Food from the earth

Jan 09, 16 Food from the earth

lebaj_gea_create_sustenibility copySATURDAY . CREATE SUSTAINABILITY


A part of the solution to fossil fuel consumption is found in eating locally sourced organic foods. For communities, this means growing our own food on our farms and gardens. At Damanhur, we enact this intention through the Olio Caldo movement. Creating a food supply for hundreds of people means finding the balance between producing in quantity, with attention to variety and quality, while maintaining purity in the physical production as well as in the intention.

Leone Bagolaro, a young farmer who was raised in Damanhur, shares about three of our current methods of agricultural experimentation at Prima Stalla, the Damanhur farm and agritourism, with the intention to achieve food self-sufficiency.

a1The first method is biointensive, a method shared by Bev, a new Damanhur resident from Australia, detailed in a previous article for the Global Ecovillage Network newsletter. With the analysis procedure, we saw that there were several elements lacking in the soil, including boron, phosphorus, potassium and molybdenum, and we are working to compensate for them, though it is not so easy to find such products suitable for organic agriculture. We are currently cultivating winter crops with this method, salad and spinach, in an area of about 400 square meters. The method involves digging trenches in the greenhouse and creating long mounds with the earth, putting fresh manure in the trenches and planting in the mounds. After six months, we take the manure and compost and place it on the mounds, adding microelements to balance, and replacing fresh manure in the trenches.

A second method of experimentation is the Manenti one, developed more than 20 years ago by a farmer from Biella, Italy, named Manenti. He learned by observing the woods, noticing that the ecosystem produced much without the presence of manure, so he developed a method to reproduce these conditions, seeing as how he doesn’t have animals or a source of manure. The method involves lightly working the land with a subsoiler, without turning the earth, using a tracked tractor instead of one with wheels in order to not compact the earth too much as it passes. The grass is deliberately left growing high and weeds are also left to help break down the earth as they grow, and there is a natural equilibrium that is reached, as only the helpful weeds remain, providing nourishment. n this way, the microorganisms remain too. When it is time to cultivate, a week before the seeding, the land is cleared, the straw is removed, and the cultivation begins.

The third method is biodynamic agriculture, originally developed by Rudolph Steiner, which we have been guided through by Mintauro, a Damanhurian who has run farms and agricultural businesses in Tuscany for many years previous to moving to here. In this method, it is important to observe nature and carefully watch what is happening, finding a balance with the land. Every land has it’s own characteristics and microclimate. It is also important to create closed circuits, as well as understand the power of thoughts and intentions coming from those who are cultivating the land. On a practical level, this method involves experimentation with placing manure in a cow horn and burying it in the earth, letting it mature for six months before using it.

a2Leone’s impression is that all three methods are working well in terms of increasing quantity and quality of crop production, with a lot of evident vitality and growth, though the biointensive method takes more time – ten people worked for three days to establish the system – as well as resources such as manure, while the other two methods are more efficient. Future solutions may also include uniting the different methods of experimentation.

Beyond the physical methods of cultivation used, Leone believes that what has the biggest impact is the mind-state of the people who are working the land, communicating with the plants and approaching them with sensitivity. We also feel the effects of eating homegrown organic food, noticing how nourishment direct from the earth creates a connection to the land that opens subtle channels of perception and sensitivity as well.