By Patricia Hunting
Willow Summer of Three Springs Community Farm and Anne Freiwald of Vital Cycles Permaculture kept the audience enrapt with their lively conversation in our latest Solutionaries Speak event, “Biodynamics: Beyond Organics.” They took a lofty subject and brought it down to earth — pun intended!
Willow opened with a quote by the father of biodynamic principles, Rudolph Steiner, a German farmer:
“Seek the truly practical material life, but seek it in such a way that it does not numb you to the spirit that works within it. Seek the spirit but not out of spiritual lust or spiritual egoism. Seek it rather because you wish to become selfless in the practical life of the material world. Turn to the ancient principle: spirit never without matter, matter never without spirit. And say to yourselves, we will do everything material in the light of the spirit. And we will seek the light of the spirit in such a way that it enkindles warmth within us for our practical deeds.”
How did biodynamics evolve?
At the end of World War I, Steiner had a premonition that the agriculture industry, threatened with heavily depleted soils, was leaning toward unhealthy chemical solutions (such as leftover, synthesized nitrate from the weapons industry) to replace naturally occurring nitrogen as a fertilizer. By the end of the 1800s, Europe had become increasingly materialistic and decreasingly religious. Steiner felt that people were out of touch with nature and with each other.
His theories, based on science, homeopathy, and alchemy, while complex on some levels, were also quite practical. He knew that it wasn't realistic to be 100% self-reliant on a farm and suggested that it was sufficient to feed livestock with 50% of fodder produced on the actual farm and 50% brought in from outside. He suggested that every farm devote 10% of its land to biodiversity in order to attract pollinators, birds, and even the relationships of prey and predators for natural pest and rodent control.
Applying biodynamic principles today
During Steiner’s lifetime, the idea of homesteading and being self-reliant might have worked, but this is no longer possible with our current world population. Even so, we can still apply his principles to our lives today. For example, most of us probably don’t sew our own clothing. However, we can still come together to collectively help one another.
Steiner is considered one of the first to propose the idea of community-supported agriculture (CSA). In this model, the community comes together with food producers to determine the farming budget. The members agree on how much they can contribute. If the budget isn’t reached, they renegotiate each member’s contribution, making sure that those with lesser salaries are still included. This creates a more equitable system, resulting in a healthier community.
Here are some of main tenets of biodynamics:
Willow and Anne provided a great list of books, including some co-written by Willow, and resources on biodynamics:
Check out the full recording of the Solutionaries Speak event with Willow, “Biodynamics: Beyond Organic" on our YouTube channel, where you can also watch a virtual tour of Willow's Three Springs Community Farm filmed by BAGT Lens, our video production team.. Don’t forget to subscribe! If you can make a donation to help us continue our programming, please do so here.
By Monicah Ison
The Edible Schoolyard is an environmental education program offered as part of the curriculum for students at Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) middle school in Berkeley, California. It is designed to educate students about ecology and, more specifically, food systems, through hands-on experiences with gardening and cooking. As a Martin Luther King Jr. middle school alumna, I can now see how the Edible Schoolyard played an essential role in my environmental education.
By Jessica Burnette-Lemon
Food insecurity is a huge problem for many people in the Bay Area, even in an agricultural hub like Northern California. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t producing enough food. What’s even more mind-boggling is that roughly 30-40% of the food we grow goes to waste, uneaten.
By Brienne Wong
Want to have nutrient-dense food and improve the ecosystem, all from the comfort of your home? Try regenerative farming!
According to Regenerative International, regenerative farming “reverses climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring biodiversity in the soil.... It uses the power of photosynthesis to close the carbon cycle and improve soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density.”
But what does that mean in practice? Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser, owners of Singing Frog Farms, use a regenerative farming model to increase the resilience of the soil to create more nutrient-dense food. The regenerative farming model focuses on soil health, which consists of:
By Brienne Wong
In our latest Soluntaries Speak event, Central Coast farmer Javier Zamora from JSM Organics spoke with Anne Freiwald of Vital Cycles about his experience growing organic strawberries and mentoring the next generation of organic farmers.
Javier got his start growing vegetables in Mexico with his family, and later established JSM Organics in 2017 in Royal Oaks, California. When he started his farm, he created a model that focused on accessibility and sustainability, after seeing the challenges of being a small farmer competing with big corporations. People are very receptive to his model because they are interested in knowing where their food comes from, and his farm allows people to see how the strawberries and flowers are grown.
MAKE EVERYDAY EARTH DAY
This year’s Earth Day is on Thursday April 22, and it takes on a new significance after we experienced wildfires, extreme heat, and hurricanes in 2020. Incorporating one new activity that becomes a habit can make a lasting impact on the environment. Here are 20 activities you can do to celebrate Earth Day and everyday:
1. Calculate Your Carbon Footprint
Calculating your carbon footprint will help you understand how much greenhouse gas you are producing and start to identify ways to reduce it to combat the climate crisis. Knowing your carbon footprint gives you a baseline to create a goal to take action. Here is a helpful carbon foot calculator.
The summer of 2020 was a season most Californians would like to forget. Wildfires raged throughout the state, smoke blocked out the sun and made the simple act of breathing hazardous.
But in BAGT’s latest Solutionaries Speak interview, regenerative rancher Doniga Markegard said the experience shouldn’t be something we block out.
“We need to remember [the fires] and put ourselves back there on a regular basis and remember how we felt...we couldn’t breathe the air...and take action to get into the right relationship with the land,” she shared in conversation with Anne Freiwald of Vital Cycles: Creating Personal & Planetary Resilience.
By Patricia Hunting and Mike Cain
Buzzwords in the environmental world keep evolving. Here is our list of top 10 sustainability terms you need to know.
10) Sustainability. At first, everything and anything related to the environment was “green.” Like most terms that go mainstream, it became overused. “Green” has now become “sustainable.” Sustainable systems seek to maintain and to not take away. However, we have discovered that sustainability is no longer enough—we need a more deliberate approach to combating climate change—now an ever-present force. We need to regenerate! Regeneration is the current way to describe how to not lose ground, better yet, how to revitalize and restore what is most needed in the fast-paced environmental movement.
By Patricia Hunting
No, I’m not retired!
Keeping a small mission-driven volunteer-led non-profit afloat has been a labor of love. Over the past twelve years, BAGT has given me the opportunity to constantly learn and be stimulated by changemakers and thought leaders I have met and worked with. But I also know that stepping back is my new reality. But when? How?