Earth Haven Farm BLOG
The Fellowship of Preparation Makers

By Karen Davis-Brown

Originally published in the Winter 2011 issue of Biodynamics.

This spring marks the tenth anniversary of the first gathering of North American biodynamic prepmakers. These gatherings were born out of a shared concern that the quantity and quality of available preparations be sustained and improved in support of the larger biodynamic movement at all levels. 

Ten years later, the structures designed to fulfill this mission have evolved into 1) an annual conference hosted at locations across the continent, 2) four “interest” groups who meet by phone on a regular basis between conferences, and, recently, 3) an email newsletter designed to share regional news and activities.

The mission of the Fellowship of Prepmakers can be articulated in terms of assuring availability, access, and quality of biodynamic preparations. Accomplishing this mission is only possible when we successfully broaden and deepen our 1) awareness, 2) knowledge, 3) commitment, and 4) planning in consistent, sustained ways. Building these capacities within the Fellowship will, in turn, support the best possible:

  • Outreach to conventional, organic, and biodynamic growers;
  • Access to Materials that balances the “local” ideal with adequate, quality amounts;
  • Training that effectively conveys and supports our best knowledge about how the preparations can be grown, produced, applied, and distributed, and that is provided in ways that allow for differences in geography, geology, and climate;
  • Manufacture of adequate amounts of quality preps as close as possible to where they will be used;
  • Distribution processes and systems that address issues of access;
  • A system that has the capacity to meets the growing needs of growers and producers seeking Biodynamic Certification;
  • Thoroughly and systematically documented Evaluation of preparation effectiveness;
  • Research that honors both scientific evidence and community-based experience;
  • Networking of preparation users, makers, distributors, educators, and certifiers; and
  • Formal and informal vehicles of Communication within and across these different groups that utilize the most efficient and effective media and dissemination methods.

We live in times that demand a food revolution, and the Fellowship of Prepmakers can play a substantive role. What does this mean and how will it “play out”? How would achieving these objectives transform agriculture on this continent? Stay tuned.

If you are interested in learning more, or in joining one or more of the interest groups, please contact:

Education: Natalie Brinkley, natalie_brinkley
Conference Planning: Lloyd Nelson, drnelson
Quality and Testing: Malcolm Gardner, malcolm9
Subgroup 2 (Availability/Access): Wali Via, walivia

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Biodynamic Preps for Drought

by  | Dec 22, 2016 

How certain notions arise and become entrenched is a bit of a mystery, especially when they are wrong. Yet they do get started and entrenched. One of these is the belief that when things dry up and little moisture is available we cannot put out biodynamic preparations—as if these were delicate microbial cultures that must have moist conditions to establish and thrive. This is so far from true it seems impossible it ever got started. Yet it did.

When things dry up with rain months away is when we most need to apply our field sprays. When the organization of moisture in the atmosphere is at its lowest is when we need to enliven both atmosphere and soil to get them working together. In a drought nothing else does so much good for so little effort.

During summer, evaporation is high. Moisture rises up into the troposphere and as it cools it glides downward toward the polar vortex, flowing like a river in the sky to the pole. Variations in the jet stream determine where and when this river feeds moisture into storm fronts that drop—or fail to drop—summer rainfall. And yet, what organizes things in general, but particularly moisture, is life—and life activities is what biodynamics is about.

Organization is the basis of life, and life defies the rules for inanimate objects. Life draws organization out of chaos into more life. Biodynamic preparations are so rich in life they draw organization into wherever they are applied. The very reason we can impart life by stirring up tiny doses of preparations in water and sprinkling them over large areas is because life energy flows from lower to higher concentration. When we spray an area and enrich its vitality, more life energy, i.e. organization, flows to the area sprayed.  The more we spray an area, the more strongly that area draws in organization from the surrounding universe.

