Flannel Jammies Farm

...praising God on our 1/5 acre of suburbia

Friday, February 7, 2014

lessons learned from the VABF conference, part one...

Recently a friend and I embarked on a journey together... to the Virginia Association of Biological Farming Conference in Richmond.
Lanette and me, conference buddies
Glorious.  Three days with beekeepers, growers, farmers, ranchers, teachers, authors, and foodies.  As another friend at the conference put it, "I am among my people."

Day One was a full-day intensive with Gunther Hauk of Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary in Floyd, Virginia.  He is a gentle soul, filled with knowledge and a great respect for the earth and for the bees.  There was so much to learn as he taught about biodynamic gardening and beekeeping!
Gunther Hauk showing the cow horn for a soil preparation
Workshop:  Biodynamic Gardening and Beekeeping presented by Gunther Hauk

biodynamic agriculture:
 a method of organic farming originally developed by Rudolf Steiner 
that employs what proponents describe as 
"a holistic understanding of agricultural processes".  
One of the first sustainable agriculture movements, 
it treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care 
as ecologically interrelated tasks, 
emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives. 
Proponents of biodynamic agriculture, including Steiner, 
have characterized it as "spiritual science" 
as part of the larger anthroposophy movement.
A slide depicting a natural queen cell
Takeaway Tidbits:  
 - Sustainable is the very base... we would like to go beyond that and THRIVE!
 - Enliven the soil, don't just feed it.  Get lots of microbial and fungal action into it.
 - When we work with nature, we create culture.
 - The breeding of the true future is working with the cosmos, not with the microscope.
 - Nurture the bees, don't only keep them.
 - Animal wisdom is called instinct.  When we go against instinct, we go against health.
 - Swarming is a bee instinct.  Gunther Hauk catches or traps his swarms rather than splitting to prevent swarms, which he sees as interference.  Why do bees swarm?  Overcrowding?  To reproduce the colony?  No.  Because The Great Bee said so!
 - Use a chicken or goose feather rather than a bee brush to gently move bees.
 - If necessary, Gunther does treat his hives with formic acid for mites.
Slide depicting the heart-shaped top bar comb
Brains filled with new and strange ideas, we decided to chat about the day over a quiet dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant.  Alas, it was not to be so.  Don't ask about the Mariachi band singing and playing Michael Jackson's "Beat It" with gusto.

Days Two and Three were filled with workshops, keynote speakers, an amazing Organic Food Festival Potluck lunch, lovely dinner, book signings, vendor tables, seed swap, and...

...more about all that in my next blog post!

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