highest actions. And this attitude of awake interest and questioning can be brought into every aspect of life. How did I awake this morning? What were my first thoughts? First words to a family member? How did I react when I saw the weather or organized my day? And because we must eat every day, the kitchen and meals are a perfect time to really focus in on how we hold ourselves in the world. So next time you’re in the kitchen ask questions and pay attention to the answers. Where was that harvested and when? How was that harvested and by whom? Or how can I use this vegetable in a new and unfamiliar way? How does this make me feel or affect me? This is what the Primrose Café is about: slowing down, creating new things from what’s in season, and conversely creating new things and thoughts from within ourselves.
By Ambra Sedlmayr, Reto Ingold, and Ueli Hurter
Photos: taken by Melchior Pfeil at the biodynamic school in India where he spent the past year helping with hands-on teaching and with the farm work.
The decision to spend a year abroad or to host someone for a year needs to be well considered. Preparing for it and making the move takes some time. Although the set-off phase of the project is therefore longer than expected, we have verified a slow but steadily increasing interest from young biodynamic graduates. Pioneer projects were much less reserved from the start! We now have 11 accredited pioneer projects: they are based all over the world. In South America the range varies from Patagonia (Argentina) to Mexico; in Africa there are five projects; the fewest applications came from Asia; some came from the periphery of Europe. There are small family-run farms that want to get into biodynamics, rural and social development projects needing help with the extension and support work they provide for disadvantaged farmers, biodynamic training centers in their early years, and biodynamic gardens in development connected to Steiner schools or socio-therapeutic institutions.
Melchior Pfeil, our first official and fully fledged ambassador returned from his year in India. A German theosophy graduate is now studying biodynamics to be able to take up Melchior’s place in the Inba Seva Sangam project in India, starting next autumn.
The cooperation with the Friends of Waldorf Education is developing further. They are starting an incoming program for people who want to come to Germany and work on biodynamic farms. This is another way that knowledge can be transferred to pioneer projects far away. The voluntary workers on German biodynamic farms can certainly take a lot of know-how back home. To deepen that know-how, we plan to work in cooperation with German biodynamic trainings and offer some twenty days of biodynamic training to the incoming volunteers.
This year we have also been able to move the idea of “senior ambassadors” forward. We have received a number of inquiries of people with much experience in biodynamic agriculture who would like to support pioneer projects abroad with a short-term stay (up to two months). Some pioneer projects have specific questions, such as how to make good compost using biodynamic methods, but are not able to host an ambassador for an entire year. Connecting the experienced “seniors” with projects has become a further area of work of the Biodynamic Ambassadors project. Marco Brutschin, a gardening teacher in a Swiss Waldorf school, will be traveling for two months to Colombia to help an organic dairy and vegetable garden to introduce biodynamic methods. We are looking for financial support to help a senior ambassador go to Kplaimé in Togo, where they are introducing biodynamic methods as a way of fighting chemical agriculture in a community project. They found biodynamics to be a real alternative that resonates with the people’s cultural undersanding of nature. We would like to twin up this and other projects with a farm or project in Europe that is interested in continuous exchange and supporting their work.
News about the project is now communicated via the BINGN newsletter, and we have been invited to make regular contributions to the newsletter Biodynamics in the World. We have been able to help out and connect a number of people during this past year.
At the upcoming Agriculture Conference at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, we will host our second Biodynamic Ambassadors open meeting. This will be held on Thursday the 6th of February from 3.15 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. (the room will be announced in the conference reader). Anyone interested in this project is warmly welcome!
by Jeff Schreiber
The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.
– Paul Cezanne
We in the Midwest were blessed this season by the extended visit of biodynamic researcher and consultant Bruno Follador. In May, with fellow instructor Angela Curtes, Bruno gave a hands-on overview of Ehrenfried Pfeiffer’s farm-scale hot controlled fermentation compost process. From November 1-3, he “dwelved” (his wonderful word!) deeper into all things cosmic and compost at the workshop “More Humus, More Humanity: Insights and Practices out of Biodynamic Agriculture.” From the first night’s lecture it was clear – to the diverse group of farmers, gardeners, teachers, orchardists, and others assembled – that Bruno was not going to just come right out and give us his insights; we’d have to work for them.
