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Compost & Soil Health: 2016 EcoFarm Pre-Conference

A pre-conference workshop at the 36th annual EcoFarm Conference in Pacific Grove, CA

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

with Bruno Follador, director of the Living Soils initiative at The Nature Institute


8:30 — Registration and Informal Networking

9:00 — Welcome and Introductions, with Thea Maria Carlson

9:30 — A Biodynamic Approach to Compost and Soil Health, with Bruno Follador

10:45 — From Decomposition to Composition: Building and Caring for Compost Piles, with Bruno Follador

12:00 — Lunch

1:15 — Farmer Panel: Compost and Soil Health on My Farm, with Harald Hoven, Marney Blair, and Stephen Decater

2:30 — Entering into Perception, with Bruno Follador

3:15 — Portraying Soils and Compost: Color, Form, and Pattern, with Bruno Follador

4:30 — Peer Conversations

4:45 — Question and Answer Session

5:15 — Closing

Biodynamic Events During the Main EcoFarm Conference

Biodynamic Composting: Insights and Practices, with Bruno Follador — Thursday, Jan. 21, 8:30 am

Biodynamics: The Rhythms and Dynamics of Nature, with Harald Hoven and Delmar McComb — Thursday, Jan. 21, 3:30 pm

Supporting Bees for a Sustainable Future, with Michael Thiele and Neal Williams — Friday, Jan. 22, 10:30 am

Biodynamic Mixer, sponsored by the Biodynamic Association and Frey Vineyard — Friday, Jan. 22, 8:00-9:30 pm



How can we grow resilience to drought and climate change?

How can we create more healthy and vital soils?

Composting is an essential activity of a healthy and self-sustaining farm. Yet increasingly it is an afterthought, or completely missing from our farms and gardens. As we search for solutions to climate change and drought, composting offers a pathway for building vital soils that nurture resilient crops, and fostering healthier carbon cycles.

During this full-day workshop we will deeply engage in the biodynamic approach to the art of composting. We will cover all of the practical and technical details, including sourcing materials, building and turning piles, and working with the biodynamic preparations. We will also explore how we can develop a qualitative understanding of the dynamic processes in the compost pile, and consider the significance of compost in the whole farm organism.

Cost: $110 for Biodynamic Association members, $125 others (organic lunch included).

Scholarships are available through the Biodynamic Scholarship Fund. Priority deadline for scholarship applications is December 1.

BDA members: log in and visit this page to view your discount code. (If you have questions about how to access member-only content online, visit our membership information page.)

Online registration is now open.

Course Instructors:

Bruno Follador is the director of The Living Soils Initiative at The Nature Institute in Ghent, NY. He is a Brazilian geographer and biodynamic researcher with a deep commitment to the Goethean approach to science and has been working with biodynamic composting methods and Ehrenfried Pfeiffer's chromatography for several years. He has worked with farmers and organizations in Brazil, Europe and the United States.

Harald Hoven has been farming and teaching at Rudolf Steiner College, a center for Waldorf Education and biodynamic farming in Fair Oaks, California for over 25 years. There he developed Raphael Garden, a small diversified farm with a focus on year-round CSA, some livestock, a sizable seed saving and breeding project, and an apprentice training program. Harald makes biodynamic preparations on the farm which are distributed to many members of the Biodynamic Association of Northern California (BDANC), the regional biodynamic group.

Marney Blair has been running Fulcrum Farm in Grass Valley, CA with her partner Lisa Bjorn for over fifteen years. At the heart of their farm is their composting operation. On twenty acres they raise cattle, chickens, and pigs. They have two orchards that produce apples, peaches, plums and pears. Before Marney moved to Nevada County, she designed and managed a large scale composting facility for the Presidio Trust, a division of the Presidio of San Francisco, which is part of the National Park System. The compost was used as the growing medium for the native plant nursery, to replant trees and for compost tea on the golf course. Marney also worked for Nevada County as a consultant for the Recycling Department. She would conduct site visits to various ranches, farm and property owners and instruct them in how to turn their animal manure into compost. 

Stephen Decater and his wife Gloria are the founders and operators of Live Power Community Farm, a 40-acre diversified biodynamic, 100% community-based farm in Mendocino County, California. The farm is now in its 24th season providing food for 200 member households in Mendocino County and the San Francisco Bay area. Steve and Gloria host on-farm school class visits and maintain an apprentice program for 5 to 7 apprentices each season. Since 1980 they have been using draft horses for soil tillage, garden cultivation, and general field work. They came to the land originally as caretakers and in 1995, with the help of their member community, they created and placed a specialized shared equity agricultural easement on their farm, which dedicates the land permanently to active biological farming use and ties its resale value to farming income level, keeping it affordable to future generations of farmers.

Thea Maria Carlson holds Co-Director, Education and Farmer Training, Conference, and Events roles with the Biodynamic Association. She is a facilitator, farmer, educator, and artist, with roots in California and the Midwest. Her diverse experience includes farming biodynamic and organic vegetables, fruit and flowers; teaching gardening, nutrition, and beekeeping; designing, building and managing urban community and educational gardens; and organizing strategic communications training programs for nonprofit leaders.