February 22, 2007To keep vines healthy, pioneering winemakers in the Italian Alps apply all kinds of tricks: horsetail tea, valerian juice, even the power of a full moon.These seemingly forward-thinking viticulturists are actually looking back in time - to the early 20th century treatises of German scientist Rudolf Steiner, the grandfather of biodynamic farming. Grape growers who embrace biodynamics work with solar and lunar energy, treat the soil and vines with various preparations ("preps") made with herbs and flowers, and fertilize with manure packed into cow horns."It's not voodoo," says Urs Vetter, the general manager and commercial director for Alois Lageder in MagrÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¨, one of Northern Italy's most progressive wineries. "Through biodynamics, we have actually rediscovered farming by the forces of nature." After 150 years of winemaking, the Lageder family began to experiment with biodynamic growing in the 1990s. "My mother always grew her kitchen garden biodynamically, so I have that sensibility in my blood," says Alois Lageder, who notes that his winery is moving toward completely biodynamic production. Lageder sprays his vines with a mixture of water and concentrated compost - there's that manure - and is also keen on using solar power. To Lageder, biodynamic winemaking is a dialogue among nature, the human mind, and technology. "I want to produce grapes that are harmonious and authentic...wines that express their place of origin," he says. "Our goal is to make wines that are both complex and elegant." (www.lageder.com)Austrian-born Count Michel GoÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â«ss-Enzenberg, owner of the winery Manincor, is fairly new to biodynamic grape growing, but he's thoroughly convinced that it's the way of the future. "My wife has kept our family healthy for the past 15 years with homeopathic medicine," GoÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â«ss-Enzenberg says, recognizing a similarity between homeopathy and biodynamics. Whether it's a child with a cough or watery grapes, the theory behind both practices is that you must strengthen the system as a whole to bring it into balance and health. The day I visited Manincor, I noticed a heap of spent horsetail tea in the vineyards. Recent rains had left the grapes a bit swollen, so the vineyards were sprayed with a brew made from horsetail, a mildly diuretic plant. But unlike at conventional vineyards, you won't find workers at Manincor wearing masks to protect themselves from harmful pesticides and fungicides when they're spraying the vines. "Our workers can sip the spray," says GoÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â«ss-Enzenberg. Now that's a forward-thinking beverage. (www.manincor.com)WINES TO TRYThe following wines are made in the spirit of biodynamic farming but are not yet officially certified as such.2005 Alois Lageder Benefizium Porer Pinot GrigioA light, fresh white with mouthwatering hints of vanilla and freshly cut herbs.Serve with: shellfish, sole, cod, and other delicate fish.2003 Alois Lageder Lindenburg LagreinThis massive, beautifully balanced red has haunting aromas of leather and spice and is full and rich on the palate.Serve with: grilled steak, roast leg of lamb, or venison tenderloin.2005 Alois Lageder Portico dei Leoni BiancoA blend of Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco with a bit of MÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼ller Thurgau, this rich, medium-bodied white is terrific to have on hand for everyday sipping.Serve with: grilled chicken, creamy pastas, gnocchi with mushrooms.2005 Manincor Moscato GialloThis lush white has a provocative, aromatic nose with classic Muscat character with hints of nutmeg and grapefruit. And it's surprisingly dry.Serve with: roasted almonds, sushi, Thai, and Vietnamese fare.2004 Manincor MasonThis is Pinot Noir perfection: lush, juicy, and elegant with a cherry nose and long finish.Serve with: ripe, soft cheeses, roast quail, or grilled wild salmon.2005 Manincor RÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©serve della ContessaA blend of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, this crisp, clean white has a lilting aroma of freshly mowed hay.Serve with: light hors d'oeuvres, grilled fish, or pork tenderloin.
Thursday, Feb. 22, 2007 By LISA MCLAUGHLINYou've mastered the which-are-the-good-and-bad vintages, learned the difference between a Cabernet and a Merlot and can finally pronounce GewÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼rztraminer. But now the casual wine drinker has a new label to grapple with: biodynamic.Think of biodynamic as ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼berorganic. The farming method is based on principles put forth in the 1920s by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Although Steiner is best known in the U.S. as the inspiration behind the Waldorf school movement, his unique blend of spiritual science touches on every aspect of humanity and its relation to the universe, especially agriculture and diet. Biodynamic farming thus combines organic practices--like the banning of pesticides and chemicals--with somewhat mystical ideas such as basing planting and harvesting schedules on the position of the moon, sun and stars. It's full of colorful details like burying a cow horn filled with manure at the autumnal equinox. One Italian biodynamic vintner has even placed loudspeakers around his vineyards. Although he claims that playing Mozart makes his vines grow quicker and healthier, the more perceptible result of blaring Symphony No. 40 in G Minor is that it scares the bejesus out of grape-stealing deer, boars and birds.Within the past decade, biodynamic farming has gone from a fringe movement to a fairly mainstream one, with products from milk to cosmetics now being produced via Steiner-inspired methods. But winemaking is where the practice has truly blossomed. Several high-end stores like New York City's Appellation Wine & Spirits have started devoting themselves solely to organic and biodynamic offerings, and sommeliers at restaurants across the country are creating wine lists that exclusively feature these ecologically sustainable wines. More important, some of the world's greatest vintners have signed on to the biodynamic craze, including Domaine Marcel Deiss of Alsace and Italy's Emidio Pepe. Alain Dugas, winemaker at France's ChÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢teau La Nerthe--where wine has been produced almost continuously since 1560--began experimenting with biodynamics on 20 of its ChÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢teauneuf-du-Pape acres 10 years ago. Why the sudden urge to tinker with centuries-old practices? "To maintain pH balances," Dugas explains. "There is less acidity in biodynamic wines."Meanwhile, Jim Fetzer's Ceago Vinegarden, a biodynamic vineyard in Northern California, raises chickens as part of its viticulture system, with the birds playing a key role in keeping the vines healthy and pest-free. And Fetzer has a nice side business selling certified humane eggs.But while organic wine might be good for the earth, is it any better for your palate than regular wine? Some biodynamic wines are definitely worth the slight bump up in price, like the citrusy Patianna Sauvignon Blanc or the Domaine de la Renjarde CÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â´tes du RhÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â´ne Villages, with its earthy berry notes. "What you are tasting is that specific soil, that sun, those grapes," says acclaimed sommelier Sterling Roig. "These wines have an incredible purity about them." Which means that after swirling your glass, you should feel free to look down your nose while sniffing.
