By Rosemary Tayler, November 7, 2019
Just prior to the onset of winter, from November 3 to 12, 2019, Jaspal Chattha and I traveled to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island to meet with groups of farmers and gardeners interested in biodynamic agriculture.
Our first encounter was with folks associated with the Cocagne Sustainable Development Group, a small but very active group north of Moncton. Over the past two years, I had taught three biodynamic sessions there and had become acquainted with several farming families in the area. Jaspal Chattha gave an excellent one-hour overview of his spectacular achievements in converting his conventional ten-acre farm in north-east India to a biodynamic farm. He had recorded this transition by means of photography, and so his oral account was supplemented with elegant photos of how he had accomplished this endeavour.
From Cocagne, we traveled to the heart of the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia and met with a dozen farmers and gardeners in that region. Again, the two-hour evening session was full of constructive dialogue. Several attendees had organic, biodynamic and/or horticultural expertise. The peer learning was productive and useful. Jaspal’s talk was well received and the day we traveled to several farms and gardens owned by folks who had attended the evening session. These one-on-one encounters were meaningful and inspiring. In a number of cases, the exchange was mutually beneficial. For example, one man in Annapolis Royal has been developing a bio-char preparation method. He uses this bio-char to enhance his mulching and composting.
From there, we drove back to the Moncton area and the next day touring farms and gardens owned by folks in the Cocagne area. An impromptu meeting with neighbours took place at one home. We all saw the benefits of mulching, forest gardening and good soil development undertaken by an experienced permaculturalist. At another farm, where there was sandy soil in one place and clay nearby, Jaspal suggested that these two soil types can be mixed to give a better balance for optimal water retention.
Our final goal was to reach out to folks on Prince Edward Island. Having met several farmers at an organic farming conference in Charlottetown, PEI, two years ago, I made several phone calls and arranged on-site visits to two organic farms. One of these farms, Heart Beet Organics, had been using bio-dynamic preparations but the owners had run out of stock. As I had transported my large ice cooler embedded with peat moss and containing bio-dynamic preparations in mason jars, I was able to share what I had – not only with these folks but also with folks in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
With freezing rain and ice storm pending, we left Prince Edward Island early than anticipated and headed back to Ontario. Overall, this nine-day journey was valued on many levels. The meaningful discourse, the one-on-one encounters, and the actual visits to farms gave Jaspal and me a sense of what practical steps can next be taken by these farmers as they move closer to biodynamic farming systems. In particular several farmers are interested in constructing barrel compost pits in the manner that Jaspal created on his farm and on many other farms in India.
We are grateful to the Bio-Dynamic Society for Farming and Gardening in Ontario for partially funding this trip to open doorways and create relationships with people in the Maritimes who are sincerely interested in bio-dynamic practices.
Photos taken by Jaspal Chattha at Danny Brown's farm near Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia on Thursday, November 7, 2019