Back in 1988 a small group of biodynamic farmers held the first Southeast US Biodynamic Conference at my farm in Blairsville, Georgia. Hugh Courtney, who founded the Josephine Porter Institute of Applied Biodynamics (JPI), came from Virginia to lead workshops on making and applying biodynamic preparations. The attendees all stirred and applied every preparation to my farm despite the whole southeast being in summer drought. Out of the blue a summer thunderstorm drenched us thoroughly. Courtney went back home and did the same thing at JPI and the summer drought was history. The next summer the same thing happened at our second conference, also breaking a summer drought. By then Hugh Courtney had given preparation workshops at various widespread locations. In every case, rain—or at least technical precipitation—occurred when all the preparations were applied in a back-to-back sequence. Courtney explained to me, Harvey Lisle and others that he believed the preparations could draw to themselves whatever was needed to make life thrive, including moisture.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload::]]This was the beginning of what Courtney later called Sequential Spraying. At first we didn’t know that preparations could break droughts, but experience demonstrated applying all the preparations in sequence gave us the most gratifying results.

I have applied this technique with favorable outcomes on many occasions since. It seems to work best if launched when the moon is in a water or earth constellation at the approach to full moon, so use the Astro calendar and plan ahead to get the right amount of rain (rather than a flood).

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What Are Biodynamic Foods and Why Should You Be Eating Them?

Long story short: Biodynamic is the new organic, and you need to get behind it, like, yesterday.

By Lauren Mazzo | Oct 28, 2016

Picture a family farm. You probably see sunshine, green pastures, happy and free-grazing cows, bright red tomatoes, and a cheery old farmer who works day and night to tend to the place. What you probably aren't picturing: the cheery old farmer spraying crops down with pesticides and tilling soil with artificial fertilizers and chemicals, or sprinkling antibiotics into his cows' feed before squishing them into a too-small stall.

The sad truth is that when the world became industrialized, our food system became industrialized too. This might sound like a good thing. (Hey, it means we can get avocados year-round, whatever specific apple hybrid we want, and enough beef to satisfy our burger cravings, right?) But nowadays, most farms look more like factories than like sources of freshly grown nutrition.

And that's where biodynamic farming comes in—it's taking food production back to the roots.

What Is Biodynamic Farming?

Biodynamic farming is a way of viewing a farm as "a living organism, self-contained, self-sustaining, and following the cycles of nature," says Elizabeth Candelario, managing director at Demeter, the world's only certifier of biodynamic farms and products. Think of it as organic—but better.

This all might sound super hippy dippy, but it's really just taking farming back to its basics: no fancy antibiotics, pesticides, or artificial fertilizers. "Pest control, disease control, weed control, fertility—all of these things are addressed through the farming system itself instead of importing the solutions from the outside," says Candelario. For example, instead of using an artificial nitrogen fertilizer, farmers will alternate crop cycles, incorporate the use of animal manure, or plant certain fertilizing plants to maintain the richness of the soil. It's like Little House on the Prairie but in modern times.

In biodynamic farms, farmers strive to maintain a diversified, balanced ecosystem with ecological, social, and economic sustainability. Theoretically, a perfect biodynamic farm could exist inside its own little bubble. (And sustainability isn't just for food—it's for your workout clothes too!)

Biodynamic farming might just be gaining steam in the U.S. now, but it's been around for almost a century. Austrian philosopher and social reformer Rudolf Steiner, the "father" of biodynamic farming practices, first introduced it in the 1920s, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). It spread to the U.S. in 1938, when the Biodynamic Association started as the oldest sustainable agriculture nonprofit organization in North America.

Some of the first adopters were vineyards, says Candelario, because they saw some of the best wines in the world coming from biodynamic vineyards in France and Italy. Fast forward, and other farmers are starting to catch on—today, Candelario says Demeter is focused on building national product brands so biodynamic goods make it to consumers.

"It's a nascent but emerging trend in the natural food industry, and it's kind of like organic was 30 years ago," she says. "I'd say the same is going to happen for biodynamic—the difference is we already have the organic industry to learn from, and we don't want to take 35 years to get us there."

How Is Biodynamic Different from Organic?

Think of organic as a halfway point between conventional, industrialized farming and biodynamic farming. In fact, biodynamic farming is really the original version of organic farming, says Candelario. But that doesn't mean they're the same—biodynamic includes all the processing and farming standards of organic, but builds on them. (P.S. These are both different from Fair Trade.)

For starters, because the USDA Organic program is regulated by the U.S. government, it's only nation-wide, while biodynamic is internationally recognized. (It has chapters in 22 countries and operates in more than 50.)