Medicinal Compost Making InstructionsThe single most important improvement you can make to every vineyard, farm field, lawn and garden is to make and apply compost. We're often asked what is the ideal formula for generaluse. Here it is!1. Make two piles of ingredients of equal volume. One pile will have brown vegetable matter in it, preferably straw (not rice straw - too much silica), or spoiled hay. The second pile will be your manure pile.2. Mix: 6 parts fresh cow (not steer) manure (if you can get it, older if you can't), 2 parts horse manure with straw, not wood chips (which deplete the nitrogen in your pile), 1 part bird manure, either chicken or turkey, with feathers and bedding if wood chips are not used, and 1 part the cullings from your garden, farm field or vineyard.This last item in vineyards would best be grape pumice, what is leftover after the grapes are crushed. The reason you use what came from your garden, lawn (grass clippings), field or vineyard is simple. Plants absorb nutrients that come from the breakdown of their own bodies, i.e. leaves, branches, fruit and flowers. Plants have evolved over the millennia by recognizing that which comes from themselves, in part, as their natural food. By adding this ingredient to the compost pile, you are providing your crop with the food it knows best. This makes your plants healthier and less stressed.Why manure and not mineral or chemical fertilizers?Dr. Rudolf Steiner pointed out 1924 that plants that have been treated with any kind of mineral fertilizer will show by their growth that they have been sustained only by stimulated water and not by enlivened earthiness, i.e. manure broken down into compost-humus. Plants thrive best on humus. In Nature, animals provide manure of all kinds from tiny insects through large animals like cows and horses. It is their natural state.3. Take both piles, being sure that they are moist, not wet evenly throughout, and mix them either in bulk or by layering 3 inch alternating layers on a pile intermixed with a small amount of garden soil. Always build you pile in an area where tree roots will not grow up into it.Always make an effort to get the highest quality ingredients for the best plant food. Before covering your compost-to-be with dirt and straw, apply the Compost Invigorator. Four ounces of this remedy will treat up 20 cubic yards and will not only help the compost retain nitrogen and other elements, it will help guide the breakdown so that you end up with the highest quality Medicinal Compost. Texas "T" Machines Compost Tea maker Mark Chapin uses Compost Invigorator in his compost tea. In making Medicinal Compost, your goal is to make humus, a brown, oily feeling kind of soil. Humus is highly complex, colloidal and round in shape, which makes it feel oily but it is not. Humus can be stable for up to 200 years. It is Nature's perfect food. Cover the pile with a thin layer of soil (1/4'), then cover that with 1 foot of straw from broken flakes of a straw bale, not thick 'biscuits' that won't let the pile breathe. In this way, you keep the outer surface from drying out and losing that compost to the sun, wind and rain. If it rains frequently or heavily, cover it with a tarp on occasion. Rainwater is good for compost. Excessive rainwater washes out the nutrients. Wait 6 to 12 months and it's done. Inspect it from time to time to be sure it doesn't overheat from too little moisture or excessive heat. This pile should heat up to about 135ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âº F., enough to kill pathogens and small seeds. If the pile overheats, or goes sour from too much water, simply break it down, dry it out or wet it, rebuild it, spray with Compost Invigorator, cover it with straw and try again.
Trained bacteria, turned loose on the refuse of Oakland, Cal., produce a rich, sweet-smelling fertilizer that's guaranteed to perform near miracles for farm land. It's like backyard compost, and it could save the nation billions of dollars.By A. W. MARTINEZ One morning in October, 1950, two strangers walked into the office of Tony Dalcino, president of the Oakland Scavenger Company, with a proposition that turned Dalcino's casual smile into a look of utter disbelief.His callers wanted to know whether the company would let them have part of the daily haul of garbage it collects from the city of Oakland, California. They hoped, they said, to put the garbage on an assembly line and sell it!Garbage was one thing Dalcino had plenty of. His company picks up about 400 tons a day from Oakland, and he was sitting right in the middle of it, so to speak, for his plant is built on a peninsula of garbage fill that yearly bites deeper into San Francisco Bay, eight miles from the city.That his lowly stock in trade could achieve any more useful end than in the shallow waters of the bay was a thought which fascihated Dalcino but left him understandably skeptical. With notable restraint, he asked to hear more.The two visitors were a combination nearly as strange as the idea they were proposing. One of them was Richard Stovroff, young owner of a wastepaper business in Buffalo, New York. The other was Dr. Ehrenfried E. Pfeiffer, German-born biochemist, holder of an honorary U.S. medical degree, and lifelong experimenter with new ways to grow better food.Pfeiffer, a tall, robust, pink-cheeked man with an infectious twinkle, explained. In the course of his researches he had discovered a new ‘race” of bacteria which could convert garbage into fertilizer, a sweet-smelling black earth which could perform virtual miracles for the land. A tablespoon of the bacteria, grown in test tubes, could turn a ton of garbage into rich humus in three weeks.Pfeiffer told Dalcino: “It costs Americans, as taxpayers, a few billion dollars a year when we throw away as garbage the precious minerals and organic material which we take out of the soil in the form of food: On the other hand, it costs farmers nearly $7,000,000,000 a year to put some of these minerals back in the ground in the form of chemical fertilizers. That doesn't make sense.” He had, he added, decided to do something about it ever since his arrival in the U.S. in 1940 as a refugee from war-ravaged Europe.Today, as a result of Pfeiffer's exposition nearly two years ago, nobody in Oakland, least of all the Oakland Scavengers, finds anything odd in the business of converting garbage. On the edge of San Francisco Bay, in a small, slate-gray building which serves as pilot plant for the Pfeiffer project, as many as 100 tons of wilted refuse a day are fed into one end of a system of conveyer belts. It comes out the other end as compost, ready, after a brief layover, to be shipped to farms and nurseries all over the nation.Already, this spring, home gardeners in the West have had a chance to conduct their own tests on it; the Ferry-Morse Seed Company has distributed it and is using it to cultivate its own prize grass and flower seeds in Salinas, California.In addition, many of the fresh vegetables now on your dinner table from the Salinas Valley “Salad Bowl” owe an extra charge of vitamins and minerals to this onetime Oakland garbage. A doubting foreman of one of the big Salinas farms which use the compost took a bag of it home recently, dumped it on his lawn and forgot about it. Weeks after the summer drought began, his neighbors became curious; his was the only lawn in town whose grass was still lush and green.In control tests at Pfeiffer's Biochemical Research Laboratory at Spring Valley, New York, vegetables grown in this converted garbage have weighed 25 per cent more than those grown in conventional fertilizers, with from one to three times more vitamin A. The garbage-compost-treated soil has shown from one to four times as much life-giving nitrogen, and grain grown in it has shown a consistently higher protein content.Laboratory experiments have proved that the mixture can restore even sterile sand to vigorous fertility and could make rich farm land out of desert if adequate water were available.What the converted garbage does to the soil is to restore its organic matter, mineral balance and structure; it gives the soil body, and permits it to absorb and hold water. In the soil, this organicmatter releases a