For experiment #11, we spent two days on an organic and biodynamic farm. On the farm, Hof Wagenburg, farmers and gardeners work along with their 16 mentally handicapped helpers.
Experiencing farm life
The two days felt like an entire week for us: So many experiences, so many people, so many feelings and new impressions. We got to experience the whole circle of life of cows, helped out on an acre and rode on tractors. On the first day, we visited pregnant cows on their own seperate field, to see how far along they are. In the afternoon, we planted lettuce and celery seedlings – hard physical work in hot weather. At home, in our raised bed, we planted 6 tiny salads. At Hof Wagenburg, they have several beds that are over 70 meters long. Different dimensions, right?
On the second day, we fed the cows, the heart-breakingly cute young calves, and the pigs. We also picked up one of the pregnant cows from the field to bring her to the farm – she will soon give birth and needs assistance, so she should be kept around the farmers. It was a complicated and long procedure, as the young cow had no experience with riding in a trailer, so she was very nervous. In the afternoon, we got the chance to see how an older cow was brought to the slaughterhouse. More about that in a seperate blogpost though.
What does biodynamic mean?
When we started looking for a farm to visit, it was important to us, that the farm would be organic. Hof Wagenburg is not only an organic farm, but also a biodynamic „demeter“ farm. At first, we didn’t exactly know, what biodynamic means. We had this mental image of barefoot hippies talking to their plants and only working in accordance with a strange moon-cycle-calendar-thing-y. In the farm’s own shop, we asked what biodynamic means. Here’s what we learned:
- Biodynamic farming is a rather esoteric concept – either you believe in it or you don’t. It is based on the anthroposophic philosophy developed by Rudolf Steiner.
- The whole lunar calendar thing wasn’t just a stereotype. Biodynamic farming uses the „positive energy of the sun’s, moon’s and planetary position“. There is a biodynamic calendar that lets you know when it’s a good day to plant different plants, for example.
- Apart from the biodynamic calendar, there are also specific preparations that are added to the soil.
- „Demeter farming“ has a lot stricter rules than organic farming. 100% of the animal’s food is organic, two thirds of the food are demeter. Biodiversity is a must. Animals are supposed to be held as close to their natural state as possible. Cows have to keep their horns, sheep their tail, and so on. No hybrid plants are allowed, apart from corn. Biodynamic means 100% free of pesticide and chemical fertilizer. The list of rules is never-ending.
Living the farm life in the city?
When we got back from the farm, we thought about how to put into effect what we learned in our everyday lives. We both agreed that buying everything in demeter quality isn’t something we can afford – but it’s definitely something we would recommend: We saw how everyone working at Hof Wagenburg treated the animals and their work with so much respect. On the other hand, we also should start eating every meal with more respect and mindfulness. As for being self-sufficient, we came to the conclusion that the only animals we’d keep in the city with a good conscience, are rabbits, and maybe like two chickens (oh, and worms). Which means that there wouldn’t be a way to produce your own milk in the city. It turns out that being vegan might probably be the best way to eat if you’re a bit lazy – both keeping animals and going fishing take a lot of work and time. All in all, spending two days on a farm has once more opened our eyes to how much work goes into the food we eat everyday.