Biodynamic initiatives in Mexico
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 email@example.com.
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.