powerful concentration of bacteria whose digestive activities and decay create plant foods and soil-binding humus, release nitrogen and make more efficient use of chemical fertilizers.Chemical Fertilizers Less EfficientChemical fertilizers return plant food directly to the soil but do not provide this vital organic soil structure (although the new chemical, Krilium, by making the soil more porous, will increase the efficiency of organic fertilizers). All farmers try to restore it in part by growing cover crops and plowing them under, or by turning under plant stubble.The converted-garbage fertilizer is actually a scientifically produced supercompost, a little like the material conscientious gardeners make by piling up leaves, vegetable matter and manure and allowing them to age. Such composting takes six to nine months and a great deal of care, but farmers regard the resulting product as “black gold.” It is the stuff that gives virgin soil its loamy, crumbly appearance.However, compost is a luxury fertilizer. You can't buy it in commercial quantities or at prices practical for mass-production farming. Neither can the mass-production farmer make it. At today's pace, he has neither the time nor man power. He also lacks the materials, the ready supply of manure and vegetable matter which diversified farms once had.The Oakland plant hopes to provide the answer to this nation-wide need for a cheap supply of natural organic matter. The gradual depletion of our soil's organic reserves, and the attempt to make up for it solely by increasing the use of chemicals, has long worried agriculturists. Without any organic matter to anchor the topsoil, farm lands can become dust bowls.“No one plant can do this job,” Pfeiffer points out, “but if all U.S. garbage were processed each year, we would have about 30,000,000 tons of compost, enough to fertilize 10,000,000 acres of land. And garbage dumps would just about disappear.”He sees the Oakland project as a showcase, not only for farmers, but also for cities seeking a solution for the problem of garbage disposal. The Oakland compost now costs $34 a ton, but Pfeiffer expects even this price, comparable to conventional fertilizer costs, to go down as production expands. Since January the plant has been converting 100 to 125 tons of garbage a day, and expects to produce a minimum of 60,000 tons of compost during the corming year.Oakland, meanwhile, likes the showcase idea and is intrigued by its curious distinction as the first city in the world to turn garbage into a useful commercial product.Tribune “Points with Pride”“Oakland, let us announce with pride, is the Compost City of America,” the Oakland Tribune recently boasted. The paper went on to chide San Francisco for not getting a compost plant, too.“California does have its backward cities,” it commented. Walter F. Gibson, head of Oakland's sanitation department, has called the plant “a boon to any municipality, as it disposes of the garbage problem. It is economically sound and can be operated in any area.”No such rosy optimism existed in the fall of 1950, when the plant began operations under the resounding name of Compost Corporation of America. Seven stockholders - mainly paper processors who saw a promise of a new pulp supply from the garbage - were persuaded to spend a total of $150,000 to start the company, which is known in Oakland as Comco. Richard Stovroff, the Buffalo businessman, was named president. Stock on hand included an unlimited supply of garbage and several test tubes filled with hungry bacteria.For 30 years, Oakland's garbage has been collected under contract with the city by the Scavengers, 250 Italian-Americans who function as a co-operative, sharing titles, profits and labor equally. The friendly if skeptical Scavengers turned over to Comco some of their 30 garbage-built acres for a plant; they offered the garbage for nothing.Young Dick Stovroff was skeptical himself, but the prospect of getting a profitable supply of wastepaper from the conveyer- belt handling of rubbish convinced him. As it turned out, that paper amounted to only about one per cent of the plant's $50,000 income last year.Pfeiffer's arrival at Oakland's garbage dumps came about by way of the widest possible detour - one which included several European countries and a period on what seemed at the time to be his deathbed.Born in Munich fifty-three years ago, Pfeiffer as a boy emigrated with his parents to Switzerland, where he became a naturalized citizen. He graduated with honors from the University of Basel and was on his way to a doctorate when a significant event occurred. Strolling on the streets of Basel one winter day, he noticed that the frost patterns on windowpanes differed from shop to shop.What eventually developed out of his walk that day was a revolutionary method of diagnosing human disease by means of the crystal or frost patterns made from a drop of the patient's blood crystallized, together with chloride of copper, on a glass plate. These crystal patterns distinguish a healthy person from a sick one and they have proved 82 per cent reliable in the diagnosis of cancer. In 1939 the crystallization theory was to bring Pfeiffer an honorary doctorate from Hahnemann Hospital and Medical College in Philadelphia.While pursuing his crystallization studies, he was appointed director of the Biochemical Research Laboratory at Dornach, Switzerland, and manager and director of an 800-acre experimental farm at Loverendale, Holland. The farm, set up to carry out some of the agricultural studies of the laboratory, fed 700 families. For years, Pfeiffer commuted monthly between Holland and Switzerland. Then, in 1940, the Nazis smashed through Holland, and Pfeiffer, his wife, son and daughter took to the road as refugees.They traveled across southern France and crossed into Spain by way of the Pyrenees, and flew from there into Portugal. On an October day in 1940, they arrived in New York with a few bags and $50 in cash.For the next few years, the scientist managed and helped develop a model experimental farm at Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, on a former private estate where prize tomatoes were grown in winter in what had once been a palatial solarium. Then he bought his own farm near Chester, New York. What he got for the modest amount of cash he could raise was a primitive farmhouse, 260 stony acres and a herd of 40 cattle, which, it soon developed, were riddled with the dread Bang's disease.This was the kind of challenge Pfeiffer liked. It gave him a chance to test his soil theories at the “dirt farmer” level. “You can't prove anything with a farm that's subsidized and loaded with gadgets that the average farmer can't afford,” he says.Within two years he had restored his land with scientific composts, fed the grain grown on it to his cattle and completely cured them without medication. “They cured themselves,” he recalls. “We just provided the proper nutrition and care.”The astonishing little bacteria which are now the secret of converting garbage to a humus concentrate at Oakland indirectly saved Pfeiffer's life. In 1944 the strain of 16-hour days divided between science and farming proved too great. Pfeiffer collapsed one night over his worktable, At New York State's Summit Park Sanatorium he got the grim word that he was in an advanced stage of tuberculosis. The chances of recovery, even with surgery, were slim.Pfeiffer spent more than a year in bed at the sanatorium, reading and staring at the ceiling, and doing more thinking than he had ever before had time for. “I figured out that in order to stay alive in such a crisis a man has to find himself a tough job that is just too important to be left unfinished, and then plunge into it and let the doctors do the rest.” For Pfeiffer, the job was the search for his bacteria formula.He knew by the statistics that the organic humus content of U.S. soil is decreasing to the danger level. Yet there was a treasure of organic matter in many waste products like garbage—if a swift method of converting them could be found. There was one important clue. In Europe, farmers for centuries have used various wild plants like nettle, dandelion and valerian to produce a quicker breakdown and stabilizing of