Through stories, poems, exercises, a movie, and wonderful living language – through portraying rather than explaining – Bruno carefully built up a picture of the whole issue at hand. These lyrics from the Canadian singer-songwriter Feist, for example, were displayed throughout the workshop with a series of images for us to ponder:
The mountain, the mountain
Came to recognize
Its steep and rocky sides
More than realized
The issue at hand? Our thinking. One simple exercise, in which we viewed an image that first appeared to be random dots arranged in a circle, served to illustrate the complex process that plays out in our minds when observing phenomena.
Upon receiving the image, some began to rotate it to and fro, trying to catch its orientation. Most jumped into the task with zeal – curious, engrossed, excited about the challenge. Some, clearly, found it tedious; they were “above” such games, perhaps. Whispers revealed that some searched their memories for help, or sought for a sort of comparative analysis in their attempt at comprehension. Wild guesses from some, or an attempt to squint and hold the image closer or farther from one’s eyes. A few, here and there, discovered the image and appeared noticeably relieved, satisfied. Others appeared less excited, more tense, annoyed. Finally, when most seemed to have found it – or at least were too embarrassed to admit they hadn’t – the riddle was announced: “a giraffe!” Hiding in the apparently random collection of dots was the coherent image of a giraffe’s head.
Everything beckons to us to perceive it,
murmurs at every turn ‘Remember me!’
– Rainer Maria Rilke
What happened in this process, we wondered? What happened at that moment when our perception of random dots magically aligned itself into a conception of a giraffe’s head? If we just perceived (“to take the truth,” in German, the multi-lingual Bruno explained) would we ever see the giraffe? With just an organizing idea or concept of a giraffe, would we see anything at all? What is it that unites percept and concept? Bruno coaxed us to the significance of these ideas, this awareness of the process of thinking: too often we approach the world by jumping to explanations or slapping on ready-made and rigid concepts, instead of giving the things we come across time and space to speak to us as they are. Instead of going out to sensuously and empathically meet the real, living beings in the world, we instead retreat into some imagined and distanced “objective” intellect. From there, we “thing the world,” to use Craig Holdrege’s phrase. All phenomena become merely things “out there,” things to manipulate, exploit, and control. Here, in this worldview, is where the horrors of our world begin: soil becomes just an inert medium for root growth. Chickens: just cuts of meat. Water: just molecules. Land: just a commodity. People: just collections of genes.
Chances are, like me, you are probably not even conscious of the extent to which this thinking influences your worldview. Presenters like Bruno and Holdrege (who is the director of The Nature Institute, and whose new book on this subject, Thinking Like a Plant, is much recommended) can be helpful in making one aware of such “object thinking,” and in moving toward a more “living thinking” (Holdrege’s terms). Bruno, in the living way in which he speaks – gestures – about composting, models this awake, aware thinking: The pile is not merely a mechanism or thing composed of thing-like materials, it is on its way to becoming a being, a whole. It needs a proper form, a proper body, just as we do.
There is no “recipe” of a certain amount of “greens” and “browns;” one must rather pay attention and develop a personal relationship to the materials that make up the pile, and to the pile itself as it ages. (“She’s a wise one!” said Bruno of a particularly lovely and mature pile). The pile itself is the teacher, one learns by “taking the truth” and orienting oneself to the living pile and the processes and forces behind it, around it, within it. Answers can be found in the intervals and participations between parts. The four elements are “wonderful helpers” in this process, in seeing the pile as whole. “How are you formed/ing?” is the prevailing attitude, not “Why?” As Bruno describes it, the pile seems more verb than noun, really.
The whole problem is primarily a moral one.
