The 2014 New Zealand Biodynamic Conference.
Speakers shared a cornucopia of thought-provoking perspectives at this year’s annual biodynamic conference. The conference was held in Palmerston North, from Friday, May 23 until Sunday, May 25.
The keynote speakers at this year’s conference were Steffen and Rachel Schneider, who had come over from New York State in the USA. They kicked off the conference together, with an overview of their Hawthorne Valley Farm, which made for an incredibly inspiring window into a holistic biodynamic community, encompassing a mixed farming system (dairy, beef cattle, pigs, chickens, vegetables, grains), artisan food (bakery, creamery, kraut cellar) and various learning centres (apprenticeships, internships, workshops, farm tours, farm camps).
Find out more in our full article in the latest Harvests magazine…
After 18 months of Peter’s spraying programme, Mike is delighted with the results. Grass production has improved so much in quantity and quality that Mike is able to keep more cows on the farm and make plenty of hay, silage and baleage for extra winter and summer feed.
Unfortunately it has not been possible to measure quantitative results, but both Mike and his father Eddie say they have never seen the farm produce so well in spite of no other amendments except a mix of dolomite and brimstone being applied to the pasture.
This was put on after a soil test indicated magnesium and sulphur levels were too low according to the Probitas system. The qualitative results are seen in healthier cows and sharply increasing local demand for raw milk from the farm. Peter adds a mix of compost preparations to the dairy shed effluent as it goes into the effluent pond. Then he adds Preparation 500 to liquid effluent, passes it through flowforms, and finally sprays it onto the paddocks after cows have grazed them.
This is repeated about every three months, depending on weather conditions. Ideally the spray should go onto damp ground before a dry spell is expected. A homeopathic spray made from Preparation 501 is also sprayed onto thepastures, particularly when conditions are cloudy and wet, to bring some “summer sunshine,” as Peter explains it. The setup of all the stirring and spraying equipment took some time for Peter and Mike to sort out, but now it all works well.
Peter has also been busy planting trees around the farm, as cattle benefit so much from the shade, shelter and feed the trees provide. Mike and Peter will be demonstrating
their system on the first day of this year’s biodynamic conference in Palmerston North, giving opportunity for other farmers to see it. Several young farmers have already visited the farm, and there is opportunity for others to come and spend a few days learning about Peter’s system if they contact Peter first – phone 06 326 8599.
They will need to do this soon, as Peter will be moving back further north after the biodynamic conference. Peter has written about his long experience of using biodynamic preparations on commercial farms in his book, Biodynamic Pasture Management, which is available to buy from the Bio Dynamic Association.
Smallholders learn the basics of all things sheepish from Ian Henderson.
Each year, over the last three years, I’ve organized seminars at my place in the Murawai Valley, inviting speakers and the local community.
The district is about 35km north west of Auckland and is predominantly five and ten acre blocks. It is lucky enough to have a very active local Smallholding Association with monthly evening talks and weekend field trips. This group helps people find their way in the local community. But the idea of more in-depth teaching and learning, using an organic approach, has proven both popular and informative.
It is great that a wonderful array of speakers make themselves available to come and talk to such far-flung groups.
This is definitely a worthwhile initiative if you have a catchment area of people interested in learning. People bring their own lunches and drinks so time is not spent
with catering. A small fee charged for the day goes to the speaker and enables them to cover their costs for giving up a day or so and travelling.
The thought-provoking side of a day of listening to new ideas and seeing different approaches makes such seminars so worthwhile. The latest in the series, in November, saw Ian Henderson of Milmore Downs (biodynamic farmer for nearly 35 years) come to Muriwai Valley for a seminar aimed at people who have a lifestyle block and are running sheep or thinking about it. A lot of lifestylers living on the urban fringe of larger cities do not necessarily have a strong rural or farming background. Many have moved out of the city without good knowledge of animal husbandry or pasture management.
So how do you find out what to do with your land?
Whether to mow or graze? What to graze, where to start, and then where to next once you have your stock? The seminar looked at these and other issues.