manures and composts. Did the secret lie in some bacteria which such plants breed?When Pfeiffer was able to get out of his bed, he headed straight for the sanatorium's bacteriological laboratory. There, watching the action of tubercular bacteria under a microscope, he forgot his illness. He studied bacterial specimens from digestive tracts and noted how these germs actually broke down and digested waste material.The clue he found in digestive tracts was that 25 to 30 per cent of the mass was bacteria. The bacteria digest and break down food, and would go on breaking it down until nothing was left, except that other bacteria take over and convert what remains into minerals and proteins needed by the body. Wild nettle and such plants contain hormones which cause a similar action to take place in the soil.What Pfeiffer was looking for was a breed of bacteria he could isolate and control, to perform this kind of job on waste materials at the greatest possible speed.A year after he began his research, he walked out of the sanatorium completely recovered; his case was regarded as something of a miracle. When he left, be had with him the formula he sought. To put it to work, he opened his own laboratory over a rented garage. That laboratory has now grown into a spacious building set in the peaceful woodlands of Spring Valley.Today one section of the laboratory exhibits the results of this work. The walls are lined with shelves of test tubes and beakers filled with black earth made from nearly every kind of waste product imaginable - nutshells, human feces, cotton waste, sugarcane stalks, even sheep's wool and human hair - and of course garbage.It takes more than 50 different carefully bred strains of bacteria, each with its own digestive job, to transform any one of these materials. Each strain is kept isolated because it is cultured only on that material which encourages its greatest growth in nature. Materials which might stimulate the growth of foreign bacteria are kept out of its food. Then the different bacterial strains are painstakingly blended together.Each composted material must have its own special blend. Summer garbage, for example, wouldn't tempt a bacteria family that lives off winter garbage. Given the right food and temperatures, the bacteria will ‘live indefinitely in their test tubes.The bacteria are temperamental, and harder to manage than a trained flea circus. “You can see the fleas, but can you imagine telling one microbe from another?” smiles Pfeiffer. “Sometimes one of them will go on a hunger strike and die, and when one gets lost there's the devil to pay. One species got away from us recently; we thought we had lost it for good, but we found it later in a compost pile in Oakland.”The bacteria are harmless to humans and animals, but will decompose just about anything else. Not long ago, an improperly packed test tube broke inside of a bag on its way to Oakland. The busy bacteria had digested most of the bag and were sampling the wrappings before the accident was discovered.Sally Burns, a pretty, twenty-five year-old ex-Wave, deserves a share of the credit for getting the Oakland experiment under way. Sally, now Comco's lab technician, was a research assistant at the Pfeiffer laboratory when the bacteria starter was developed. Sally was fired by Pfeiffer's enthusiasm. When she returned to her home in suburban Buffalo, she went to local newspaper editors and got them to print the story of the bacteria discovery. She floored friends with long monologues on garbage.But her campaign got results. One day Pfeiffer was asked to go to Buffalo to deliver a radio talk. While there, he met Richard Stovroff, who proposed that they go into business. The scientist refused any financial interest in the new company, but agreed to supply the bacteria starter and donate his time in getting production under way. Oakland was selected as the site because of its proximity to the big California truck farms, and also because of its warm climate, which makes bacteria act faster.Pfeiffer's Thrilling MomentRecently Pfeiffer flew to Oakland to have a look at his brain child. Although he derives no personal profit from Comco (his laboratory in New York gets a small royally for the use of the bacteria), the scientist behaved like a man just awarded an extra bonus. For on that day, he was informed, Comco was handling a quarter of Oakland's daily garbage - about 100 tons.As Pfeiffer watched, lines of heavily laden garbage trucks rumbled down to the foot of Davis Street, which stops almost at the edge of San Francisco Bay. Jouncing across the refuse-strewn yard, the trucks dumped their aromatic loads. Tractor plows nosed it into the piles and pushed them into a long trough leading into the Comco plant.In the trough was a three-foot-wide conveyer belt. As it hit the belt, the garbage began to move into the world's only garbage assembly plant - or, to be absolutely correct, disassembly plant, because the garbage is taken apart rather than put together, as Pfeiffer will remind you.The first thing the garbage encountered in the operation inside the plant was a pair of giant suction fans which hang over the belt. Acting like outsize vacuum cleaners, the fans picked off most of the wastepaper as the garbage sailed by. Later this paper would go to pulp companies.Pfeiffer followed the mixture as it ascended on the belt to the second floor. Occasionally he ran an experienced hand through it. “You can read the seasons by what people put in their trash pails,” he told a visitor. “in summer, you get a lot of green vegetables and fewer meat scraps. Just after Christmas, the supply of broken toys and empty paper boxes is heavy. Even an occasional gift tie goes by. Then in spring come the half-used bottles of vitamin tablets and tonics. We are grateful for the vitamin pills,” he smiled. “What we are trying to do is get them back into the food.”Except for the gamy scent, the atmosphere on the second floor of the building was like any small manufacturing plant. A crew of 10 workers bent over the belt. As the garbage marched past, they rummaged around in it with gloved hands, pulling out glass or wooden objects, plus whatever metal had been missed by the huge magnet that scans the refuse. These items were dropped into appropriate chutes.When Comco began operations, the sorting problem seemed a big hurdle to overcome. Pfeiffer recalled: “We wondered whether we would be able to find people willing to keep their hands in garbage all day long. But we found all the help we needed. Garbage can become as inoffensive as any other product in time.”Properly picked over, the garbage next dropped through a chute and was carted by waiting trucks to a second conveyer some distance from the plant. This conveyer sent it riding up to the top of a roofed platform, 10 feet off the ground, for the most critical part of the operation.Two things happen to the mixture when it reaches the platform. First it is chewed up, somewhat the way meat is in a meat grinder. Then it is soaked under a shower.When Pfeiffer clambered up to the top of the platform on this particular morning, he peered anxiously into a big iron hopper four feet across. Steel blades, each a foot long, were churning around against stationary knives in the hopper. As the garbage rode in, it was pulverized.This part of the operation nearly put Comco out of business at the start because of trouble with the big grinding blades. Steel is tough, but “soft” garbage can be even tougher. The garbage would chew foot-long blades down to a nub in three days. After weeks of desperate experimenting, Comco abandoned commercial grinders and designed one of its own. A tougher steel was found and the blade pitch was changed. That did the trick.A steady stream of water poured down on the mixture as it churned through the hopper. It was water spiked with bacteria about a tablespoon for every ton of garbage. The action of the bacteria is immediate. An hour after the moistened garbage is spewed off the rear of the platform and stacked in heaps, a change begins to take place. Within two to four days the bacteria will multiply themselves 300,000,000 times. The action is so intense that the mixture heats up to more than 150 degrees and becomes almost too