The biodynamic movement sprang from a series of lectures (“The Agriculture Course”) given in 1924 by Dr.Rudolph Steiner (also known for Waldorf Schools). The lectures were in response to increasingly worrisome problems in agriculture, those of decreased yields and increased disease pressure in both cultivated plants and livestock. Steiner had incredible insight into these issues, and the Agriculture Course lectures offered his solution to the problems at hand. Based on his Anthroposophy philosophy, biodynamics focuses on creating diversified farms through the careful consideration of the interrelationships between soil organisms, plants, animals, and the subtle cosmic forces. Practitioners utilize homeopathic preparations of manure, minerals, and herbs “to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm, which enhances the nutritional quality and flavor of the food being raised”.
The homeopathic preparations are made on the farm from cow manure, plants, flowers, and silica. The plants and flowers are prepared in a special way and then buried in the compost to energize it with their specific vital forces. Guiding the planting and harvesting is a biodynamic calendar informing of the best times to transplant, sow, and harvest based on the earth’s movement in relation to the planets and the lunar cycles. Painstaking studies by Lily Kalisko and Maria Thun helped to establish these guides. Both Kalisko and Thun repeatedly demonstrated that root, leaf, and fruit crops responded in different ways in their growth to the planetary and lunar influences. Thanks to their painstaking observations, modern practitioners can benefit by consulting the calendar to know when the best days are for sowing, pruning, and harvesting different types of food plants.
Doug’s eldest brother studied biodynamics at Emerson College in England during the mid ’70s and shared some of what he learned with Doug. Doug had always been drawn to the holistic notion that the farm functions like an organism itself, but it was hard for him to get his head around the value and purpose of the preps. Trying to get started while farming by himself was difficult until I (his wife, Kim) came on the scene and began to move the farm toward biodynamics.
We both had read some books on biodynamics in the past, but it wasn’t until 2009, after we listened to a few lectures from the annual Acres USA conference given by Hugh Courtney and Gena Nonini, that we were in agreement that this was our path. Incorporating what we considered the best set of organic practices, along with a calendar to guide us to work within the rhythms of the natural world, plus a spiritual aspect, felt like a good fit for us. In March, Kim attended a biodynamic conference in Hotchkiss (Colorado) which gave us more practical ideas on how to begin using the biodynamic preparations at Larga Vista.
This year, we started with the Pfeiffer Field and Garden spray. We sprayed it in the greenhouse (some of you may have seen that on our Facebook page), and we will also be applying it to the dairy pastures and market garden. The results in the greenhouse are amazing so far! We will spray a foliar spray of silica in the summer to promote leaf growth and the plant’s reception of light and warmth. It may take us a few years, though, to make our own biodynamic preparations since it is a pretty involved process. In the meantime, we will continue with the Pfeiffer spray that is formulated at the Josephine Porter Institute.
One of our favorite quotes by Masonobu Fukuoka sums it up perfectly: “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” Producing highly nutritious foods full of vitality requires a combination of balanced soil minerals, vibrant soil life, and a spiritual commitment from the farmers!
As most of you know, we’ve been renting my Aunt La Verne’s 80-acre farm where we grow our hay, produce, and grains and pasture the younger cattle and pigs. My Grandfather Wiley first bought this farm in the ’30s after working many leased farms around the area. La Verne and her husband bought the farm from Grandfather in ’59 and got their start. Unfortunately, Uncle Don passed away a few years later, and La Verne was left to farm the “80” by herself. Many told her she couldn’t do it or she wouldn’t make it, not knowing how stubborn this Wiley could be! And so she did it! She poured herself into that “80” for the next 40-plus years, building on what her father had started and making that place one of the best little farms in the Arkansas valley!
The first piece of ground I rented from her was in the northeast corner of the place in ’04, the year Kim and I met. I planted a beautiful garden there with melons, sweet corn, loads of tomatoes, sweet peppers, and my first crop of chilis. As I have walked that piece of the North Forty, I could feel the spirit of my Grandfather in that place, and I developed a strong connection to the history there. Every so often, while working a field, I’ll turn up a horseshoe, and I stop and wonder when his horse threw it and what were they pulling that day. Over the last several years, La Verne shared many stories of Grandfather’s work on this farm, and many of her own experiences and lessons as well.
We lost Aunt La Verne a few weeks ago after a battle with Parkinson’s, which robbed her of much of the enjoyment she had hoped for during retirement. She had always planned to sell the farm, travel, and enjoy her later years, but she realized that would be throwing away all the work her father and she had done. Just a year ago, she paid the farm off and finally owned it, so proudly and completely! So, thank you, Aunt La Verne, for giving us the chance to carry on this tradition and build on this legacy. La Verne really enjoyed knowing that many appreciative folks received nourishment from this land she loved so much! To read a bit more about her, visit:
The cows are out! I’ve heard that call many times over the years, usually during Sunday dinner or at 2:00 am on a cold morning. For a grazier, though, that call means spring grass is ready! After a few months penned up, the girls always head out the gate at a trot, take a few bites, and then run up and down the paddock kicking and bucking like young heifers! Nothing is quite as satisfying as seeing the cows at grass on an early spring day.
We are breaking them in slowly to the new diet so as not to upset the rumen and give the grass a chance to get cranked up. I’m sure you are noticing the change in the color and flavor of the milk, and with that comes an increase the nutritional quality. Soon we will be turning them into the triticale paddock to help stretch our remaining hay supply. Thank God spring has come early as hay cost over twice as much this winter and really hurt us.
We are continuing on the barn fix-up project this coming month while trying to get some crops planted. We will be calling on shareholders to volunteer to help us get all of this done before summer hits. Currently, the snow pack looks bad and our summer water situation will be tight. Our decision to purchase the sprinkler last year will really pay off in this drought.
We have made some exciting additions to the Larga Vista Ranch website!
Firstly, we have set up a new Payments & Donations page to make life easier for you and for us! Shareholders can make their payments online and even set up a convenient automatic monthly payment. Any other payments, such as for meat, can be made there, as can donations to support our farm.
Secondly, we have added a vintage TRADITION Body Balm page. We recommend this fabulous Body Balm especially since the main and key ingredient is tallow from our 100% grass-fed beef cows! The only other ingredients are olive oil and essential oils. The balm is made by two of our dairy shareholders, and when you visit their website from the links on our page, the proceeds go to support our farm! You can also purchase the balm directly from us at the farm, at the market, and at the milk and meat pick-up.
Lastly, we have been gradually adding more photos to our new Photo Gallery, so we invite you to check it out and see what you might have missed!
Thank you for your continued support of Larga Vista Ranch!
—Kim and Doug Wiley and sons