Conferences are known to be uptight, impersonal, tense and boring. Not the biodynamic conference. Biodynamic farmers have none of these qualities. The conference, hosted by BDAASA (Biodynamic Agriculture Association of South Africa) on 16-18 of June was held at a wet and muddy Bloublommetjieskloof in Wellington, one of the first biodynamic farms in SA.
I arrived on the Thursday in gumboots and a rain jacket, soaking wet after walking from the farm’s entrance. The view was just too breathtaking not to experience on the ground. I felt the sunrise over the green lush in full force.
As I entered the white Dutch-like house with hair dark and dripping, I was welcomed by the smell of warm farm milk, which had just been heated for the attendees. Liesl Haasbroek, the National Coordinator of the Biodynamic Association of Southern Africa, invited me in, pushed a cup of coffee into my hand and asked about me. I felt immediately welcome.
We sat down next to the fireplace and chatted about sustainable farming and spirituality. During the introduction I learned that the biodynamic approach is a culmination of all aspects of the human experience – physical, emotional and rational – and that the success of their farming lies in this holistic and integrated approach. Everyone there viewed their farm as a living organism.
‘Our Mother Earth has a life of her own. Her cousins are the stars and planets who are all dancing in a rhythm,’ Avice Hindmarch said. ‘Ask your farm to introduce herself. What is she like?’
Everyone listened closely as farms were described with deep emotion – it felt like a story session around the campfire with some of the earliest tribes of our country.
‘Our ancestors had to work with what they had. We have to farm with nature, not against nature. We are our surroundings and our surroundings are us. Our generation has to learn these skills, because the chemicals people use are building up somewhere, and sooner or later will reach us,’ a member said.
Introduce your farm
Here are some of the descriptions:
- ‘My farm is suffering from a lack of water. She is thirsty and dried out. Her true beauty is revealed through wetness and rain.’
- (from the mountain’s perspective) ‘I appreciate that they’re farming biodynamically on me and harmonising with me. I am therapy and healing for alcoholics.’
- ‘I support the poor who are desperate. I give food, jobs and money to about 3000 Xhosa speaking workers. There’s a growing love of the people for me and what I can do for them. Climate change is nothing new to me. I can grow anything in my sand.’
- ‘I am exposed. I’ve been affected by weather and vandalism.’
- ‘Initially my farmer was trying to teach me, but I am teaching him.’
- ‘The people on the farm encourage me. My farmer and I have fallen in love, but we still see other people. I used to be part of a leper colony, and I have an old and wise spirit. Mentally and physically challenged adults farm with me. The footsteps on my farm, the rituals and engagement nourish me.’
- ‘I have a wild spirit and sometimes I laugh at my farmer. I wouldn’t be a farm without the disabled people who farm with me.’
- ‘I yearn to be introduced to the biodynamic kind of thinking. I heal by healing people.’
Then came the heart rendering last one:
‘My farm was sold to a commercial farmer this morning.’
I swallowed a lump in my throat. Finally I understood why she was crying. It’s like losing a mother, or a child.
A conversation between humans and the earth
I realised the importance of human interaction with the earth. Perhaps the earth cares about us too?
In my job I face the destructive nature of the human race all the time. Sometimes I think the planet would be better off without us. But now I understood that we could co-exist and value each other. We owe it to Mother Nature and to ourselves to consider sustainability in whatever we practice.
‘We need so little space to provide enough food to stay alive,’ said curly-haired Rob, questioning the sustainability of the large numbers of large-scale and commercial farmers in our country.
He farms in sandy soil on the Cape Flats area, and finds that biodynamic farming can provide excellent results in these harsh conditions.
‘We don’t need huge farming systems and people are awakening to their farms’ true potential.’
Learning from our mistakes
JJ and Genneane had recently moved down from Johannesburg and farm in the Kouga valley.
‘We need to go back to the basics. Living is about life, not money. We are destroying the human race.’
‘We are in the rat race to produce something, we have lost control. How did we become so trapped? People lack direction, money dictates. I am almost frightened by it,’ a young woman, Joan from Stellenbosch added. She tucked her golden curls behind her ear. ‘We can’t deliver in big quantities anymore, it’s not sustainable. We have to learn from our mistakes.’
The first night of the conference ended with a question to consider amongst ourselves:
‘Can we as people go back to natural, self-reliant farming?’
JJ closed the evening with a final statement.
‘We need to understand the value in food. Knowing this helps us select the right food, which is a metaphor for real value in all spheres. We are all searching for real values.’
As consumers we can support the earth by supporting biodynamic farms and products.