hot to handle.How the Bacteria Go to WorkThe mountainous piles present a weird spectacle on the San Francisco Bay landscape. For days, these heaps actually cook, throwing off dense clouds of steam. The furiously multiplying bacteria decompose and digest the garbage, creating enzymes which speed up the digestive process and make possible chemical changes; they act like the starter in your car, getting the engine going. In this case, the engine is the breakdown of elements and subsequent build-up of chemicals in the garbage.In less than a week, as the decomposition is completed, the piles shrink in size and cool off. But during the digestive period, new, food-building bacteria have begun to grow. Their function, as in the life process itself, is to use the decomposed matter to build living organic matter, store up nutrients in their mass to be used by growing plants, and change basic elements so they can be absorbed into plant roots.Such bacteria life is present in virgin soil, but in the garbage compost the concentration is several hundred times greater. After the first week of violent decomposition, the garbage has ceased to be rotting material and has become a stabilized plant food. it has no odor; actually, it repels vermin and carrion birds, which hover around the piles but will not venture on them.Thus, less than three weeks after an Oakland housewife scrapes clean her dinner plates, her garbage is ready to go back into the land as fertilizer.Despite its pungent atmosphere, the Comco plant has become the showcase Pfeiffer dreamed of. Visitors include officials of cities with a sanitation problem (60 visited the plant in one day recently), university groups, and just plain farmers. One recent visitor was Lady Eve Balfour, organizing secretary of Soil Association, Ltd., a British agricultural group. Lady Eve climbed gingerly around the hillocks of garbage, and later, in an interview, singled out the Comco plant as the high spot of her U.S. tour.“Love that gal,” bubbled the Oakland Tribune, editorially.Since the bacteria starter will make compost of just about anything from peanut shells to sawdust, there appears no limit to its possibilities. One new application for it was suggested by a Comco visitor, a farmer, who saw in the bacteria a new way of speeding the decomposition of cover crops and crop stubble which farmers plow under to return organic matter to the soil.Today, in Salinas, the Atwood Crop Dusting Service, which specializes in spraying insecticides by plane, buzzes with curious coded telephone messages. “Okay. Fly on the bacs in number 75,” says a voice at the other end of the line. Within an hour a little hedgehopping plane zooms in over a farmer's field, leaving a spray of hungry bacteria on the crops. “Bacs” is what Salinas farmers have dubbed Pfeiffer's bacteria. More than 2,000 acres of their land are now being treated this way, and orders are in for spraying another 5,000 acres.Two ounces of “bacs” in five gallons of water will treat a whole acre and the total cost is $5.50. Result: the cover crop or the stubble turns to fertilizer so fast the farmer saves a month in starting a new crop.If this new use for Pfeiffer'a bacteria seems to steal a little of the show from the plant-made compost, the scientist is not the least bit disappointed. His hope is to get more natural fertilization into the land by any means possible, and his trained bacteria are not particular where they live, so long as the food is good.In Florida and Texas, water hyacinths have begun to choke the pond and lake waters, making them unnavigable. A Texas farmer, Alexander Debruille, now harvests the hyacinths, composts them with "bacs" and gets five to 10 tons of rich plant food a day. A national dairy is studying plans for using the "bacs" on cow manure and putting itself into the fertilizer business.In coming months, Pfeiffer will go to Cuba to set up an experimental plant to convert tons of waste sugar-cane fiber into much needed organic fertilizer in that largely one-crop country.Another Pfeiffer project now under way is the pilot plant he and his research associate, Peter Escher, have set up deep in the ill-smelling New Jersey meadows' across from New York City. A company there makes tallow from beef offal, and the idea was to make compost of the contents of cows' paunches. When the scientist arrived home after a day of skidding about on tallow-coated floors, he carried with him an aroma that sent the dogs scattering in the farmyard. Mrs. Pfeiffer made him change his clothes in the barn before he could get into, the house. On the Pfeiffer farm, grain fields and a ‘lush truck garden are fertilized entirely from former garbage. Curiously, there is almost no sign of insects, although no insecticides are used.Pfeiffer does not find this remarkable. The 800-acre farm which he managed in Holland required neither chemical fertilizers nor insecticides, yet had one of the best dairy herds in Europe. Wheat yields reached 100 bushels an acre, among the highest recorded anywhere in the world. The farm's produce was so nutritious that in a survey the 700 families who lived off it reported they needed only two thirds of what they once ate to satisfy their needs.Crops That Resist InsectsPfeiffer credits this to the scientific composts used, which in turn produced healthier, more nutritious crops. Crops grown in a robust soil, are better able to resist insect attacks; an example is the 1,000-acre Malabar Farm of author-farmer Louis Bromfield, which depends largely on composted organic matter and requires no insecticides.Dr. Firman Bear of Rutgers University, described by the National Fertilizer Association as one of America's outstanding scientists, said recently: “. . . (chemical) fertilizers alone, no matter how heavy the rate of application, will not meet the requirements for soils that are producing cultivated. crops. Soil must be fed organic matter in larger amounts than the roots and residues can provide. There is need for study of the possibilities for recovery of city wastes.”Pfeiffer declares that plants which get no organic matter and are fed exclusively on chemicals are somewhat like unhealthy people who grow fat on sugars and sweets. According to research done at the Missouri Agricultural Experimental station, the plants produce an unbalanced amount of carbohydrates (sugar) at the expense of protein and trace minerals. Insects, he says, prefer these “sweet” plants and are able to attack them more easily. The plants, in turn, provide less nourishment to humans.Along with all leading agricultural authorities, Pfeiffer emphasizes that insecticides are indispensable to general farming in America: Without insecticides and fertilizers, our farm economy would collapse and our current food production would be impossible. However, the phenomenally increasing need for insecticides is a warning sign of the dangerous deficiencies developing in our croplands, which must in turn affect national health.”To overcome these deficiencies, Pfeiffer wants to see a partnership of chemical fertilizing and organic composts. ‘Both are needed,” he says. ‘Both work together.”No man to rest on his laurels, Pfeiffer zestfully welcomes the stream of inquiries which arrive in the mail each day from an increasing number of U.S. cities, and from farther afield as well. A Mexican firm wants to set up a nation-wide composting plant, and farm organizations in Australia and New Zealand have invited him for a demonstration tour there next year.The busy scientist has accepted the latter invitation, as well as requests from the Indian and Nationalist Chinese governments to visit India and Formosa for what may well be the crowning achievement of an already notable career: to demonstrate how his bacteria can make human fertilizer safe for composting. Such waste matter is now a main source of fertilizer in both countries, but it is also a main source of epidemic infections, because it carries typhus and other germs.Sanitary human fertilizer, produced by trained bacteria, has already been developed by Pfeiffer in his laboratory. It is exactly like the Oakland compost. Used on a wide scale, it may well save millions of lives in undeveloped countries and change the economic course of history.
