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Alliances for the Next Generation: Reflections from the 2013 International Biodynamic Conference, Part One

February 19, 2013
view down the hill from the Goetheanum

View down the hill from the Goetheanum

I arrived in Dornach on Wednesday at noon, walking through gentle sleet from the train station to my homestay house, then up the hill past the Goetheanum and down the other side to the Youth Section. Entering into the ground floor of the warm orange building, the kitchen was buzzing with activity, eight people absorbed in preparing lunch. I hesitated at the doorway, removing my wet jacket and wool hat, and then a young blonde woman looked at me and smiled — “Thea!”

Laura left her pasta sauce simmering on the stove to give me a hug, and then grabbed Clemens by the arm — the other face I recognized from skype conversations last year. Soon we sat down to eat with the vibrant group of young people that had come from Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Germany and Norway for the 2013 International Biodynamic Agriculture Conference.

Laura introduced me as the coordinator of the “original” BING in North America, which quickly led someone to ask, “What is BING anyway?” So I told the story of the youth gathering before the 2010 North American Biodynamic Conference, and the hunger of those 50 people who gathered to form an ongoing network. Then the creation of the Biodynamic Initiative for the Next Generation – a web page, an e-newsletter, a facebook group, and most importantly, more in-person gatherings to connect and share. Then Laura jumped in to tell of forming BING in Norway, and the unfolding of the possibility of a global BING network. The conversation continued around the table about young people’s efforts in biodynamics around the world, and then we walked up the hill for the beginning of the conference.

The theme of the conference was “Alliances for Our Earth,” and the highlight for me was the alliance building workshops held each morning from Thursday through Saturday. The conference’s 550+ participants divided into 16 groups, each on a different theme: bees, urban agriculture, farmer-consumer alliances, livestock breeding, regional development and others, along with our workshop with Laura and Clemens — “Biodynamic agriculture in the next generation”. Each workshop met for three days in a row, building and deepening through a process keynote speaker Nicanor Perlas characterized with three words: focusing, transforming and shaping.

Participants in the "Biodynamic agriculture in the next generation" workshop

Participants in the “Biodynamic agriculture in the next generation” workshop

On the first day of our workshop (focusing), about 30 people from 5 continents — ranging from college age to near retirement — gathered to work together. Clemens and Laura brought the question “What does biodynamic agriculture want to be in 35 years?”  and in small groups we shared pictures of the future, practicing “active listening” to each speaker in turn. A young man in my group said, “Biodynamics might look quite different in 35 years. Young people need to keep the fire burning that previous generations have kindled, but to do that they need to add new wood.” After the small group conversations, we returned to the large circle for a plenary, where participants shared emerging themes:

  • New ways of organizing farm work – cooperative arrangements, allowing farmers to be less specialized, making room to combine farming with other kinds of work
  • Radiating out and broadening the influence of biodynamic farming beyond “biodynamic” to other farms and farmers, non-farmers, and society
  • The balance between core and periphery, personal development and work in the world
Laura and Clemens reflect themes from the first day

Laura and Clemens reflect themes from the first day

On the second day (transforming), we began with eurythmy, moving through gestures representing the position of the human being between heaven and earth, and exploring the connection between past, future and present. Then, in new small groups, we were asked to identify and share the moment we had the feeling that our picture of the future could be realized. Clemens encouraged us to talk not just about what happened, or what we thought, but exactly how we felt in that moment. At my table, each person’s moment related to connecting with other people, coming to clarity through meeting and finding a common thread. For me, a pivotal moment was standing on stage at the 2012 North American Biodynamic Conference, were I felt the warmth, openheartedness, and excitement of the conference’s 700+ participants radiating toward me and my own centered warmth within.

The third day (shaping) centered on the question of how can we best serve the biodynamic agriculture of the future? We began again with eurythmy, bringing the gestures of the previous day along with moving “I,” “you” and then “we.” Then in small groups we shared what we thought was necessary to help us meet and work with the picture of the future. We talked about connecting, being with the farm, developing a relationship with the land, and very importantly, letting go. Returning one last time to the large circle, we were invited to share closing thoughts, but the collective mood was one of fullness, and no more words seemed necessary. Instead, we shared several minutes of deep silence. And then we moved on out into the world.

