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Reflections on Biodynamics and Organics

August 16, 2017

By Anthony Mecca

Originally published in Great Song Farm’s CSA Newsletter


This past weekend I was at the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Summer Conference in Amherst, MA, exhibiting for and connecting folks to the Biodynamic Association, whose farmer training and apprenticeship program I coordinate alongside my work at Great Song Farm. Over 1,000 people attend each year, younger and older, those just starting out and seasoned veterans, gardeners, homesteaders, farmers, policy folks, and “just eaters.”

One of the “hot topics” this year was “corporate organics” and the larger corporations stretching the organic standards to include hydroponically grown produce (grown in a soil-less nutrient solution), chickens that live their whole lives shoulder to shoulder and wing to wing, and cows that never see a blade of grass and live in “organic” CAFOs (Concentrated/Confined Animal Feeding Operation). All of these products are available at your grocery store simply lumped together and labeled as organic, making it difficult to know what their sources are and how they were actually raised.

Beside the fervor around the “co-opting” of organics, it was fascinating to see what connection folks have to biodynamic agriculture, what they’ve heard, and what they think of it. I wonder how many of you are aware that we practice biodynamic agriculture, or have heard of it otherwise? What do you think?

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Biodynamic Association exhibit at the NOFA Summer Conference

One of the most challenging and frequently asked questions was “what is the difference between biodynamic and organic?” Being amidst organic supporters, I had to be careful not to demean, even unintentionally. There are also many “organic” farmers who have never heard of biodynamics, but who incorporate many of the principles and practices in their farming, so to distinguish between them cleanly and clearly is quite a task.

Biodynamics views the earth, the farm, the soil, plants, animals, and human beings all as living, breathing, developing organisms. All of these beings are intimately connected to each other, as well as being part of an even larger whole consisting of other cosmic beings such as the sun, moon, and the other planets, which themselves are embedded in the the zodiac, and beyond. The human being’s (farmer or gardener) task is to build strong individual relationships with them all to the best of our abilities; to converse deeply with them; and to befriend and care for them in such a way that we help them to unfold and grow towards their highest potential. Doing so brings about great nutrition and health to all involved, including you, the eaters!

The Demeter Biodynamic® certification standard is health positive for the entire farm and the larger ecosystems of which it is a part. This includes higher standards for animal welfare and care; guidelines for soil and fertility which build their resilience using resources from within the farm to the greatest extent possible; the integration of livestock in a way that brings healing to the land; as well as the allocation of space for wildlife to flourish in a balanced manner. (For more, see this sheet from the Biodynamic certifying agency, Demeter USA). Here is a nice little video from them that gives a simple picture of biodynamics. Note that although we are not currently certified Demeter Biodynamic, we adhere to the standards and are looking into being certified soon through their farmer-to-farmer certifying process for those who market locally, Demeter Local.

We are in one of a handful of communities in the USA that has a strong presence of biodynamic farms. The fruit in the fruit shares is also grown biodynamically at Threshold Farm in Philmont, and the potatoes in the share this week are from our friends at Lineage farm in Copake (Jen helped begin Great Song), who grow biodynamically. Many of the products in our farm store, such as those from Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, are also grown biodynamically.

While commonplace in central Europe, especially Germany and Switzerland (you can find Demeter Biodynamic bread, milk, and eggs even in some convenience stores!), it is just now starting to take off in the USA, particularly as some farms and organizations see organics being taken over by corporate interests and are interested in consciously supporting health and healing. There are more and more Biodynamic products showing up in local stores, so keep an eye out if you’re interested.

I’m passionate about biodynamics and what it can mean for the health of our farms, our communities, and the earth. If you have any questions, I’m happy to talk!


