By David Byrnes
One of the things I’ve realized about farming is we only learn to farm when we do it. I used to be super good at elaborate plans that are capital and time intensive. What I’ve learned from experience (read: failure), is that observing the land and nurturing what it naturally provides is a better fit for our farm and for us.
Case in point? Our raspberries.
We purchased some adjoining acreage of forest & field a few years ago. The woods had been recently logged and the opening of the canopy caused raspberry bushes to explode in number. Each day during the short season we would visit the hilltop and eat a few handfuls, competing against birds and the occasional black bear for the delicious fruit.
We noticed that while they were prolific, the bushes and berries were small in size. I told a neighbor I wanted to transplant them from the top of the hill to an open field to give them better soil, more sunlight, and less competition from other raspberry bushes. He suggested I take my tractor to the top of the hill and scoop out a patch. It was a great idea and in about an hour I had moved 6 scoops or about 30 feet of bushes to a patch I’d worked on for a year..
We spent a year preparing the soil with a combination of food scraps, compost, and the biodynamic preps. We had the weeds under control, plenty of water, and plenty of sunlight. We used t-posts and string to train the bushes for this first trial. I am happy to say that the berries this season have been bigger, sweeter, tastier, and more rewarding, than ever before.
The land wanted the berries to succeed. We simply observed what was making them thrive, encouraged that behavior with our actions, and it has worked. The sweet taste of success!!
We don’t always get that result at the farm, which makes me even more impressed with some of the incredibly awesome farmers at Yellow Barn Biodynamic. Their consistent, highest quality tomatoes, herbs, and other vegetables we source are a testament to their skill. The taste and nutrition within these vibrant ingredients match our raspberry experience. It’s all about the land, and nurturing that land, to bring forth its best. And that’s biodynamics.
By David Byrnes
People ask me why Victoria and I have a farm. They ask why we go the extra length of making it biodynamic certified. After all, the vast majority of our business is marketing and selling foods that are not grown on our farm. Our pasta sauces are grown and processed in Italy. Our anticipated new products will also come from Europe. So what’s with the farm?
Apart from it being a wonderful place to raise our children, to experience the beauty of Upstate NY, to encourage our wild ramps to grow and prosper, to pick apple trees and make maple syrup, one of the main reasons we have a biodynamic farm harkens to what Rudolf Steiner said in his Agriculture lectures:
The only ones entitled to an opinion on agriculture are the people whose judgement derives directly from the field, the forest, and the stable.
If you know anything about me it’s that I have opinions. And many of my opinions center around food and agriculture. It makes sense to me to experience what it takes to farm biodynamically before I open my mouth. Now, just to be clear, farming is not my livelihood, so I recognize that my experiences are not the same as those who farm for a living. But I do get my hands dirty. I harvest a cash crop. I pay attention to the weather in ways that my friends at the beach don’t. I’ve witnessed bumper crops and failed ones. I mix and spray my own preps. Our farm is a reflection of our family’s collective consciousness. Carrots are more than carrots: they are carrots planted by Jack, our eldest, and harvested by Maki, our youngest. The compost is more than the mix of plants, preps and manure: it’s Ben turning it, it’s Victoria monitoring it.
So when I talk to our friends in Italy about the crop, I ask questions that a farmer would ask. When I speak out against genetically-engineered plants, I shudder at the thought of what they could do to my farm, let alone the millions of acres of farmland in North America.
Having a farm makes healing the earth more personal. It is a joy and a responsibility. It is a daily reminder of our connection to the planet, a true gift to our family.