By Walter Goldstein, Research Program DirectorThe success of organic and biodynamic agriculture relies, in part, on research that answers important production questions for farmers. MFAI is committed to agricultural research that serves the needs of sustainable agriculture. This past growing season, we conducted field trials of organic corn seed varieties that we developed to be less susceptible to weed infestations. With fewer weeds, farmers can reduce their mechanical tillage and improve soil quality. Here's what we found: * In 2006, the ability of the corn populations that we bred under organic/biodynamic conditions to compete with weeds appeared to be superior to commercial organic corn hybrids. Weed foliage density scores were 2-3 times higher for commercial organic hybrids than for hybrids selected under organic conditions and sunflowers grew twice as heavy in mixture with the commercial hybrids than with the MFAI hybrids. The ability of the MFAI varieties and varietal hybrids to compete with weeds has improved over time as the populations were selected multiple years under organic conditions. * Crosses between Michael Fields corn populations and commercial inbreds (topcrosses) yielded very similar to commercial organic hybrids from Blue River Hybrids/NC+. Crosses between corn populations (varietal hybrids) generally averaged somewhat lower yields than the topcrosses or the commercial corn hybrids. However, some varietal hybrids produced similar yields to the highest yielding commercial hybrids. Furthermore, many of the varietal hybrids were nutrient dense. * The ranking of yield performance for different hybrids appeared to differ strongly according to whether the corn was grown under conventional conditions, organic conditions without weeds, or organic with weeds. Therefore, it is probably best to test varieties for organic production in organic fields where there are moderate populations of weeds, because those are conditions that are most realistic.For more information about our corn research projects, please contact Walter Goldstein at [email]email@example.com[/email]
Digging biodynamicRestaurateurs look beyond organic in quest to cultivate pristine produceOlivia Wu, Chronicle Staff WriterWednesday, May 30, 2007David Kinch is known to drive at almost 90 miles per hour. When asked why, Kinch says, with a shrug, "I have to get somewhere."Yet when this has-to-get-somewhere chef and owner of the four-star Manresa in Los Gatos arrives at Love Apple Farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains, he slows to an almost unrecognizable pace. Shortly after 7 one morning this spring, as two Australian shepherds dance around his heels, he ambles up to the back porch of the farmhouse. Wordlessly, he sits down on a bench next to farm owner Cynthia Sandberg, grabs a worn garden stake and vigorously stirs a nearby bucket of rainwater.At this time of year, Sandberg provides nearly all the vegetables that appear on the restaurant's summer menu. On this May morning, the chef and farmer are making Preparation 501, one of nine formulas used in biodynamic farming. Ground quartz, or silica, is whipped into water for exactly one hour. The solution is then sprayed over the crops.Biodynamically grown vegetables are the cornerstone of Kinch's cuisine because they are superior to organic, he says. Like chefs nationally who are strengthening the ties to the source of their food, he wants the farm nearby, and he wants to be hands-on.Sandberg tells him she got going without him because, "you're supposed to start at dawn.'' Kinch protests he only got to bed at 2 a.m. the night before.Yet, thanks to Kinch's relentless drive, Manresa garnered four stars from The Chronicle, and also received two stars from the 2006 Michelin Guide, and a spot on Restaurant Magazine's 2005 World's 50 Best Restaurants list. In Europe, where the quest for ultra-fine vegetables in haute cuisine is a full-blown movement, Kinch is recognized as a leader.Earlier this month he was a featured presenter at "Vive las Verduras," a produce-focused gastronomy/science/architectural conference in Spain, where chefs Alain Passard (restaurant L'ArpÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¨ge in Paris) and Ferran AdriÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â (El Bulli, Spain) were the marquee names.Two months ago, Passard cooked three dinners at Manresa, using the vegetables from Love Apple Farm. Passard, who gets his produce exclusively from a farm outside of Paris, said Kinch's garden shows "a genuine craft, and a search for the definition of flavors."Responding to that inner drive to "get somewhere," although perhaps not at 90 mph, Kinch started searching for a farm that would supply him with vegetables grown biodynamically about two years ago.Biodynamic farming is the brainchild of the late Austrian philosopher/naturalist Rudolf Steiner, who came up with the method in the 1920s as farming was turning to chemicals, depleting the soil as well as the plant. Steiner felt that as a result, human nutrition was suffering. His philosophy is called anthroposophy; longtime adherents of biodynamics also study anthroposophy.At the heart of Steiner's biodynamics are nine preparations. Most, like the springtime silica solution, involve highly diluted mixtures applied to compost, to the crop or to the land itself at specific times of the year."It's the next level,'' Kinch says. While he gratefully acknowledges Alice Waters' legacy, the farm-restaurant connection and the organic revolution, it's nonetheless time to go deeper. "You go to the farmers' market and all the chefs are there. We're buying the same organic leeks and lettuces. We're all doing the same thing. I wanted to do better.''He looked at various properties as he contemplated acquiring his own farm. Then he tasted some tomatoes grown organically by Sandberg, and asked her if she would start growing other vegetables and to supply Manresa exclusively. On the day that he and Sandberg sat down to negotiate a contract, the talks went smoothly. Then, Kinch said he hesitated. He had hoped for something else besides exclusivity and organics. Simultaneously, she piped up that she had a condition, too. That something edged on the "voodoo side," he said, but he wanted to try biodynamics. As it happened, she did, too.Kinch is not the only American chef to look toward biodynamics and to create a more intimate, exclusive relationship with a farm. On the East Coast, chef Daniel Barber has Blue Hills restaurant on the site of Stone Barns farm in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., focusing on the farm-raised produce. A Rockefeller Foundation -funded living museum is also part of the complex.Other Northern California chefs are following close behind. Preston Dishman, the new chef of the General's Daughter in Sonoma, has similarly tapped Andrea Davis, a graduate with a degree in sustainable agriculture, to grow the restaurant's vegetables, in part at nearby Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen.Benziger has been biodynamic since 1997 and is certified by Demeter, an independent certifying organization. By adding a food production garden to the biodynamic grape growing, Benziger can increase the diversity of its acreage -- including pasture land, insectory, woodland and wetlands -- and complete the balanced system integral to biodynamic farming.The restaurant Ubuntu, slated to open this summer in Napa, will be directly supplied by a biodynamic garden at Lion's Run Winery. Restaurant and winery owner Sandy Lawrence has dedicated acreage at her winery to biodynamic vegetable production for the restaurant."My aim is to live by not having a large footprint on the landscape,'' she says. Like others who had been growing crops organically, she was seeking "the most sustainable way to farm and produce food." To do so, she hired Jeff Dawson, uber gardener to Wine Country.Dawson headed the Fetzer Valley Oaks gardens in Hopland (Mendocino County) in the '90s, then worked for Kendall Jackson, helping persuade the vintner to go organic. At the same time, he was schooling himself in biodynamics. By the early 2000s, when Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts was created, he had the tools and techniques to build a biodynamic garden.He took a piece of land razed by construction, and through use of biodynamic preparations, converted it into "a garden that people were amazed by, not only in its beauty but by the quality of produce. Chefs tasted the produce, hand to mouth, and couldn't believe the flavors and intensity of what they tasted," he said.Dawson sounds remarkably like Kinch. "It's another level of quality," Dawson says. "The biodynamic process connects the plant to the earth and to the cosmos." Steiner's various preparations are part and parcel of "an incredibly balanced system that takes the whole of nature into consideration. We sensitize the plant and soil to those forces."Although Kinch couches biodynamics in "voodoo" terms, he insists on participating in all of the preparations, such as filling cow's horns with cow manure and burying them, then retrieving them six months later, making a watery preparation with the aged manure and flicking that solution over the crops with a paintbrush.On the day that he sprayed the silica solution with purchased biodynamically prepared silica, he and Sandberg followed it by making their own biodynamic silica: Grinding quartz by hand into silica, pouring it into cows horns, and burying it in readiness for the following year. Love Apple Farm is gradually making its own preparations from scratch as it converts to biodynamic.Dawson currently consults at several biodynamic gardens, including those at Round Pond Estate in Rutherford, which grows Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo grapes, olives for oil and garden produce. At the height of