BDAStaffPicAnthonyAnthony Mecca began farming 10 years ago, in search of a place to wonder, explore, and serve. In farming, he found hot sun, hard physical work, and community to be potent medicine. After five years learning from a diversity of farms, Anthony was called to the Hudson Valley of New York to begin Great Song Farm in 2010. Here he found his kin and began deepening his work with biodynamic farming, anthroposophy, inner work, and community life. Fostering direct and meaningful relationships between nature, agriculture, and community is central to his work. Anthony brings experiences as a student, WWOOFer, apprentice, farm-worker, farmer, and mentor to his work coordinating Farmer Training at the BDA. He also enjoys cooking, reading, and sitting quietly in the grass with the cows.

Anchoring Biodynamics on the Front Range — Light Root Community Farm

June 20, 2017

By Robert Karp

Every bioregion needs a vital biodynamic farm and educational center that anchors the creative light of the sun, moon, and stars deep into the body and soul of the local geography and community. If Daphne Kingsley and Cameron Genter have their way, the Front Range of Colorado will soon have such a center. I had the great pleasure recently of visiting and touring  their aptly named Light Root Community Farm in the scenic foothills of the Rocky Mountains just outside Boulder, Colorado. On a modest 40 acres of rented land, Daphne and Cameron have indeed put down a powerful tap root for this vision.

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While visiting in their milk house and member pick-up center, Daphne told me how she and Cameron met at Live Power farm in Covelo, California, nearly 20 years ago, and fell in love there with biodynamics, draft horses, and one another. They have been pursuing their agricultural visions ever since, in places as far off as Vermont, New York, and Wisconsin, patiently growing the capacities and connections they need to realize a powerful biodynamic vision. They moved to their current farm in the winter of 2015 and quickly transformed the land into a draft horse-powered, micro-dairy that delivers delicious raw milk, eggs, and grass-fed beef to over 130 members.  They also host numerous educational events for children and families, as well as a biodynamic study group for adults. While we were talking, a number of parents and their children from the local Shining Mountain Waldorf School stopped to pick up their weekly share, and they looked as wholesome and happy as the milk itself!

On this strong foundation, Daphne and Cameron are now seeking to expand their horizons by relocating Light Root to an historic 160-acre farm that will allow them to grow a model biodynamic farm and educational center on the front range of Colorado, just a few minutes’ drive from Boulder, one of the country’s most dynamic seedbeds for new thinking around food, sustainability, and spirituality.  If not there, where? To learn more about Daphne and Cameron and their vision, check out their website.


Robert Karp is Co-Director of the Biodynamic Association and a long-time social entrepreneur in the sustainable food and farming movement. 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.

My Introduction to Homeodynamics with Enzo Nastati

June 14, 2017

By Stone Hunter

When I arrived at Sustainable Settings in Carbondale, Colorado, in March 2015 for the continuation of my North American Biodynamic Apprenticeship (NABDAP) training, I landed into a world of shifting perspectives and practices in respect to biodynamics. Just two months prior to my arrival, there was a five-day intensive seminar in the neighboring town of Paonia, titled “Spiritual Agriculture I,” with Enzo Nastati. My mentor, Brook Levan, attended the seminar after first hearing Enzo speak a year earlier in Paonia and then in Kentucky. Enzo then visited Sustainable Settings to consult with Brook regarding the farm as a whole organism and the Homeodynamic* approach to farm stewardship.

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I began to hear stories about the seminar and other farm consultations with Enzo, and could feel how these brief encounters had shifted something in Brook and at Sustainable Settings. I began to read the transcripts from “Spiritual Agriculture I” and other texts written by Enzo, including Fertilization, The Regeneration of Seeds and New Plants, Meteorology, and Freedom and Love (available at www.moodie.biz). I was preparing to attend “Spiritual Agriculture II” in November 2015 and to meet Enzo in person. That growing season I was thoroughly entranced with the strong anthroposophic and biblical foundation from which Enzo wrote and spoke about new ways of working with preparations, the significance of the thirteen Holy Nights, the redemption of the Kingdoms and Man, and so much more.

