“I’ve been involved with gardening and farming since I was a young kid. Mom and Dad always had a big veggie, herb and flower garden and we grew some table grapes on the side for family and friends. When I was thirteen and fourteen, I spent summers on a ‘hog and cattle’ farm in southern Indiana learning how to slop pigs, buck hay and churn ice cream. Then, at 15 we moved to Europe and my real agricultural education started. At sixteen, I entered a classical apprenticeship and by the time I was 20 I had been trained and educated the way only the Swiss can. Most of all, I loved working with the older farmers in the high Alps where I spent most of my time. They knew so much from all their years and from being a link in the chain of a long tradition of working intimately with nature.
Almost all the farms had a specific focus: grape vines, or fruit trees, milk, a specific crop or husbandry. But they also tended towards wholeness: most had some few animals no matter what they grew and they were always endowed with a wonderful garden filled with much of what makes life happen: great food. Of course manure piles were kept neat until needed; fields were manicured with care and everything was kept clean and in its place: a study in thoroughness. Not surprisingly biodynamics was born in Switzerland where there is an abundance of the beautiful and the beautiful is also efficient. Moreover, in Switzerland one can still, although it is fading, feel the call of the ancients, the call to a thorough life, both in terms of concept and action. It was this wholeness of philosophy and practice that attracted me to biodynamics and to the spiritual and ecological thoroughness that it represents.
Today, I recommend biodynamic management to my professional grape growers, milk producers and gardeners. It is ecologically advanced, protective of natural resources, enhancing of soil fertility, biodiversity, self-sufficiency and natural pest prevention. It is simply the most comprehensive agro-ecological system available today. Besides, the biodynamic focus on working with nature – with her rhythms and patterns, with her own natural fertilizers and pest management systems – is so much more positive than always ‘fighting’ nature. I taught college level agriculture for 5 years, including conventional pest management. I once got an educational film out to review and see if I could use it for my class. It was all about the “war with nature.” Weeds, insects and many of our natural fauna were considered and portraited as the “enemy” – only worthy of destruction. Instead of trying to understand what brings nature into balance and how the ecology of nature is self-corrective, it was all about destroying the very sources of nature’s ability to correct and heal itself. Seeing the symptoms as part of understanding how to correct the problem was not a part of the picture. Even my most chemical-friendly, not-going-organic-anytime-soon students felt it was over the top. Yet, the ideas behind this charicature are still prevalent in much of today’s agriculture.
Biodynamics is not about fighting such mentalities, but it is a relief. A hope for a future agriculture that is ecologically balanced, organically productive and in sink with the rest of nature. It is also about being ethical, finding one’s own, deep relationship with the elements and making good food without having to trash the environment in the process. It is a philosophy and often an individual path. Not for everyone, I suppose. But for those who take the time to see more than just its practical methods, biodynamics can also be a life.
I take what I think is a balanced approach, based on a thorough knowledge of modern agricultural science, a deep appreciation for the latest technologies and blend it with the principles and practices of biodynamics and ecological production systems. Add a pinch of my own intutions and viola! “
See you in the field.