summer, Dawson says, the overflow produce is sold to Thomas Keller, who uses it at the French Laundry, Bouchon and Ad Hoc.Besides the biodynamic philosophy and techniques, the movement's chefs and growers are aiming for near-complete independence, creating what Kinch calls "a closed loop," consisting of the garden, his menu and his signature cuisine.Dishman, from Florida, wanted a supply of fresh produce from three sites to provide him with as much as 90 percent of the restaurant's produce.Dawson says that in three years' time, Lion's Run, just a 12-minute drive from the 120-seat Ubuntu, will be able to provide 80 percent of the restaurant's produce in summer, and 50 percent in winter. Kinch says that he models his garden after Passard's, whose garden is just a few hours north of Paris. The beautifully crafted vegetables capture an inimitable quality of soil, sun and spirit of place.Almost two years into the partnership with Sandberg, 80 to 90 percent of Manresa's vegetable menu is sourced from her garden. "We've written it into our business plan," Kinch says.The savings in his produce bill is already apparent (about 60 percent), he says. As at L'ArpÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¨ge, Passard's restaurant in Paris, Kinch often serves produce that is so freshly picked it hasn't yet been refrigerated. The flavors, he says, are incomparable.Manresa's staff must continually adapt to the garden's harvest. On the day he worked on Preparation 501 at the farm, he stayed to harvest spinach, radishes, fennel, carrots and purple potatoes, among other produce. A plethora of chard, kale and other leaves becomes a veloute, a vividly emerald saturated creamed soup that is served over tea-smoked purple potatoes from the garden."It's not like opening a box of inanimate stuff," he says. "You're being thrown a curve ball every day. You've got once chance to cook it right."Boiling them and frying them in hot fat -- we don't do that," he says, referring to the traditional techniques of parboiling and sauteing. Such treatments destroy the fragile yet full flavors of the vegetables, he says. Instead, he semi-cooks them over low heat with a tiny amount of oil or vegetable stock and saves the cooking juices to make a sauce.A medley of raw and barely cooked vegetables becomes the evening's "vegetables with potato dumplings and burrata," where more than a dozen assorted vegetables sporting a carefully orchestrated, tousled look, cover three tiny dumplings. Other vegetables are cooked slowly and then pureed into a sauce.The garden regimen also means Manresa's sommelier, Jeff Bareilles, has to look for an array of lighter wines. "I have three wine lists -- one by-the-glass, one by-the-bottle, and a third that I use to pair with the spontaneous dishes from the garden," he says.Kinch's mellow moments at the farm are when his culinary ideas spring to life -- "90 percent of them," he says.Being intimately connected to a farm, and especially one that is tuned to the forces recognized in biodynamic farming, may be the new-old road that chefs are rediscovering.What is biodynamic farming?A biodynamic farm by its nature is organic, although it might not necessarily be certified as organic.Farms can be certified biodynamic by Demeter International, the European biodynamic certification organization.Biodynamics follows precise methods and techniques enunciated by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in a series of speeches he gave in 1924.Biodynamic farming involves the rituals, practices and formulas based on his study of nature and the cosmos -- for example, the making and applying of certain preparations by the lunar, solar and astrological calendars.Two of the preparations, 501 and 500, involve stirring quartz and manure respectively into water in a way that creates a vortex in the water, reversing direction intermittently throughout one hour. The mixture is highly dilute, and often described as "homeopathic" in dosage.Some other formulas include those injected into compost. One consists of dried chamomile flowers stuffed into intestines (natural sausage casings) and buried underground for six months. A yarrow compost preparation consists of dried yarrow blossoms stuffed into the bladder of a deer, hung from a tree for six months then buried underground for another six months. Oak bark preparation, also used in compost, must be placed in the skull of a domesticated horned animal and buried for six months before it is used.
Rotheraine discusses biodynamic gardening at Evergreen ElmBy: TAMMARRAH MILES, Era Reporter05/18/2007Due to the unseasonably long, warm fall last year, master gardener L.A. Rotheraine and the gardeners at Evergreen Elm had to change their approach slightly this year when starting their plants.The group, however, is expecting the same phenomenal results they have always had with their biodynamic gardens."The reason no agricultural university in the Western hemisphere can compete against Evergreen Elm's biodynamic gardeners within the confines of McKean County," Rotheraine said, is the spray they use. While other gardeners use field spray only as a field spray, Evergreen Elm uses it as a foliar spray as well. This, in addition to the unorthodox way they use the biodynamic compost preparations produces superior vegetation, Rotheraine said.He went on to compare biodynamic gardening to modern agriculture, emphasizing their incorporation of cosmic energy."The connection to the heavens is in the central stem of all plants," Rotheraine went on to say, referring to the stem as a "cosmic pipeline," or a "heavenly circuit.""The biodynamic preparations intensify this pipeline, thus uniting the heavens with Earth in a very beneficial way," he said. "Agricultural science has forgotten that all plants are materialized energy from stars and planets. It is common sense to see that the sun, moon and all the stars have an effect on plant life on Earth. As a photographer knows every light affects a picture, every light in the sky would have to affect plant growth to a greater or lesser degree."Referring specifically to the affect the strange weather last fall had on gardening this spring, Rotheraine said the soil is much dryer than it would normally be at this time of year."Therefore, we are using the unorthodox technique of using the field spray as a leaf spray," he said. By spraying the soil and plants as they do, however, they are "actually changing the climate conditions in the garden."Normally, they would use a combination of horn silica and valeria flower concentrate for spray. Instead, they are using the field spray - comprised of seven preparation components, what Rotheraine refers to as "BD prep 500, 502, 503, 504, 505, 506 and 507" - exclusively this spring. Respectively, the substances are horn manure, yarrow flowers, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion and valeria flowers.It is not only the spray, however, that makes the garden so successful, Rotheraine said."The enthusiasm of Evergreen Elm's biodynamic gardeners becomes an actual force just like our preparations do and has a tremendous positive effect on the plants," he said.While some may debate the theory behind Rotheraine's methods, what cannot be refuted are his results. For years, the group has taken dozens of blue ribbons at the McKean County Fair for their fruits and vegetables. Rotheraine, Evergreen Elm and the biodynamic gardens have also been featured on local television news and in newspapers as far away as Michigan because of the unusually high quality of their seed strains, plants and harvests."Until other gardeners and farmers use Evergreen Elm's biodynamic system, they will never achieve the results our gardeners have accomplished," Rotheraine said.He seemed particularly pleased that master gardeners at two Midwestern colleges, the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin, are both currently experimenting with Evergreen Elm's methods. He is also hopeful that biodynamic gardening is becoming popular worldwide, as they group has seen a large number of hits on their Web site from Communist China."So, we're putting some of our key articles in Chinese hoping they will (use) the Evergreen Elm method of making seeds instead of being swayed into genetically-engineered and terminator seeds that the large corporations are trying to propagate throughout the world," Rotheraine said."If a seed strain is a replica of a particular cosmic constellation, then genetically altering a seed makes it inferior," he said, compared to what it could be - "a heavenly image in the form of a plant here on Earth."Evergreen Elm supervisor Brandi Buck said that not only do the gardeners produce a spectacular garden, but the garden gives back to its creators and keepers."There is a therapeutic aspect of gardening for the individuals at Evergreen Elm," Buck said. "It helps with aggression and obsessive compulsive disorder," adding the repetitious nature of the tasks calms the clients at Evergreen Elm - an agency that specializes in the care and therapy of those diagnosed with mental health illness or mental retardation.Some clients, due to their diagnoses, tend to binge eat, for example. Tending the garden allows them to better understand the nutritional value of what they are growing. It also helps with finger dexterity, she said, as well as giving them a reason to be outside getting exercise in the sunlight, which naturally combats depression.Harvesting the gardens and taking home all those blue ribbons also fills them with a sense of pride and accomplishment, she said."Each individual here can tell you what they do in the garden and why," Buck said. Some of the clients at Evergreen Elm have been working with Rotheraine in the garden for decades, she added. "It's a huge benefit for them."More detailed information on biodynamic gardening can be found at www.rotheraine.com.