All my musings were finally put to rest when I met Enzo Nastati, and his assistant and translator Silvia Giaretta, in person. In truth, I was nervous about meeting him, and, when I did, I sensed the strength and clarity of  his convictions. Before the “Spiritual Agriculture II” seminar in Paonia, Enzo consulted at Sustainable Settings and we visited the grain field where I was cultivating flour maize and wheat. He gave me indications on what traits in the corn and wheat were favorable to encourage the “new plants” to emerge. We looked for multiple shoots coming from single maize seeds, filled ears with well formed kernels from the earthly base of the ear to the cosmic tip, and wheat which lodged at a thin neck. I had planted sunflowers along with the maize and he perceived how these were “shepherding” the grain and giving their forces to the grain. We also spent time designing a new twelve-sided round barn, with a tree associated with the sun, like Linden or Ash at its center to facilitate a toroidal (doughnut-shaped) circulation between the earth and the cosmos. Every detail matters, I soon discovered, from the placement of the doorways to the directionality of where the new dairy, commercial kitchen, lecture and meeting space, and storefront were placed. Enzo then provided a homeodynamic preparation specifically developed to mediate and temper the “coarse astrality” that created the stench of the for poultry and pig yards.

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We began the “Spiritual Agriculture II” seminar a couple days later. Opening with the “America Verse” given by Rudolf Steiner, Enzo then presented us with a living image of the “dialogue” we must facilitate in as farmers between what is Cosmic (in potential, or free flowing forces) and what is Earthly (actualized and bound to matter). We moved on to investigate moral qualities, ways to “measure,” and helpful and harmful practices that encourage or obstruct the ascension of the Earthly, the incarnation of the Cosmic, and the mediation of the two. Again and again, we would return to schemas such as this threefold union, the alchemical “square” of the four elements, and lemniscates, to illustrate the circulation of  “Earthly Love and Cosmic Wisdom,” and how we can think clearly, feel purely, and act nobly for the regeneration of matter through enlivened circulation.

After my first seminar with Enzo, I was both nourished in soul and spirit, morally challenged to refine my own coarse qualities of character, and learn this new language of archetypal significance and patterns. As a young adult with a developing Individuality, I profoundly felt the power and presence of Enzo’s own choleric, strong personality, and strove to integrate all I had experienced into my own unique configuration. The resonance and love presented through the work shone out to me, and beckoned me to see beyond the personal and interpersonal to the spiritual reality and significance of what we were sharing.

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I later attended a Nastati seminar on “Depollution” in August 2015 and a third five-day seminar on “Spiritual Architecture” in April 2016. During the “Depollution” seminar, we focused on the spiritual science in the transmutation of substance, and applied what we were studying collectively to prepare an iso therapeutic remedy which was later given to remediate the “Gold King Mine” pollution of the Animus, San Juan, and Colorado Rivers. (Enzo works continually to remediate salinated soils, EMF and electrical pollution, harmful building forms and substances, and radioactivity, at his institute EUREKA Italy and in partnership with Viva la Vida Foundation in Paonia.)

During the “Spiritual Architecture” seminar, we studied the significance and details of creating therapeutic structures which can act as essential “organs” or “chakras” in our farm or community organisms. Again referring to the dialogue between the Earthly and Cosmic, and the alchemical elements, we investigated the essential nature of the materials, forms, and orientations we use in architecture. Drawing from ancient cathedrals and indigenous dwellings, and contrasting them with “modern” buildings, we were led to an understanding of how form and substance have the potential to facilitate and obliterate the incorporation of etheric, astral, and spiritual forces. These considerations activated within me the yearning to develop the spiritual and practical skills necessary to built structures which enhance the life forces present in the environment and enliven the soils, plants, animals and humans in and around them.

Much more was presented than I am able to convey here. However much more information may be found through Viva la Vida Foundation. At Sustainable Settings, we continue to work with spiritual and applicable indications given by Enzo, and are continually enriched by their effects. Personally, I feel that my introduction to the work of Enzo Nastati and the Homeodynamic approach elevated my NABDAP training to a state of true initiation. Enzo encouraged us to take our intentions, devotion, and questions consciously into sleep so that we could act on higher levels to support and fulfill the work we accomplish during the day.

