Biodynamics educator Hamish Mackay says adding two per cent organic matter to 10 per cent of the world's agricultural land would soak up the excess carbon dioxide needed to rein in climate change.
Hamish, and fellow biodynamic farmer Charlie Arnott, was talking to a group of students at their Introduction to Biodynamics course at Glenmore House, owned by Larry and Mickey Robertson, near Camden, NSW.
It was a bold statement that captured the group's attention and emphasised the importance of learning biodynamics basics to capture carbon, and improve soil health and water holding capacity of their gardens and farms. Other demonstrated benefits are increased plant yield, disease resistance, and nutritional value.
"It's also the quickest way to create more rain," Hamish said. "The more moisture in the soil, the more water can drain in, and be transpired."
I was first exposed to biodynamics, developed in the 1920s by Rudolph Steiner, as a journalist covering the Mudgee Small Farm Field Days for The Land newspaper in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 30 years I've observed its evolution from alternative fringe to mainstream regenerative agriculture.
Charlie put the role of soil health into perspective asking, "How many of you know your doctor, who you see once a year, by name? How many of you know your farmers, who you need every day for your health, by name?"
Hamish handed around a manure filled horn to introduce the signature horn manure fertiliser making technique that biodynamics is known for. While horns are becoming difficult to source, they are still used to fill with the manure of lactating cows, and buried for six months before diluting the resulting fertiliser and spraying it onto paddocks.
Biodynamic compost preparations, including yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion, valerian, and equisetum, are used to activate compost, or fermented as a tea and used as a soil spray to grow food for humans or groundcover for livestock. We also learnt about the astro calendar, and the potential to work with the rhythmic energies of the moon and the sun to benefit the soil and plant growth.
Host Mickey Robertson told us about her own biodynamics journey that began 14 years ago in a quest to understand more about garden soil and its influence on the taste of food.
"Everything we eat begins with the soil," Mickey said.
The day's sessions were punctuated with morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea cooked largely from the Robertsons' kitchen garden. As well as Flourless orange and Au pairs apple cakes, teacup of sorel soup, and pumpernickel soda bread with labne and thyme, we tasted Charlie's biodynamic lamb served with Sicilian caponata, basil pesto, and garden potatoes with rosemary, followed by Clementine ice cream and baked quince.
Mickey purposely cooks from her book, 'The House and Garden at Glenmore
' so guests can replicate seasonal dishes at home. When I arrive home I am motivated to cook Au pair's apple cake and Sicilian caponata with our excess apple, tomato, capsicum and eggplant harvest.
Introduction to Biodynamics is not all eating and listening. By the afternoon it is time to get our hands dirty and I am among the volunteers to stir buckets of diluted manure to activate a manure and hay layered compost heap in the Robertsons' impressive compost bays.
Back at home I am enthusiastic to introduce biodynamic techniques in our garden and paddocks, starting with a search for cow horns. Meanwhile, Duncan is buying cheap mulch by the ute-load from Tamworth's waste management centre to help improve our soil structure and water holding capacity, and placing fallen branches in shallow paddock gullies to slow runoff when it eventually rains.
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