Gabeno, the dynamics of biodynamics

7 02 2010

We got back from Gabeno, the biodynamic farm we mentioned in our previous post. In this article, we did our best to put together our learnings on biodynamics, or as we call it ‘conscious farming’. Our purpose is to present the basics of the biodynamic method, and to generate curiosity about the subject. At the end of the article, readers will find several links to further their knowledge.

 

A look at space and time

Gabeno was founded 20 years ago by a German man who was deeply interested in Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy. His goal was to create a place where biodynamics could be explored, and let the project evolve on its own. Located one hour away from Bogota, near Tenjo, the weather allows all-year-long production in a wide variety of vegetables. The farm also has cattle, and produces milk, yogurt, cheese and compost!

At Gabeno, enthusiasts study and apply the principles of biodynamics. In order to share their approach with interested individuals, they welcome interns and host weekly study-groups that are open to all. We find it important to mention that the people working and living there have a sincere will to teach and learn, and their approach is so human and humble that it makes the experience at Gabeno out of the ordinary. As William says, concerning the deeper aspects of biodynamics: “We are all students”.

 

Biodynamic agriculture, the works of Rudolf Steiner

Born in Austria in the late 19th century, Rudolf Steiner influenced several aspects of society. Philosophy, spirituality, education, arts, and agriculture are all subjects in which he left a significant trace. He is best known for being the founding father of Anthroposophy, also called ‘spiritual science’ (source: click link).

At the beginning of the 20th century, Steiner was approached by a group of farmers concerned about the deterioration of the soil. As a result, he gave a series of conferences, known today as the “Agriculture course: The birth of the biodynamic method”. Through his conferences he describes the principles of biodynamics as being the balance of all forces influencing the growth and development of life.

Nowadays, the depletion of the soil as a consequence to the ‘Green Revolution‘ is obvious. Farmers from all over the world are asking for alternatives, such as organic farming, ecological agriculture, permaculture and biodynamics.

 

The farm as an organism

The farm is more than a piece of land used for growing vegetables and having cattle. Seen through the eyes of biodynamic farmers, the farm is a living organism in the sense that each farm is unique (source only in Spanish: click link). The challenge is getting to know the land and its specific qualities. Biodynamics has it clear that all aspects and areas of the farm are connected. We cannot influence one specific area without affecting the organism as a whole. The coherence and harmony in our actions will determine the quality of the crops.

 

Working with cosmic forces

Most of us are aware that plants react to several factors: weather conditions, the amounts of sunlight and water, and the nutricious quality of the soil. But  there are more subtle forces that also influence the development and growth of plants. Such forces are ‘cosmic’, meaning they depend on the position of the Sun, the phases of the Moon, and the interaction between the different planets in our system. The Biodynamic method pays attention to all forces and takes into consideration the fluctuations of the cosmos to create a balance.

Several experiments have been conducted regarding these influences. Based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, Maria Thun has been studying the growth of plants for over 40 years (source: click link). One of her first experiments was to plant radishes every hour for several days observing clear differences in their development. Since all radishes were being planted in the same type of soil, getting the same amount of light and water, and being taken care of in the same ways, she concluded more subtle factors were responsible for such differences.

Her research has established specific days for specific labors, giving birth to the “Maria Thun’s Calendar“. According to her experiments, some days are appropriate for sowing, others for doing maintenance, and others for harvesting. Yet, this varies depending on what crop we grow: roots (like carrots), leaves (like spinach), fruit (like beans) or flowers (like calendula).

At Gabeno, we tried to apply the calendar as much as possible, yet it is very hard for a productive farm to be able to work exclusively according to the appropriate dates. This is mainly a consequence of the market and its pressure. Imagine going on Monday to buy our carrots, beetroots and radishes, and coming back on Sunday to pick up spinach, leek and parsley… Not yet, simply not yet!

 

The preparations

Another important aspect of biodynamic agriculture is the use of what we call ‘preparations’. Just as homeopathy uses very small amounts of plants or other extracts in order to ‘boost’ specific parts of our body, the preparations are small amounts of plants, mineral or animal compounds. Applied to crops, nearby greens or to compost, they are intended to drive natural forces and stimulate their effects. They are numbered, going from 500 to 508.