Second, an entire farm doesn't need to be organic for it to produce and sell some certified organic products; a farm could section off 10 percent of its acreage for organic-style farming. But an entire farm must be certified biodynamic in order to produce certified biodynamic goods. Plus, to be certified biodynamic, 10 percent of the acreage must be set aside for biodiversity (forest, wetland, insectary, etc.).

Third, organic has one processing standard for all products (here's a fact sheet on the general organic farming practices), while biodynamic has 16 different processing standards for different types of products (wine, dairy, meat, produce, etc.).

In the end, they're both about eliminating the scary stuff from our food. An organic certification means there are no synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, or genetic engineering used in the food, and farm animals must be fed organic feed, etc. Biodynamic includes those guidelines, as well as making the farm even more self-reliant. For example, instead of simply requiring organic feed for animals, most of the feed must originate from other processes and resources on the farm.

Why Should You Care About Buying Biodynamic?

You know how you feel crappy when you eat crappy food? Ex: that chocolate binge or the three servings of French fries you didn't really need, but left you bloated for days? Well just like eating healthier can make you feel better, eating food that's grown in a healthier way can make you feel better.

"Food is medicine," says Candelario. "And before we even start thinking about buying vitamin-supplemented fruit juices, getting a membership to the gym, doing all of those things that we do because we want to be healthier, the number-one place we have to start is our diet. Food products are only as good as the farming that stands behind them."

Here, four more reasons you should consider buying biodynamic:

1. The Quality. Higher-quality production means higher-quality products—like how a tomato that you picked up from your local farmers' market (or, better yet, picked from the vine yourself) seems to have so much more flavor than ones from the big-box grocery store.

2. The Nutrition. "They are deeply nutritious," say Candelario. By building healthy microbiota in the soil, biodynamic farms are building healthy plants, which is what goes directly into your body.

3. The Farmers. By buying biodynamic, "you're supporting farmers who are really making an investment in their farm in order to bring these products to market, in a way that's really healthy for the farmer, the farm workers, and the community that this farm is in," she says.

4. The Planet. "Biodynamic is a beautifully regenerative agriculture standard," says Candelario. It doesn't contribute to climate change, and may even be a remedy for it.

Sooo Where Can I Get This Stuff?

Demeter has 200 certified entities in the country. About 160 are farms and the rest are brands, growing by about 10 percent per year, says Candelario. This means the availability of biodynamic products is still relatively limited—you need to know exactly what you're looking for and where to look. You aren't going to stumble over them on your next Trader Joe's run or at ShopRite. But it's worth investing some time and energy into finding them. You can use this biodynamic product locator to find farms and retailers near you. (Plus, it's the magical age of the internet, so you can buy stuff online.)

"We need consumers to be patient because it's going to take a while to develop these products, because we have to develop the agriculture," says Candelario. "But when they do see these products and seek them out, they're basically voting with their dollars about supporting [this] form of farming ... while at the same time purchasing for their families the most delicious and nutritious products."

It will take some time to grow the biodynamic food marketplace, but Candelario says she thinks biodynamic will follow in the footsteps of the organic label's success: "I'm hoping that as a base, consumers will want organic instead of conventional, and then at the top of the pyramid, biodynamic will be the new organic." (It took about 35 years for organic to become what it is today—that's why "transitional" organic products were a thing for a while.)

And one last caveat: As with organic products and produce, biodynamic foods will result in a slightly larger grocery bill. "They're priced like any artisan product would be," says Candelario. But if you're willing to spend half a paycheck on that ~fancy~ hipster ring from Brooklyn, why can't you shell out a few extra bucks for the stuff that's supplying nutrients to your body?

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Why Cows Need Horns

Originally Posted on October 5, 2016 by  

“Why cows have horns” is a resource compiled by the cattle breeding group of the Swiss Biodynamic Association in conjunction with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and co-published by the NZ Biodynamic Association.

Created to address the practices of horn disbudding and breeding of polled (hornless) animals, the guide is a summary of basic facts and fascinating observations about the role horns play in cattle.

When the moon is in Aries at conception, the animal’s horns will tend to grow strongly upwards and become long. ~ Hans Oswald, farmer

This easy-to-read report covers the nature of horned animals; horn development; the function of horns; the effects of disbudding and breeding polled animals; and encouraging trust between humans and animals.

Download the full report here: Why cows have horns.

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