– Ehrenfried Pfeiffer
As the workshop came to a close, we brought our burning questions to the group. What role do we play in the life of the earth? Given the atrocities we’ve committed – the species extinct, the rivers fouled, the land scorched – would not the earth be better off without us? Such a sentiment, though understandable, can only be the result of object thinking. We cannot “opt out” of our participation in nature, regardless of how hard we imagine it to be just a “bunch of things” to which we needn’t have any moral obligation. No, Bruno explained, we must take responsibility. The very act of observation is a moral act, he stressed. Most people, I think, understand this at some level. Even in our intermediated, Facebook-ed world one can still sometimes become aware of and connect with something or someone as they are (as opposed to how we would like them to be). A smile, a certain look, a touch. It becomes harder to distance ourselves once such a connection is made, harder not to feel morally committed. This sense of responsibility, as most farmers know, only increases the more you pay attention, the more you remain true to what you see, the more you become enmeshed in a place. This is why it’s important that the use of land is granted to those who exercise an alive, participatory thinking.
The revolution we so badly need won’t come through new laws or economic policies. No, it will come, in philosopher David Abram’s words, “through a rejuvenation of our carnal sensorial empathy with the living land that sustains us.” It will come through free people paying ever greater attention – little by little, day by day – to the phenomena that surrounds them: carrots, compost, other people. The element that is decisive is human consciousness, human thinking. By the end of the workshop, an image had emerged for me from Bruno’s pictures and gestures. In it, thousands of small farms blossomed across the land, like so many wildflowers in a prairie. Each was a unique, living organism, part of its place; none were the same. Each had a compost pile at its center, its heart. And around these farms myriad beings coalesced, forming through their openness and attention new, living communities, new wholes, new beings.
Jeff Schreiber received a scholarship from the Biodynamic Scholarship Fund to attend “More Humus, More Humanity.” Jeff farms at Three Sisters Community Farm in Campbellsport, Wisconsin, a community-oriented farm serving the greater Milwaukee area.
By Robert Karp
Executive Director, Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association
Some of you may be aware of the storied history of Temple-Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire, one of the first and most innovative community supported agriculture (CSA) farms in North America. I had the great pleasure to visit the farm this October and wanted to share a report of the growth and progress of this beautiful and important farm.
Started by biodynamic farmers Trauger Groh, Lincoln Geiger, Anthony Graham, and a host of community members in the mid-1980s, the farm is known for pioneering a unique (some would call it “archetypal”) form of CSA, rooted deeply in the social and economic ideas of Rudolf Steiner.
At Temple-Wilton, for example, there is not an equal, evenly distributed share price. Rather, members attend an annual meeting each year to review and discuss the farm’s total budget and decide what amount they each feel they can contribute to that budget. Each member writes down his or her proposed financial offering on a piece of paper; if those sums don’t add up to meet the annual budget, then the members go around again and offer additional sums until the budget is met. The process, in other words, is highly participatory, communal, and transparent.
This model of CSA has so many benefits. First of all, it liberates everyone, farmers and eaters alike, from the notion that they are buying and selling produce. Instead, it fosters the consciousness among the members that they are making gifts to support the continued existence of the farm as a whole and that the produce they receive in return is a gift. But it also models transparency, through the fact that the farm finances and the plans for the farm each year are made completely transparent to the members, who have a chance to give input and raise questions. A true gift economy is thus being developed that harmonizes the different interests and need of the farmers, the land, and the community.
For those who want to find out more about their unique approach to CSA, I strongly encourage you to read “A Brief History of the Farm” on their website, the seminal book Farms of Tomorrow Revisited, and Steven McFadden’s wonderful history of the CSA movement.
I was thrilled to discover on this trip that Temple-Wilton has more and more become a year-round CSA that can meet the bulk of a family’s food needs, offering their members everything from pork, beef, chicken, eggs, raw milk, and cheese to vegetables throughout the year, not to mention fruit, bread, and other products from local affiliated farms. Members can stop by the farm at any time to pick up the food they need.
And consider this: the average contribution to the farm per household of two adults is $200 a month to the farm. Friends, this is not CSA as a trendy addition to one’s lifestyle, this is CSA as a core commitment to one’s health, to the health of one’s local community, and to the health of the planet.
The farm made a strong impression on me. The animals and the fields looked extraordinarily healthy and the whole place smelled wonderful: the perfect balance of the earthly and the cosmic, like fine wine, wonderfully made compost, or fresh-baked bread. How amazing it would be, I thought, to get the majority of one’s food from one vital, self-sustaining biodynamic farm organism. Imagine the impact on one’s health after seven years of nourishing one’s body from such a farm organism and renewing all one’s cells thereby.
