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Practicing Healing Agriculture: Meet the 2023 Biodynamic Foundations Cohort!

“There’s no other type of agriculture as comprehensive as biodynamics.” “Biodynamics is a way I can create with all life around me towards healing”. “I appreciate the focus biodynamics brings to the care and development of all the beings on the farm, including the human being and the community.” These are some of the inspirations calling participants to join Biodynamic Demeter Alliance’s Biodynamic Foundations Farmer Training. A new cohort began in May, with 23 people hailing from across the US and Canada.  

Each participant works on the ground with a mentor to get practical experience, forming relationships with the life of a place. We all gather together weekly via video conference for learning and community building sessions. In these spaces we meet to share experiences, questions, and encouragement.

We work with soil care, plant cultivation, animal health, and community relationships. We also work to deepen our experiences through artistic exercises and contemplative prompts. We work with asking questions towards understanding how we as human beings know, care for, and participate in the world. The scientific, artistic, and contemplative are interwoven. In this weaving we create a renewed way to converse and dialog with all that is, out in the widths of the world and in the depths of our souls.

We build capacities in qualitative observation, evaluation, and action. There is an enriched relationship with one’s self, the natural world, and the greater community. As the program progresses, individual growth begins to bud and flower. But the bud and flower do not necessarily come easily. How can we bring forward the splendor of color and fragrance hidden within each of us?

Stepping into the Biodynamic Foundations Farmer Training can represent a significant life shift. It is the beginning of a transformative process. One gathers all their forces and sheds the life and way of being they’re familiar with to join others in creating new life. A seed for the future, formed from the past, is sown and cared for in new, unknown territory.

The seed finds itself in the darkness and warmth and life of unusual soil. With grace, the seed brings with it hopes and dreams and capacities. With courage, the seed coat, the condensed shell of being, splits open. A threshold moment arises through these first steps. What was, and what may become, meet what is, anew.

In this meeting anew there is a deepened knowing, an enthused need to relate with all that lives. All that flows within the substantial earth, and all that weaves through the air and light and warmth within and around. Despite, or because of, a new relationship to this knowledge, questions arise: ‘Where as a human being is my place in the world? Are we only passive recipients of a fast changing world, or can we become active participants in the creation of our earth’s future?’ (EduCareDo Foundation Course Lesson 1.

The existential nature of such wonderings might be frightening at first. Yet if worked with in a healthy community these questions can become a potent force for new individual life, and new community life. The Biodynamic Foundations Farmer Training brings together a diversity of approaches and experiences. Many individuals, places, cultures, climates, plants, animals, and communities converge. The diversity is rich. And at times we can all feel different, separate, segregated, even isolated. Here we strive, together, in consciousness, to realize the integration of this diversity. We may take what has become individualized and weave it into a cohesive, beautiful whole. The ideal of this new community, this new living being, is to honor, fortify, and fructify the essence of each individual. Through living this ideal in community we may give and nourish more as individuals and together.

Like the pure and chaste plant, there is so much potential of healing and giving in everyone, in everything. The path of biodynamics, the path to greater healing, nourishing, and giving, is both straightforward and wildly complex. Prepare fertile ground. With faith and hope, with work and affection and care and patience, sow and care for the humble seed. Cultivate the future and mystery that lies within as it meets the modern world. With courage, bring this new life into greater relationship with the community, with the world. And with strength and grace, gather to support each other.

Who are the human beings bringing seeds of healing and nourishing, joining to work together in our cohort this year? Below are some glimpses of a handful of participants in this year’s Biodynamic Foundations Farmer Training. Please join in welcoming them!

Sarah Bush, Riceville, TN
Farmer, Gardener, and Community Organizer

“My crone years goal is to be a community herbalist and garden/farm educator, and biodynamic preparation maker. I want to do this work on land that hosts a farm apprenticeship and agritourism operation, and host on-farm events. Basically to continue helping bridge the gap between urban and rural, and help people understand and appreciate where their food and medicine come from (and to grow/make their own!). I want to help strengthen the BD/anthroposophical community in Eastern Tennessee.

My mid-term goals in the meantime (while my physical body is strong) are to deepen my understanding of BD practices and apply them effectively towards my existing knowledge as a veggie and flower grower, to deepen my experiments in growing medicinal herbs and to learn how market them, to continue making medicine with them for myself and my loved ones. 

My current personal development goals are to slow down, be more intentional in and more accountable for my decisions, to be a clearer, kinder communicator, and to manage my time better. I think the program will help me grow through the observational activities, journaling, sharing my process with others and listening to them share their experiences.