When I read Dennis Klocek’s Sacred Agriculture and listened to him speak at the 2016 North American Biodynamic Conference in Santa Fe, I immediately grasped the significance of his practice of taking “living images” and meditations into our sleeping consciousness. Parallels between Enzo’s work and other leaders in the biodynamic movement are continually arising within me. At the end of Klocek’s keynote presentation in Santa Fe, he told an esoteric story imparting the sacrifices of the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms for humanity and the cosmos. I was deeply touched by this story, and it reminded me of many occasions when Enzo articulated the “debts” we owe to our mineral, plant, and animal relatives, and our blessed burden to resurrect and heal all of our relations.

Through fully taking responsibility for the central role of humanity and our consciousness in evolution, the farm organism, and our personal destinies; one may instill the moral appreciation, compassion, forgiveness, comprehension, enthusiasm, and responsibility necessary to live as free Individuals who choose to bless and heal with the essence of Love.

Homeodynamics emphasizes the centrality of the human being as an evolving co-creator with the quantum capacities to affect soils, plants, and animals through spiritual scientific approaches including homeopathy, eurythmy, sacred architecture and geometry, and more.

Reverence and Awe

June 7, 2017

By Karen Davis-Brown

Reprinted from the newsletter of the Biodynamic Association of Northern California 


You know that biodynamic agriculture lives in you, when you see or smell manure — particularly cow manure — and a deep appreciation and joy wells up within you. I sometimes refer to it as having the value of “gold” for a farm; I am not the only one.

Rudolf Steiner talks about the importance of manure throughout the Agriculture lectures, as an important source of regeneration for the soils from which we extract nutrients for our crops and livestock. But he takes his indications far beyond the recommendation of regular spreading of manure and application of slurries. He presents the possibility of transforming this already valuable resource — with the collaboration of all four kingdoms, the planets, and stars — for the life and health of the farm organism and all the beings who live and work there.

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Barrel compost (by Laurie McGregor)

It only takes one time of stuffing a cow horn with manure and burying it in the autumn, then digging it up and knocking it out in the spring, to know what transformation means. It only takes one time of creating a large pile of manure, applying compost preps, monitoring temperature and moisture, then sticking your hand deep into that pile a few months later, to experience the power of earthly and cosmic forces working together. With any luck, you learn about these miracles as part of a community the includes experienced practitioners, to help you understand with your mind and develop your powers of perception from these entirely visceral and heartfelt experiences.

Somewhere along the line, we realize that the manure is not the only thing being transformed. Taking our place as members of the human kingdom in these processes, has transformed us as well. This transformation never ends until our life in this body does, and awakening to this possibility opens infinite doors of joy and service every spring and throughout the year. We are then blessed with the possibility of supporting others in their own transformation.

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Dandelion pillows (by Barbara Westfall)

And it is no accident, I don’t think, that we dig up horn manure and many of the compost preps in spring. The sun has made its solstice turn, and the Earth has begun her slow exhalation that only reverses at St. John’s tide in June. The water, soil, and air are warming, the days are lengthening, and slowly we also expand from the physical and spiritual contraction with which winter blesses us.

In this work with manure and the preparations, perhaps, we also come to understand the cosmic role of Easter as an act of resurrection and renewal from what we thought was a cold and dead creation. And, in reverence and awe, we are overcome with gratitude, hope, and a feeling of devotion.

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Yarrow preparation (by Barbara Westfall)

In How to Know Higher Worlds, Steiner states unequivocally that “[i]f we wish to become esoteric students, we must train ourselves vigorously in the mood of devotion…. We advance even more quickly if…we fill our consciousness with admiration, respect, and reverence for the world and life.”

If you are reading this, you are already on the way to transformation. And it is spring. Seize this time with this living and loving community, to take a lesson from manure.


Karen Davis-Brown is the Biodynamics Journal Editor for the Biodynamic Association. Since her initial training in biodynamics in 1999, she has worked in organic and biodynamic agriculture as a grower, trainer, writer, marketer, editor, newsletter/website designer, inspector, and consultant, in most regions of the North American continent. In addition, she is the Midwest Coordinator for the North American Biodynamic Apprentice Program (NABDAP).