It was also wonderful to see how the farm has grown over the last decade. Many new parcels of land have been acquired, making the farm ever more self-sufficient in terms of fertility and feed. All this land has been purchased with gifts from the local community and is secured long term by easements and/or land trust ownership. There is a new café on the farm, which fosters a wonderful social element. The farm is also growing its commitment to farm-based education of children and youth from local schools.
New farmers have also found a home on the farm or in the surrounding community, and this younger generation appears to be playing a stronger and stronger role—starting new enterprises and holding out new visions for the future. I had wonderful meetings, for example, with Brad Miller, who works for High Mowing, a local Waldorf board high school, who is working to secure key additional parcels of land that would allow High Mowing to strengthen its farm-based education programs and provide important additional land for the growth of Temple-Wilton Community Farm.
The impression of the farm and community is thus one of growing maturity—evolving from high-integrity food production through innovative social arrangement to becoming more and more a center for community life and cultural renewal.
I am also deeply gratified to report that I spent a good deal of time with a hale and healthy Lincoln Geiger, who just a year ago had been severely injured by a bull. Lincoln reports that the accident was transformational for his inner life, and he shared deep gratitude for the many people in the biodynamic movement who supported him with their thoughts and prayers. Trauger and Alice Groh are also still intimately involved in the work, nourishing the deep spiritual foundations for the community. They are currently seeking a new farmer for their land; we hope to publish a formal announcement of this opportunity in our forums soon.
Robert Karp is the Executive Director of the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association and a long-time social entrepreneur in the sustainable food and farming movement. Robert has helped start numerous innovative food projects, including CSAs, farmers’ markets, institutional buying projects and farmer-buyer-consumer alliances. He is also the founder of New Spirit Farmland Partnerships, LLC, which helps organic and sustainable farmers acquire farmland by linking them with ethical investors. He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his wife and two children.
By Bruno Follador
Despite the growing awareness of the political and economic drive behind the industrialization of agriculture, seldom is there an in-depth discussion about the mode of consciousness that allowed the development of this mechanized and destructive form of agriculture.
The sustainable agricultural movement, in a way, arose out of the perception of the symptoms and consequences of our disassociation from nature. Innumerable actions and movements are being taken to counter issues like climate change, the honey bee colony collapse disorder, destruction of our forests, and the proliferation of GMOs. Often the symptoms are said to be the cause of the problem. We might have heard that the bees are dying because of the GMOs, pesticides, climate change, etc. But could there be something deeper underlying the tragedy of industrial agriculture and our current environmental and social problems?
I believe that Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, one of the pioneers of biodynamic agriculture, began to address the essence of the problem when he wrote:
“The whole problem is primarily a moral one. Our future depends upon our choice between death forces and life forces; upon whether or not we will return in humility to the soil. The great questions are: Will we return to a philosophy of life which lays stress upon growth? Will our youth be educated in the spirit of growing things, and of service to life? Will they learn that it means more than money to plant our seeds and harvest crops? If the right inner attitude towards the soil penetrates the human race again, a renaissance of rural life will begin, and not only will new resources be created for our population, but spiritually we will be ‘safe’.”
In the light of these words, I have been working with the Biodynamic Association and Michael Fields Agricultural Institute to develop a weekend workshop, More Humus, More Humanity: Insights and Practices out of Biodynamic Agriculture, which will give a historical context of the coming into being of the impulse given by Rudolf Steiner for the renewal of agriculture and what is now called biodynamics. Through the workshop, I will also strive to provide a current context for this work so that its insights and imaginations can come into a practical perspective. A core component of the workshop will be to explore agriculture and biodynamics through Goethean science. We will discuss how Goethean science can deepen our understanding of the current social and ecological crisis, and how we can use it to develop a greater sensitivity towards the nuances and subtleties of our agricultural landscape, farm individuality, Nature, and the movements of our Earth.