Sunset at the Goetheanum

Sunset at the Goetheanum

This piece is also posted on the Biodynamics Blog, as the first of two reflections I will share on the 2013 International Biodynamic Agriculture Conference. The second will focus on the meeting of the “young biodynamic movement” organized by BING global.


A Global Biodynamic Initiative for the Next Generation

December 18, 2012

Biodynamics Blog

By Thea Maria Carlson

Education Program Coordinator,Biodynamic Association

Early this summer, I was introduced via email to Laura Klemme, a young biodynamic farmer in Norway.  Inspired by our Biodynamic Initiative for the Next Generation in North America, she and a handful of other young farmers had begun to organize BINGN (Biodynamic Initiative for the New Generation Nordic).

In a Skype conversation later that week, Laura was bubbling with enthusiasm. Already new BINGN had held a start up meeting weekend retreat, and they were planning for another in November (coincidentally on the same dates as the 2012 North American Biodynamic Conference). Over a lovely hour, we shared our successes and challenges, the questions we were living with, and made plans to stay in touch as we developed our respective initiatives.

Then in August, Laura wrote me again:

As I maybe told you, I together with a young biodynamic…

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wedding flowers

August 27, 2012

farming meets art in yet another way: i created my first wedding arrangements on friday.

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i am grateful to dori and nate for trusting me with the flowers for their big day, and to janet, andrea, lorna, jodie and olivia for their help with flowers, supplies, advice & moral support. it was a joyful marathon!

foggy morning on the farm

August 4, 2012

august 1st dawned like a coastal california day, everything shrouded in mist. it was a day i was thankful to be up before 6am ~ this sort of beauty is easily traded for sleep.

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summer slips by

July 8, 2012

turns out that when you’re simultaneously farming from sunup to sundown, planning a conference, preparing and playing music for a wedding and trying to keep up with eating, sleeping and having a life, there’s not much time left over for a blog. i have a handful of half-composed posts in my drafts box and many photos i would have loved to take if only i had my camera at the right moment. not unlike all the seeds we’ve planted in the past couple of months that have failed to germinate, or sprouted and then dried out in this extended drought. thank goodness for irrigation.

we just finished our 6th week of the CSA — 1/3 of the way through the summer season already. we’ve moved through spring spinach and peas to summer kale, chard, zucchini and beans. tomatoes, eggplants and raspberries are coming on, as well as succession after succession of our popular beets. this week i made my first bouquets of the season, and i’m looking forward to doing some wedding flowers later this summer.

in the noontime heat of monday and tuesday i inspected all four of our beehives, which this time of year requires dismantling a skyscraper of up to 7 boxes filled with bees, wax, honey, pollen, and brood. the main objective was to make sure the queens were healthy and laying eggs (which they all were) but in dismantling process, i scraped off several bits of stray honeycomb the bees had built between the boxes. i wanted to pop the honeycomb right in my mouth, but my full bee suit and the danger of stings were in the way, so i left them on a hive roof for the bees to reclaim.

on tuesday i stepped out at dusk to set mouse traps in the greenhouse, just in time to see the full reddish moon rise in the east. fireflies glided between the young orchard trees, and the air had turned from scorching to pleasantly balmy. i walked west across the darkening farm, past the blooming hyssop, ripening garlic, high tunnel and wheat to the beehives.

during the day, the hives hum with activity, inside and out, bees flying away and back in every direction. after dark the bees usually go inside for the night, but with the temperature still high, beards of bees draped from the front entrances. there was a hushed but massive whir of wings, circulating air through the four hives.

only a few bees remained on the comb remnants i’d left, and i gingerly picked a few up with my ungloved fingers, tasting the delicious warm honey. one bee buzzed around my head, warning me not to overstay my welcome, but i basked for a few more minutes in that meditative whir, savoring the heavenly sweetness on my tongue. the days are long this time of year, and it’s their beginnings and ends that are the most magical.

flowers for our mothers

May 13, 2012

in honor of my amazing mother, and all the other moms in my life, here’s a visual bouquet of this spring on the farm. thank you for being you!

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point lobos

April 13, 2012

february. spouting whales — followed down the coast for an hour — not pictured.

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