Bringing Biodynamic Agriculture to Kenya, East Africa

May 25, 2017

By Vincent Okoth Musiko


Introduction

I was brought up by my single mama after my father’s death 1964 when I was only two years old, the fifth and last born child of my dear parents Andrew Musiko and Clementina Namukuru Musiko, at Khushinoko Namulungu-Mumias, the present Kakamega County, in Kenya, East Africa.

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I got interested in farming as my mother farmed organically three acres of land. We never lacked food not just food, but nutritious, higher quality, and farmed organically. She was a scientist who never went to anybody’s school; if she did, she never went beyond the Kenyan class two. She had assorted crops and vegetables, cows, and poultry. It was a mixed garden, and we got all our manures and fertilizers from within the three acres of land; we never bought chemicals. We got all we needed as a family from this land. We rarely went to the hospital because we ate well.

When I went to high school, I continued studying. Agriculture and biology were my favorite subjects. After high school, I joined a Sustainable Agricultural College in Molo, Kenya before getting funding to go to the United Kingdom. There I studied biodynamic agriculture before undertaking an MSc in Sustainable Agriculture from the University of London at Imperial College.

While at Emerson, I almost gave up to come back to Kenya as the biodynamic agriculture was a bit different from the organic farming I knew. A lady by the name of Elizabeth Edmund at Emerson counseled me and gave me hope for the future of farming before she passed on. I stayed on and have never looked back.

The interest has grown for many years now in training small-scale farmers organic agriculture. We are now slowly introducing biodynamic farming, starting with preparations of horn manure and stinging nettles. We are also training the small-scale farmers on beekeeping, using both modern and traditional ways of beekeeping in rural eastern Kenya.

I am calling upon you who are reading this article to help us support farmers, particularly in training. You are also welcome to pay us a visit in Kenya where we are. A dollar or two contributed towards this course will take us a step ahead.

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The Reality of Food Security, in Kenya in Particular and Africa in General

Africa in general and Kenya in particular not only needs food for her hungry mouths, but food that is healthy, clean, and of high quality and a healthy environment in which we live and work. We need to use our natural resources sustainably without compromising our children’s. Africans must stand up, discover their own problems in food security and environmental conservation, and solve them themselves of course with the help of their sisters and brothers abroad. The answer is found within the Kenyan people in particular, and in the African people in general, particularly in the local communities.

As you may have noticed, the environment is fast getting worse each day. As I write today, people in many parts of Kenya are sleeping on hungry stomachs due to continued drought. People almost everywhere do not have clean drinking water; they have to walk for many kilometers to get water for their families and livestock. The threat of global warming, climate change, and food insecurity is real and threatens the very existence of humanity on this planet.

In very few years to come, areas that produce more food in Kenya will be rendered unproductive due to the change in climate. Change in climate requires a change in our farming systems, technologies, and our own attitudes. It is evident that our environment is being destroyed and that pollution is very high. It is indeed my responsibility, your responsibility, our responsibility, the responsibility of every one of us, to take care of the environment. No matter what your profession is, all of us need food that is of high quality and nutritious in order to perform what we do well. You must be concerned with what you eat, whether you produce it, buy down the street at the food store, or pick from roadsides sellers as you head to your home. You are what you eat, the saying goes.

The biodiversity and ecosystems are disappearing very fast, and this worries me and should worry you too. Fish stocks in waters are now collapsing, and forest cover is thinning out despite the fact that we sing of reforestation daily. Our conventional farming systems are getting out of hand, as most soils in Kenya are now exhausted and very acidic and so cannot adequately support crops, animals, and of course us ourselves and our children. We should not forget that we have borrowed land from the future generations, our children, and we must hand it back to them better than we got it. The land is a loan to us by our children, and we should return it with interest. Biodynamic sustainable farming is the answer today, as it was the answer to the few in 1924 when Dr. Rudolf Steiner gave the eight lectures on agriculture.