The following questions will form our focus: How do I develop an inner organ of discernment as I work and co-create with Nature? How do I become aware of the creative forces of growth in Nature? And how do I begin to take responsibility towards these forces of growth?
At the beginning of twentieth century, Rudolf Steiner was already calling our attention to the fact that “the interests of agriculture are bound up with the broadest spheres of human life…there is practically no field of human endeavor that does not relate to agriculture in some way. Seen from whatever perspective you choose, agriculture touches on every single aspect of human life.”
Biodynamic agriculture is not simply concerned with good nutrition or farming practices that cause the least harm to nature. The agricultural foundations laid by Rudolf Steiner have a deeper significance illustrated beautifully by the German ethnobotanist Wolf D. Storl: “Biodynamics is a human service to the Earth and its creatures.”
So, within this context, this workshop is not only for farmers and gardners but also to anyone interested and concerned with the present and future of our dear Earth and its people.
More Humus, More Humanity: Insights and Practices out of Biodynamic Agriculture will be offered November 1-3, 2013 at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, Wisconsin. For more information and to register, please visit our website.
Bruno Follador has been working in biodynamic composting methods for several years and has worked with farmers in Brazil, Europe and the United States. Bruno received his training in Biodynamic gardening and beekeeping at the Pfeiffer Center, in New York. For the last three years he was one of the researchers and consultants of the Ludolf Andreas Lab for Soil Fertility at Andreashof, a biodynamic farm in Germany, where he worked with compost and chromatography. At the moment he is living between Brazil and the U.S.A where he is consulting at different farms.
By Jeff Schreiber
Originally published in the Three Sisters Community Farm CSA newsletter (Sept. 18, 2013).
At a break-out session of this past year’s biodynamic farming conference, a young couple explained to the group a motivating impulse behind the difficult work of getting their farm up and running. What they really desire, they said, is to give the fruits of their labor to others. They want to offer the things they produce on the farm as a gift to others in their community.
Salty, perhaps, from a couple challenging years of trying to get Three Sisters off the ground while working other jobs and weathering an epic drought, my first thought was to chalk such silly talkup to youthful idealism and naiveté. But these young farmers were sincere, and the group open-minded and encouraging. As we talked more, I realized that this impulse – to selflessly use one’s skills and gifts to meet the needs of others – has been expressed, sometimes in different forms, by many young people I know. Many are farmers or aspiring farmers, but not all. Some are tailors, bakers, or health care workers. Together, I think, they are creating a new, living local economy.
When one works with intention – with love – out of a desire to understand and meet the real needs of others, the result is much different than the result of work done simply to obtain a profit or a wage. Consider the home-cooked meal, lovingly prepared by a friend who knows your dietary likes and dislikes. Far more satisfying – right? – than the hurried, tasteless stuff from the fast-food drivethru.
That home-cooked meal, prepared with love, is of a different quality – it has a different value – than the fast food. And this value is somehow different than monetary value, different than value defined by the market. To put a price on the meal cooked by your friend would diminish it, demean it. Those working out of the impulse of the new economy are interested in providing things like this, things of real value to real people.
And so the gift. To gift is to say: “Here is the product of my unique skills and gifts, the product of love, which I made for you out of an understanding of you and your needs. It has no monetary value; you cannot pay me for it.” It is an attempt to begin to reclaim the many values that have been taken from us, to stop in its tracks the ceaseless commodification of every aspect of our lives.
Of course, the gift is not “free.” In a living economy values are exchanged in direct, trusting relationships. Each party works to meet the needs of the other, and both benefit. Because the farm participates in the money economy to a certain degree, some of our needs are indeed monetary. It’s to meet these monetary needs that we charge a fee for membership in our CSA.
Still, it is important that you know you are not “buying” vegetables through the CSA. Your money (or labor if you’re a worker shareholder) meets our (modest!) needs so that we can put everything we’ve got (and we do) into lovingly producing the highest quality, highest value food we can for you. We take this work very seriously, and are extremely grateful for your support. Enjoy the gift of your vegetables this week!
Jeff Schreiber farms at Three Sisters Community Farm in Campbellsport, Wisconsin, a community-oriented farm serving the greater Milwaukee area.