The Beauty of Biodynamics

by Jessica Jorgensen

Lastnight the dining area at Holy Cow Restaurant on Willamette Street was hardly large enough to contain the number of farmers and foodies who flocked there for Slow Food Eugene’s Last Tuesday event.  All seats were warmed by the members of the Slow Food Eugene community- a community to which our campus group has been warmly welcomed.  Whitney, Micheline, Danny, Sam and I were swept into the crowd as soon as we arrived.  Conversations were floating around the room like bubbles.  Restaurant owner, Kathy Lavine, shared with us her perspective on campus food culture, the referendum and President Lariviere’s policies.  Her animation and enthusiasm was infectious.  Meanwhile, the servers had been delivering plates of steamy goodness: tofu pad thai, saag paneer, and mushroom and vegetable enchiladas.

After a while, the chatting subsided and the full-bellied crowd could turn their attention to Amber and Jonah, who were invited to talk about biodynamics at Camus Whale, their 35-acre farm.  The Biodynamic Farming Association previously owned the land, which is 17 miles northwest of Eugene, and recently sold it to Amber and Jonah.

Biodynamics is a farming practice and philosophy that was founded by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925).  His philosophy, in a general sense, is to introduce undertones of spirituality to deteriorating systems of western civilization.  He approached the whole farm as an organism, something alive and interconnected.  Biodynamics became the supreme farming method.  However, a farmer has to work hard to earn the high-caliber accreditation of Demeter Biodynamics.  Just ask Jonah who often works 60 hours in one week on the farm.

When I leafed through the Demeter booklet for certified farms, a couple regulations caught my interest.

  • “Synthetic chemicals, materials to control pests, fungal attack, viral or other diseases, weeds, or to regulate growth in crops are prohibited.” (Instead, Amber and Jonah use horn manure.  They plant a horn filled with cow manure into the ground, dig it up six months later, mix ¼ cup of the substance with 3 gallons of water, and viola: natural pest spray.)
  • “Imported animal manures may not originate from animals kept in intensive animal husbandry systems.” (Biodynamic farmers almost always need their own livestock in order to be self-relient. They need the animals for fertilizer, compost and certain preparations that would otherwise be imported.)

Amber and Jonah have their work cut out for them on this new farm, but they are hard workers.  Last season they produced 8,000 lbs. of food on the one acre they farmed.  Right now, they sell to Holy Cow Restaurant, Humble Beagle, and the Pizza Research Institute.  They have a 30-member CSA and are hopeful they can increase that number to 50 by next year.

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