Thalassa-Mix was born from the life work of Dr. Maynard Murray, medical doctor, researcher and author of the book Sea Energy Agriculture. The gift of the seas, (Thalassa - the Greek name for the sea), both primal and present day, are combined with the ground-breaking and forward-looking work of Rudolph Steiner and Viktor Schauberger. Steiner's gift of the biodynamic Earth healing remedies, and Schauberger's insightful understanding of the energetic flow patterns of water, have been combined to enhance a blend of pure, deep sea water and the Original Himalayan Crystal Salt. The result is a synergistic, biodynamically charged and enhanced sea mineral concentrate that supplies all naturally occurring elements (up to 92 of them) in a buffered ionic solution ready for plant uptake. Use Thalassa-mix to enhance soil biology, to balance mineral nutrients and to stimulate the soil's energetic processes.Thalassa Mix is formulated with ingredients that come directly from nature... sea minerals, herbs and humus. Nothing has been chemically altered or synthesized. The solution is concentrated, charged and enhanced by our proprietary mixing processes. All you need to do is dilute it and apply.Experience has shown that a final dilution of 2000 parts per million total dissolved solids is the perfect concentration to feed most plants in most applications. To achieve this concentration, simply mix ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¾ ounce (one and one-half tablespoons) in one gallon of water. Leafy greens and flowers prefer slightly less concentrations - approximately 1200 to 1500 ppm.Fruiting crops and grasses can be fed multiple times at the 2000 ppm dilution and can actually take up to 3500 ppm in certain applications.Thalassa Mix may be used in all types of agricultural and horticultural applications. It is being successfully used as the sole nutrient mix in hydroponic growing systems and in sprouting as well. In conventional soil growing systems, Thalassa Mix may be used directly on the seed at planting as a soak, pop-up or lay-by. Thalassa Mix may be used as a root drench, foliar spray, sidedress and through irrigation systems.Soil characteristics are an important consideration when applying Thalassa Mix. Heavy, clay based soils will hold the minerals contained in the mix. Therefore, when applying directly to the soil, only one or two applications per season are recommended. Loamy or coarse soils subject to leaching can be fed multiple times throughout the season, up to weekly applications on heavy - feeding crops.Field crops typically exhibit tremendous results from one to two applications per season. Fruits and vegetables can be fed multiple times taking into consideration soil characteristics and type of crop. Thalassa Mix performs superbly as the sole nutrient in hydroponic systems with multiple daily feedings.Thalassa-Mix ingredients and what they do:Pure sea water - perfectly balanced natural mineral solution containing up to 92 minerals, plus thousands of enzymes and aerobic bacteria. The minerals in sea water are in liquid crystalloid state, which pass easily through plant membranes.Original Himalayan Crystal SaltÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¾Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ - 250 million year old sea mineral deposit from an ancient sea - now buried in a mountain range in the Himalayas. This salt contains 84 minerals which are in balanced proportion and are complementary with pure sea water. This salt has been extensively studied for its therapeutic qualities and the findings have been described in detail in the book Water&Salt: The Essence Of Life.Humus - from biodynamic [bd] preparation # 500 and barrel compost. The functions of humus are well understood - the biodynamic versions are very powerful and aid in stimulating biological processes and healing the soil.Silica - from biodynamic preparation # 501. Silica helps enhance the light metabolism of plants, aiding in the resistance to fungal dis-ease and chewing insects. The bd 501 also helps to encourage the growth of mycorrhizal fungus within the soil.Yarrow - from biodynamic preparation # 502. Yarrow is a powerful healing herb and will help to restore damaged and exploited soil by enabling a deeper connection to the cosmic environment. It acts as a biocatalyst with a stimulating effect on plants' use of sulfur and potassium.Chamomile - from biodynamic preparation # 503. Chamomile helps stabilize nitrogen and aids in balancing silica and potassium in the soil. As in humans, chamomile is 'soothing' and aids in the digestive properties of soil and compost.Stinging Nettle - from biodynamic preparation #504. Nettles prevent nitrogen from evaporating and enhance vegetative growth of all plants, especially during dry weather. The nettles preparation brings 'intelligence' to the soil or compost, enabling plants to get what they need from their surrounding environment. Nettles tea is used as a flavor enhancer for crops.White Oak Bark - from biodynamic preparation # 505. Extremely rich in calcium - approximately 78%. This preparation aids in the prevention and healing of plant dis-ease via the watery element.Dandelion - from biodynamic preparation #506. Dandelion regulates the relationship between silica and potassium in the plant. Dandelion preparation brings awareness to the plants environment and helps it's dis-ease immunity.Valerian - from biodynamic preparation # 507. Valerian assists plants in finding their right relation to phosphorus. Biodynamic valerian also brings in the catalyzing effects of warmth to the soil and plants.Equisetum arvense (Meadow Horsetail) - from biodynamic preparation # 508. This tea is used to prevent fungal diseases through the mechanism of promoting the mycorrhizal fungus in the soil. This helps control the watery forces to prevent fungus.Clay mediates the cosmic influences from the soil [roots] upwards to the leaf, stem and fruit [the siliceous parts of the plant according to Steiner. Clay is the mediator between the Earthly lime [bd500] and the cosmic silica [bd501].All of these ingredients come from nature and have not been synthesized or chemically altered, only energetically enhanced. Composts and herbal preparations are made according to Rudolph Steiner's original discourses and enhanced through the wisdom of Schauberger. Pure sea water and The Original Himalayan Crystal Salt are blended together in a patented mixing device to form a super-saturate, which is seven times more concentrated than sea water. All the ingredients are then mixed in the patent-pending Vortex Brewer , to enliven, imprint and potentize the solution.Thalassa-mix is dedicated to the lives and work of Dr. Maynard Murray, Rudolph Steiner, and Viktor Schauberger. Special thanks and gratitude goes to Donald Jansen, who for over 20 years has kept Dr. Murray's work on Sea Energy Agriculture alive. Thalassa-Mix has been formulated by Stephen Storch of Natural Science Organics and Kevin Keune of Makes Scents, LLC. Both have been using the product since the spring of 2006 on their respective biodynamic farms with tremendous results.A portion of the proceeds from each sale of Thalassa Mix are being donated to the Sea Energy Agriculture Foundation. This 501ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©3 research organization is committed to furthering the research and knowledge of producing highly mineralized, nutrient dense food, using only resources that occur in nature. This research-based, educational organization will also be studying and publishing data of the effects on animal and human from eating this type of food.