Beth Hoinacki is a member of the Demeter USA Board of Directors and recently joined the Unification Nucleus Group to help support the unification process, communication, and overall support to boards and staff. Beth owns and operates Goodfoot Farm in the Coastal foothills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, growing certified Biodynamic® fruits and vegetables for the local community.
Beth, thanks for sharing with us about your journey with biodynamics and your work with the current unification of Demeter USA and the Biodynamic Association (BDA). To start, what most inspires you about biodynamics?
You know, that probably changes over time…. Right now I have been reflecting most on the practice of biodynamics. For me, biodynamics is all about the “doing,” the experience of engaging in a method of agriculture. I believe I am farming as a means to learn the lessons with which I have been tasked in this life on Earth. Practicing biodynamics is framing those lessons in a holistic way — for my head, hands, and heart.
Could you share a bit about your involvement over the years with Demeter and the biodynamic community?
I was first introduced to biodynamics through my work with Stellar Certification Services and Demeter Association in 2008. Initially I did office work, reviewing files. Later, while at an IOIA organic inspector training in Wisconsin, a seasoned organic inspector with over 1,000 inspections to date mentioned the most beautiful farms she had been on were biodynamic ones. My subsequent inspection work for Stellar and Demeter — on those beautiful farms! — along with the concurrent development of my own farming system, led me to practice biodynamics. It’s an interesting way to come to biodynamics — through certification — and I remember engaging conversations with then Demeter director Jim Fullmer on the idea of means and ends and the tensions present in bringing people to biodynamics through a marketing focus. As I was looking to support the development of my own biodynamic practice, I found the Oregon Biodynamic Group and began attending meetings and making preps.
The Biodynamic Association also served as a source of information and inspiration. My work with Demeter and Stellar decreased as I turned more of my time and attention to farming and by 2016 I had stopped doing certification work and was farming full time. In 2017 I met Thea Maria Carlson and Rebecca Briggs from the BDA when they visited the farm in advance of the national Biodynamic Conference, which they were planning for November 2018 in Portland, Oregon. In February of 2018, they returned to Corvallis to help present a biodynamic-centered track at the OSU Small Farms Conference, along with members of the Oregon Biodynamic Group and Jim Fullmer of Demeter. It was really rewarding to bring together individuals from these different realms of the community (national, regional, certification) to present workshops introducing biodynamics to a broad spectrum of the agricultural community. I subsequently served on the conference committee for the BDA for the Portland conference, as well as to present at the conference. In 2020 I joined the Demeter board and currently serve as secretary.
What inspires you to volunteer your time as a board member and participate in the in-depth work of the unification process?
A few years ago my daughter asked why I served on the board of our local rural charter school (of which I was also a founding member and for which I have served on the board for many years). My answer to her was “because I can.” It was a simple answer, but it is rooted in my belief that if we are able to serve our communities, we should. Of course, there are lots of ways to define and interpret what it means to be “able.” And part of that is having the interest and talent for the nature of the work. Board work is unique in how it links policy to mission work. Policy helps guide the practice of getting things done. To get it done well, and right, it helps to have policy that represents and upholds the mission. The in-depth work of the unification process interests me because I recognize that the “devil’s in the details,” so to speak, and if we can get it right at that level, there will be so much more potential expressed in the unification and the work of the new organization.
What potential do you see in the unification between Demeter and the BDA?
I think the unification of these two organizations into one will create a formal structure whereby different programs (education, trade advocacy, certification) can better inform each other toward a shared mission. I think of it as the voice in my head, or the devil (and angel!) on my shoulder, whispering, “But did you think of this, what about this, how about that…” as a means to constantly evaluate action and the relevance of it. I believe, actually, that there are potentials in the unification that we do not yet imagine because they will be borne out of our experience in the process. I am reminded of the Sufi teaching: you think that, because you understand “one,” you therefore must understand “two” because one and one make two. But you forget that you must also understand “and.” The “and,” which will be expressed in the unification of Demeter and the BDA, is really exciting to me.
What do you think we should stay mindful of as we go through this unification process?
I think I am always considering whether we are being mindful of the process. I am actually a very goal-oriented person, but I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, which creates an interesting tension! I’m highly motivated to achieve measurable outcomes, and I’ve learned (through farming) that the best outcome is dependent on being very attentive to how one achieves that. Part of that is not just paying attention to the process and those who wish to participate, but also to creating the space and adjusting one’s own perspective to make room for and hear and understand others’ contributions. We need to constantly be seeking to understand what others bring to the table and how to best get them there.
What do you hope to see for the biodynamic movement in five or ten years?
I would like to see more individuals in local and regional groups practicing biodynamics in community. I think the success of the movement is fundamentally expressed in the farmers practicing biodynamics and who are in relationship with each other and the people they feed. When I imagine the people I feed, who then in turn go about their business expressing the vitality of that food and the connections to me, their farmer, and to the Earth that it provides, I am hopeful.