NOTI, Ore. — It’s a soggy December day, but it will take more than rain to keep the staff from Winter Green Farm out of the fields.
“Right now, we’re just harvesting the remnants of crops,” said Wali Via, Winter Green Farm Co-Owner.
Crops like cabbage, Brussels sprouts–plants that can survive this far into the growing season. They cover a small percentage of the farm’s property.
“We manage about 170 acres. About 30 of that is an intensive vegetable/berry production. About 100 is for cattle doing pastures, hay,” Via said.
Sounds like any number of farms around Lane County. But this one approaches farming differently, using a method called biodynamics.
“It’s a system of agriculture that was founded on indications given by Rudolf Steiner, who is the same man who gave the indications that led to Waldorf education,” Via said.
Biodynamics has several principles that boil down to three basic ideas. First, there is life force in matter.
“When we’re on the farm and we’re relating to the animals, relating to the plants, relating to the minerals, we recognize that this life force exists there and needs to be respected and worked with,” Via said. “The second principle of biodynamics is looking at your farm as a living organism.”
That means making sure it can basically sustain itself. Winter Green grows crops, yes. But it also grows the feed for its animals that produce the manure. That, mixed with field leftovers, generates the compost that helps the crops grow.
“In order to have a healthy farm organism, one of components of that is to have a rotation system,” Via said.
At Winter Green, that means three years of rest, growing hay or another cover crop like this, and then three years of vegetable production.
A final principle to explain biodynamics tackles the astronomical influences on soil and plant development.
“You have the rhythms of the heavenly bodies, the rhythms of the year, of day and night, of the lunar phases,” Via said.
It takes a lot planning, a lot of work, and a lot of days in soggy fields to make sure everything is balanced.
“The result is food that’s very nutritious with very high quality in terms of flavor, appearance, fragrance, storage capability. All of that is enhanced,” Via said.