We helped spraying preparations 500 and 501. Preparation 500 is made out of cow manure fermented in cow horn and buried from September until April to absorb the energies of the Moon, strongly related to water and associated to the roots of plants. Preparation 501 is its complement, made out of powdered qwartz packed in cow horn and buried from April to September, attracting the energies of the Sun, linked to light and heat, and acting on foliage.

In order to use the preparations, we first need to ‘dynamize’ them in water. We mix a small amount of the preparation in abundant water and we stirr it for one hour. The purpose of stirring is to give life back to the water, by giving it movement. Preferably we use rainwater and we always begin the process by stirring to the left, then to the right, and then we alternate directions for one hour. Once this is done, the preparation is dynamized and ready to be sprayed.

While we were at Gabeno, they were having issues with the weather. In fact, the season has been very dry with cold temperatures in the mornings. This usually happens around February, but it seems this year it happened earlier than usual. Temperatures went down to -7 °C which is very cold for the tropics. So, preparation 500 was spayed to activate the water forces and generate a humid environment, protecting the plants from the early cold temperatures, since plants resist cold temperatures better when moist. On top of spaying the preparation, we also watered the garden everyday. As a result, we created an appropriate environment for fungal diseases to develop…

That’s why the nest morning, we applied preparation 501 on young and leafy crops. This preparations stimulates the energies of the Sun and its heat. The purpose was to eliminate the excessive humidity and control fungus on leaves. It was great to be there to understand how both preparations are used to regulate each other’s actions. Again, the principle is balance.

 

Giving back what we have taken

“The art of making compost consists in using whatever you have. The point is to give the necessary nutrients back to the Earth”, says William, as he was teaching us the art of composting. Indeed, the Earth feeds us through the fruit and vegetables we take from it. Somehow, we must give it back all the nutrients we have ‘used’. Else, we will empty its reserve and slowly but surely, we will end up having a depleted, unhealthy soil.

Composting is a natural way to close the cycle, and give the Earth the nutrients it needs to keep on feeding us. Nowadays, most of us know what composting is. But biodynamic composting is quite unique. It is made out of organic left-overs and cow manure, but it also incorporates the above mentioned preparations. On specific dates, according to the calendar, small amount of the preparations 502 to 507 are put into the pile. On our first visit, we helped with this procedure. The preparations are put into fresh manure balls, like dumplings, and then put into the compost pile, in the center of it. Following homeopathic principles, small quantities are enough, and act on the entire compost.

We do not know much about why such preparations are used, other than “to reconnect the compost with the cosmos”. What we do know, is that the result of implementing such preparations makes a difference in the quality of the compost that even skeptics can notice. As told by Oscar, one of the workers at Gabeno: “When I first arrived here, I used to laugh at the preparations and their weirdness. But I remember once we didn’t use the preparations properly and our compost was still not ready in the center. The manure was still fresh. We applied the preparations and left the pile for another month. At the end of it, the compost was of excellent quality and worked great!”. We do not have enough knowledge to determine how accurate this is. We are just able to transmit what we saw and heard. One thing is clear: he who knows, knows. And usually, farmers know best about their land and procedures.

 

Conclusion

Entering Gabenos’ everyday life was a very fulfilling experience. We had a hands-on learning process where we discovered the beauty of farming and the challenges it represents to do it naturally. We were also able to appreciate the power of the biodynamic method and see for ourselves why it can be called ‘conscious farming’. With a down-to-Earth approach, we shared with you our experience in order to present an alternative to the artificial products we are using all over the world in our farms, our crops, our food.

This situation is not only our farmers’ issue, it is our issue too, as consumers. By being aware that alternatives exist we are better prepared to make our choices. Let’s choose health for our Planet and ourselves!

If you have any comments, ideas or suggestions please do share, we appreciate it : )

 

Take it further!