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The urban communities are having difficulties accessing food, and many people who cannot afford escalating high prices of vegetables. The solution is to bring food in the urban centers by utilizing available empty places and training rural communities to produce food locally, especially targeting the local food and examining the local climatic conditions. We should detach ourselves from food colonialism so that when you eat amaranthus, butter flower, black nightshades, sweet potatoes, sorghum, millet, cassava, and many more that grow better in our conditions, you should not say, “I did not eat; I only ate sweet potatoes,” just because you did not eat maize meal, which is now a national staple food in Kenya. We need to change our attitude towards food production and its consumption. Plant your own.

Bring Biodynamic Agriculture to Kenya, East Africa

Biodynamic agriculture was the first formal organic agriculture. The first organic agriculture definition was given by Lord Northbourne in 1940. Northbourne was a biodynamic agriculture practitioner and the author of Look to the Land. In common with other forms of organic farming, biodynamic agriculture uses management practices that are intended to store and maintain ecological harmony. Central features include crop diversification, biodynamic preparations, the avoidance of chemical soil treatments and off-farm inputs in general, decentralization of production and distribution, and the consideration of celestial and terrestrial influences on biological organisms.

Demeter International, the body responsible for certification of biodynamic agriculture internationally, recommends that the individual design of the land by a farmer, determined by site conditions, is one of the basic tenets of biodynamic agriculture, and in Kenya we can just do that. This principle emphasizes that humans have a responsibility for the development of their ecological and social environment that goes beyond economic aims and principles of descriptive ecology. Crops, livestock, farmer, and the entire socio-economic environment form a unique interaction, a unique individual. The farmer seeks to enhance and support “forces” of nature that lead to healthy crops and animals and rejects any practice that destroys the environment.

Biodynamic agriculture differs from many forms of organic agriculture in the spiritual, mystical, and astrological orientation. Compared to non-organic agriculture, biodynamic agriculture has been found to be more resilient to environmental challenges, fostering a diverse biosphere and more energy efficiency.

Food and water security are increasingly threatened by factors such as climate, environmental change, loss of biodiversity, drying out of sources of water, and fast thinning out of our forests. This is evident to all, both academicians and lay people, without forgetting conflicts and market volatility. New knowledge, policies, and sustainable technologies are needed to develop systems that are more resilient to change and that ensure the health of our food and water supplies. This is biodynamic agriculture. Resilient systems are better able to bounce back from stresses caused by longer-term or short-term changes of events such as flooding, or human impacts such as poor farming systems that separate economy from environment, or war or water pollution.

Focus is on food, water, and people uniting once again to one another and with the land; integrating local people’s knowledge in social, agro-ecological, hydrological, and environmental processes; and the pivotal role that communities play in developing resilience.

Biodynamic agriculture aims to advance resilience science through creative work on a new generation of key issues linked to the governance of food systems, hydrological change, urban food and water, river processes, water quality, and emerging pollutants.

With the team here in Kenya under non-governmental organization, we wish to train 160 small-scale farmers in an introduction to biodynamic agriculture and beekeeping in four different local areas each group training 40 small-scale farmers. Your financial support and advice shall be appreciated.                                                             

Contact information for Vincent Okoth Musiko: vmusiko@yahoo.com or  +254 ( 0)728 146 536.

With Kid-Gloves

April 27, 2017

By Paul Haygood

A small, untended garden-space
Is dug, turned, fed
And planted…
I in my old holey-blue sweater
And green-net hat
Feeling quite pagan and quite priestly,
Gently setting tiny plants
Into the Earth,
Giving thanks
For sun, water and worms…
She seems receptive, this tiny patch
Of newly re-cared for earth,
And I need her love….

 

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Sharing in the “Great Celebration of All Creation” at the Fellowship of Preparation Makers Conference

April 5, 2017

By Coree Entwistle

With photos by Sarah Weber

When we crossed the Canadian border into Sarnia, the sky was light, and there were sparkles of snow in the air.  The effect was tropical, to my southern eyes.  We don’t get partly cloudy snow down in our part of the world.  I was enchanted.  My Canadian husband was less impressed and directed us to a store to pick up some anti-freeze windshield wiper fluid.  It was a cold weekend, and we were poorly prepared, but the snow that day, and into the night, was magical.

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Hack Farm fields

I knew when we walked in the door, nearly at the end of Friday’s opening day session of the annual Fellowship of the Preparation Makers Conference (March 2-5, 2017), that we were in a good place.  The conference was held in a historic community meeting hall.  It was a singular spacious room, with a small kitchen curtained off in the back and chairs circled up in concentric rings.  In the middle sat Hugh Courtney, pendulum in hand, holding onto a sizeable apple young apple tree in a pot.  I have always considered Hugh a true “mensch”— a worthy and reliable member of humanity.  I appreciate how he answers questions without assuming overarching authority — he is simply sharing what he has learned.  He has influenced many of the people who have influenced me, and has shown a steadfastness in his dedication to the work of his life that is uncommon in our day and age.  It was a pleasure to see him in this context— in a room of listeners, really absorbing the information he has to share — his life’s work, laid out for any who care to try.  

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Hugh Courtney shares about looking at the etheric body of a tree

Hugh’s presence is an important piece of the Fellowship of the Preparation Makers’ work.  Their stated mission — to insure that there are sufficient biodynamic preparations available across the continent to meet the needs of all who want to use them — emerged from the recognition of Hugh Courtney’s work at the Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Biodynamics, which largely fulfilled that demand for many years.  The Fellowship continues to be a collection of deeply dedicated biodynamic practitioners, intent on exploring their craft in its blood and bones, as well as its heart and soul.

IMG_5603 Delicious homemade meals!

Enjoying delicious homemade meals

After a satisfying dinner and some mingling in the warmth of strangers who were surely about to become friends, we lined up the chairs again and set out to listen to Reverend Jonah Evans, of Toronto.  I’ve never heard a sermon like that before, and I would travel to hear it again.  Jonah is an engaging speaker, and he challenged all of us in the room to engage our own inner world in terms of the work we do on our farms.  He asked us to explore the resonant parallels between the activity of preparation making and the activity of the human soul.  Consider the qualities the fresh manure gains from spending the winter underground in a horn, in deep darkness.  What do we gain from passing through periods of darkness, uncertainty, hardship, ourselves?  Certainly, under the right circumstances, the passage through darkness increases the creative capacity of soul, and soil.  On both counts, it is a journey whose worth becomes apparent upon returning to the light.  (I could spend this whole article ruminating on Rev. Jonah’s message that night.  Please just take the opportunity to hear him whenever it presents itself.)  Laying my travel-weary head down that night, I thought Hugh Courtney and Brother Jonah set our foots on the path for the weekend to come.

Saturday morning, snow-covered and bone chillingly cold, we met the day together in song.  It was reassuring for a newcomer to the Preparation Makers Fellowship (like me) to feel that we were maintaining the strong soul-connection that was set up the night before.  The rest of the morning was spent hearing perspectives from biodynamic farmers in different places.  Chris Boettcher gave a carefully prepared talk about the feedback loops of farming fertility, from animal, to plant, to cosmos, and ultimately, in human farming activity.  Jeff Poppen followed with a comical account of his personal and professional transformation through biodynamics.  The juxtaposition of those two interesting speakers gave us plenty to think and chat about over lunch.

IMG_5583 Chris Boettcher depicts feedback loops between cow calf earth and cosmos

Chris Boettcher depicts feedback loops between cow, calf, earth, and cosmos

After lunch, we were called to open up to our own perspectives and our capacity for perception.  Pat Frazier led us on a choose-your-own perceptive/creative journey which prepared us for the “meat” of the weekend: horn manure evaluation at the Hack Farm.

