Training and capacity working group at the 2018 Demeter International Members Assembly
By Thea Maria Carlson
My trip to India to attend the Organic World Congress and visit biodynamic farms and projects with biodynamic practitioners from around the globe in November 2017 was an entry point to many new relationships and richer participation with the international biodynamic community for me and the Biodynamic Association (see my posts on Bhaikaka Krishi Kendra and SARG Vikas Samiti for more on that trip). Shortly after I returned, I received two invitations to travel overseas: first to be a keynote speaker at the New Zealand Biodynamic Conference, and then to participate in a training and capacity working group at the Demeter International Members Assembly. These two events happened to be scheduled a week apart in June, and so I ended up literally circling the globe, from California to Switzerland via Iceland, from Switzerland to New Zealand via Hong Kong, and then from New Zealand back home.
In Switzerland, I joined with delegates from Demeter certification organizations around the world and other guests to visit several key biodynamic-related farms and projects in Switzerland, including the FiBL research institute and the DOK trials, where conventional, organic, and biodynamic agricultural practices have been compared side by side on randomized controlled plots continuously for the past forty years; Sativa biodynamic seed initiative and the farm, Demeter store, and education center co-located in Rheinau; and the exemplary family biodynamic farm Randenhof, with the most impressive pastured laying hen setup I've ever seen, featuring mobile coops with solar power, nesting boxes filled with grain hulls to keep the eggs protected and clean, a perforated floor with a conveyor belt underneath for efficiently cleaning out manure, and a shaded side area with netting reaching the ground to offer safe cover from raptor predators. After the field visits, we met for several days at Hertzberg, an ecological hotel and retreat center, and I got to see the democratic process by which Demeter International operates, including motions by member countries to amend the standards which are the basis for Demeter/Biodynamic certification. I also contributed to several strategy sessions with a group of international leaders in biodynamic training and capacity building to identify needs and priorities for Demeter International in supporting the global community—and especially countries where biodynamics is relatively new—in developing and implementing training for those who wish to practice biodynamic agriculture.
DOK trials, a 40-year randomized plot comparison of biodynamic, organic,beehives at the FiBL (organic agriculture research institute) in Switzerland and conventional farming in Switzerland
Pastured laying hens and their state-of-the-art mobile coop at Randenhof, Switzerland; Demeter store in Rheinau, Switzerland
Sativa biodynamic seed initiative in Switzerland
Traveling on from the first days of summer in Europe to the first days of winter in New Zealand, I arrived just in time for the full-day introduction to biodynamics pre-conference taught by Su Hoskin and Rachel Pomeroy (partner of the late Peter Proctor). Hosted at Domaine Thomson Vineyard, where Su had set up a gorgeous and functional biodynamic work space, a group of 40 participants braved intensely chilly weather to learn about the principles of biodynamics and get hands-on building a compost pile, making barrel compost, and stirring and spraying preparations. During the main conference, I offered two presentations, one on growing the biodynamic movement in North America, and a second on communicating biodynamics with depth and breadth in modern times. I also met with the council of the Biodynamics New Zealand and the organization's new leader to share my experiences and offer advice for their efforts to reinvigorate and grow their membership and programming.
Barrel for stirring biodynamic preparations at Rippon Vineyard; fruit tree pruning demonstration at the New Zealand Biodynamic Conference at the hands-on introductory workshop
Building compost at Domaine Thomson Vineyard; making biodynamic barrel compost
Su Hoskins' biodynamic compost preparations; stirring biodynamic preparations
Su Hoskins' beautiful biodynamic work shed at Domaine Thomson Vineyard
The round-the-world journey, like my time in India, was rich, full, and has brought many new ideas and inspirations back to my work in the US.
As I write this, I am just returning from yet another international trip, this time to participate in the 2019 International Biodynamic Conference in Dornach, Switzerland. I have attended this conference on behalf of the BDA twice before, in 2013 and 2014, but much has shifted in my role with the BDA and our work over the past five years, and I was happy to return with more to contribute and share. This time, my schedule was filled with meetings with international collaborators—many of whom I first met in India, and some last summer as well—exploring the ever unfolding ways that we can work together to build the global biodynamic impulse. It is an exciting time to be part of the international biodynamic community!
Winter vegetable garden at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland in early February
Thea Maria Carlson is Executive Director of the Biodynamic Association.