I hope to learn how I operate under a rigorous learning/ farming structure that also values gentleness and self/community care (which I have found to be lacking in the ag world so far). I hope that I learn more about my motivations behind choosing farming as a profession and lifestyle even though it is difficult, financially depleting, and often isolating.”

Michelle Mondia, Pasadena, CA
Masters in Public Health, working in prisons, as a death doula and in curative education

“Most of our current agricultural practices are dependent on the global capitalist market and industrial means of production that leads to malnutrition all over the world and a widening wealth gap, not to mention a void of life and spirit. I would like to see agricultural practices prioritize respect for people and land by providing more funding and opportunities for local farmers to thrive, increasing education and hands on skills development for community members to engage in use of their land, and disrupting big corporations from monopolizing and getting rich off the backs of mostly the Global South.

My role in this is breaking barriers and building gardens inside prison walls with the leadership of the incarcerated population, giving agency to community members by offering a space for learning more about their land and what sustains themselves and the land.

I work for Insight Garden Program. This work is more than just planting a seed and seeing how they grow. It’s a form of resistance to incarceration. Most of the women I work with are lifers with no possibility of parole. Prison life and what it offers is all they have for the rest of their life. Aside from Steiner’s work and others, I re-read Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning every year, and this quote is what inspires me to do this work: “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”. I think that in order to feel empowered to have a deeper relationship with the land and others, one must feel that they can have a choice in doing so.”

Ben Johnson, Boise, ID
Teacher, gardener, future farmer

“For me, biodynamics is the most ideal form of agriculture that exists at this time, because it takes all elements of the ecosystem into account, from the health of the soil to the cosmic influences that have subtle but crucial impacts on plants and animals. I think that the holistic worldview that is behind biodynamics is the only approach that will lead to a truly sustainable direction for agriculture, and that therefore spreading that worldview through education and practical application of biodynamic principles is the best way to move forward. The more people who understand the importance of sustainable and regenerative practices, both as consumers and as producers, the more quickly the paradigm for agriculture will start to shift on a large scale. 

As an experienced Waldorf teacher, my intention is to integrate my experience and knowledge as an educator with the skill I hope to gain as a biodynamic farmer to create an educational farm, affiliated with the Waldorf charter school where I currently work. This farm will provide healthy food for students at the school, provide educational opportunities on many levels, and be a center for community building.

My long term goal, which I consider both personal and vocational, is to be a farmer and teacher. I know that my educational journey will continue throughout my career, but I hope that this program will give me the base of skills and knowledge that I will need to move forward with making this dream, which I have held for a long time now, a reality.” 

Caitlin Logan, Ghent, NY 
Ex-Hospitality worker, New Farmer

“Living in community is ripe for personal growth. I spent two years living in Camphill Village Kimberton Hills, and I am looking forward to being a part of the Hawthorne Valley community. Having more time to focus on biodynamic agriculture with a much smaller life sharing commitment is appealing to me. Living and working with others will allow me to experience different perspectives and expand my understanding of the whole farm ecosystem. 

I aim to continue to work in biodynamic agriculture moving forward, and would like to work internationally. I hope to bring the skills I learn through this program to other farms overseas, whether they are currently practicing biodynamics or looking to move in a more regenerative direction. I also hope to be a part of increasing access to local biodynamically grown produce to food deserts/urban areas without easily available fresh food. Participating in this program will give me a strong foundational understanding of biodynamic agriculture that I will take with me in my travels to the next community I am a part of. I would like to have a better understanding of anthroposophy as well, and believe this course will give me a better base in spiritual science with which to build on.”

Josh Avritt, Austin, TX
Respiratory Therapist and Aspiring Biodynamic Farmer

 “My family and I are looking to purchase farmland in Northern Idaho within the next 6 months. This training will help us to establish a solid biodynamic system for our farm, and it will help us network with other biodynamic farmers who we can lean on for support and offer our support in return. There are several cities, schools, and universities that are near the farmland we are looking at, and our plan is to develop cooperative relationships with those communities and educational institutions for research, learning, and integrated support.

My PhD is in Mind Body Medicine, and my dissertation research is focused on the lived experience of village-mindedness in grief. My wife is studying to become a doctor of Chinese Medicine. I feel that this biodynamic farmer program will help us to achieve our dream to have a farm that is a holistic hub within our local community where we can practice with others to develop deeply meaningful relationships and care for all aspects of life.”

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