IMG_5631 Ready for the hay ride back to the Hall

IMG_5634 Rolling back to Armow Hall

The cold crisp day didn’t stop most of us from jumping on a hay wagon for the short ride to the farm.  We unearthed some horns and passed them around.  Some of the horns were new, and others had been used before.  Hugh Courtney spoke of the differences he had perceived in working with old and new horns in the past.  It was an interesting exploration, but I have to admit that I was distracted by the flat expansive fields (the kind you don’t see much in middle Tennessee) and the black earth (another rarity in our parts) that Uli says goes about a foot and a half deep.  As part of the afternoon tour, we entered one of the Hack Farm outbuildings, where Wali Via prepared us to encounter horn manure in a different way.  On a long table, there were twelve samples of horn manure.  Each was on a plate with a number on it.  There were no other indications about each one.  We were each given a pencil and paper and asked to circle the table and quietly mingle our senses with the samples, scoring our first impressions, and second impressions, and any other impressions as well.  Some of us pulled out pendulums.  Others squeezed the samples, and smelled them.  I was amazed at how different twelve samples of manure packed into cow horns and buried in the ground could be.  One was black, another reddish brown.  Many were sandy and nearly dry.  A few were moist, and one nearly spongy wet.  Wali pointed out to us later that this exercise boiled down to experiencing twelve years of biodynamic work all at once, as so many of us only get to handle our own horn manure, year after year.  It was a powerful exercise, and most of the remainder of our time together was spent discussing our impressions.

IMG_5625 Getting ready to evaluate samples of 500. Yes it was cold that day!

Preparing to evaluate samples of #500

IMG_5629 Evaluating samples of 500

Evaluating samples of #500

The crowd around the coffee and tea station was thick when we returned to the meeting hall.  As we warmed up, so did the discussion.  With Wali guiding us, we shared our impressions and in turned learned the “biographies” of the preparations we met at the Hack Farm.  It became clear in short order, that the exploration of our experiences and what they mean coupled with the stories of the preparations themselves could have gone on all night.  Thankfully, our mindful hosts turned our attention to other information, and prepared us for some fun.  

Following another beautiful meal, we took a stroll through the garden inside, led by Gabi Boettcher as she played Beethoven Sonata No. 8 Op. 13 (Pathetique) for us.  Eric Boettcher followed with a trumpet piece.  We were then visited by a theatrical presentation of a rhyming little troll, who danced on a table and played a ukelele for our pleasure.  This display of a local farming family’s artistic abilities would have been a superb ending to the day, but they weren’t done with us yet.  Our chairs were stacked in the corners of the room and we partnered up for a rollicking round of social dancing (which is fun whether you can dance or not).  When we were sufficiently warm from the dance, a line of chairs returned to the center of the room, an accordion was pulled from the closet, and the group played the most competitive game of musical chairs I have ever witnessed.  Emerging flush-faced into the dark, cold night, I was reminded that winters are long in Canada, and by necessity, these folks have mastered a number of ways to strengthen their community and enjoy themselves in the off-season.  What a treat!

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Musical chairs

Sunday morning, our curiosity was piqued, and we were ready to continue our discussion of the horn manure samples.  It was interesting to note that, though our impressions of the samples differed greatly, there were some parallels that emerged.  Many of the same people had a negative impression of several preparations, while many others would have a positive impression about the same group of preps.  Personally, I was not able to rate any of the samples poorly, but I was more attracted to certain samples than others.  Hearing different people from the group voicing their experience with each sample was a great lesson in differences, understanding, and the potential power of this kind of perceptive study in a group setting.  We came away with a lot of information, and maybe as many questions as answers.  In other words, a great success.

Circling the chairs one more time, we set about to close the weekend with a final sharing circle and ceremony.  Pat opened the sharing circle and asked us to bring forth our questions as well as our impressions.  The pouring forth that followed was lovely, and served to open our hearts for the closing ceremony, led by Wali.

I want to tell you about the closing ceremony, but I’m not going to.  It’s too good to share in print.  If you want to know, the best way is to show up and become a part of it.  This is what I will say — it was a privilege to pour out intentions and dreams into the shared vessel of this event.  It was a privilege to share in the great celebration of all creation that is at the heart of biodynamics, and at the heart of the Fellowship of the Preparation Makers.

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