To learn more about the ‘Green Revolution’ and its current consequences visit www.foodfirst.org/media/opeds/2000/4-greenrev.html

To learn more about Biodynamics visit www.biodynamics.com/biodynamics.html

To learn more biodynamic preparation, its uses and further readings on the subject go to page 3 and 4 of this article

Advertisements

Actions

Information

8 responses

7 02 2010
Luiza

Hey you guys!

What you’ve been doing is great, and ever so inspiring! During the course of my horticulture studies, i’ve had one of my teachers briefly mention biodynamic agriculture. She told us about Steiner and i had taken down his name, meaning to look it up, but never had the time to do it. That’s great that you guys experienced this first hand! I can’t wait to finish my schooling, and take off on farming experiences of my own 😀 Much love!!

12 02 2010
lookingfortherainbow

Hey Luiza!

One of things that got to us the most about the biodynamic method, is the relationship between the farmers and their land. They seem to develop a special sensitivity and are very aware of how their work has an impact on the land. If you get to visit a biodynamic farm, please let us know!

Much love to you,

lisa and juan 🙂

1 07 2010
nicknakorn

Dear lisa and juan,
there are many organic methods that care for the soil but Biodynamics is different in that it also supports a profoundly racist and colonialist doctrine. Don’t believe the hype around the Biodynamic ‘scientific’ trials; they have been falsified and exagerated by people who want to believe the mysticism rather than face the science.
Sincerely
Nick Nakorn

3 07 2010
lookingfortherainbow

Thanks for your comment Nick!
More than a doctrine or a hype, our experience with biodynamics is based on what we saw and lived at Gabeno, the farm we stayed at. It involves the people we worked with, the work we did and the results we saw. We are not farmers, nor scientists, and we don’t take a side in the controversy regarding Steiner’s work, so we cannot seriously discuss the scientifical nor mystical facets of biodynamics. What we did was visit a farm in Colombia that follows certain aspects of the biodynamical method and shared our experience with our readers.
Again, thanks for your comment, and please feel free to share any knowledge you have on other organic methods that take care of the soil. We love to share!
juan and lisa 🙂

4 07 2010
Graham Strouts

Hi Lisa and Juan
First I would like to commend you on your blog and your commitment to sustainable agriculture.
However your enthusiasm for biodynamics and the esoteric views of Rudolph Steiner are very disquieting. There is no science whatsoever behind these practices, which essentially involve sympathetic magic and animal sacrifice. As such the practice of Biodynamics (and homeopathy) represents anti-science and is fundamentally reactionary.
Moreover, the Biodynamics movement is part of the wider cult of Anthroposophy which pedals a racist, anti-rational agenda, and as such is extremely dangerous.
I can tell from your enthusiasm that you have your hearts in the right place; I urge to to embrace scientific methodology and reject the pseudoscience and mystical delusions of biodynamics if you really want to contribute to making a better world.

4 07 2010
lookingfortherainbow

Thank you for comment Graham!

As we said to Nick, we do not take sides on this never-ending debate between believers and skeptics. Our article is based on our experience. We encourage our readers (and ourselves) to get informed and make our own opinions.

Our explorations are not over, and we are very aware of the existence of other organic methods. We encourage you to share your knowledge on those grounds and will be happy to read about it.

Thank you Graham.

NB: As a disclaimer for future comments on this topic: we understand there are many views about biodynamics that have generated a perpetual debate. We have chosen to focus on concrete actions, so if you have a concrete alternative to biodynamics, please share it. We’ll be more than happy to receive your comment. Thank you!

3 12 2011
Carolina N.

Hello!
Thank you very much for your article! It was quite exciting to read it.
My friend and I – we´re going to visit Colombia next February to join
the peace corps (FOR) in the north of Medellin.
After this journey we will have some days left and I would like to get
in touch with biodynamic farms to spend the last days until we fly back home.
My question is – How can I get in contact with them? Does it cost something? etc.

I would really appreciate your answer!
Greetings from Austria!

7 04 2012
lookingfortherainbow

Hello Carolina,
Sorry for not answering your message earlier, if you’re still in Colombia, or are planning to go back someday, you can contact Gabeno farm through: fincagabeno@gmail.com

All the best!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: