If you know Anna Helmer at all, you know that if the farming thing doesn’t work out, she could probably make a go in stand-up comedy. Her humour is dry and her knowledge about potatoes and her passion for Pemberton, soil and biodynamics is unparalleled. So, when she launches a podcast, we tuned in.
If you’ve missed social chit-chat, the shooting-the-breeze times in the community, then this is the medicine… composed, it seems, while driving…
Check the link here for a 20 minute listen of Farm Story slash “but I digress” the podcast – this episode is all about biodynamics, which is a mysterious practice that has been an agricultural movement that delicately blends science and spirituality. Anna is the least witchy person I know… so it’s intriguing to me, to hear her delve into biodynamics and why it works, and how she’d convince an engineer that it’s completely solid as a methodology (despite Steiner, the founder’s, conviction in the influence of the cosmos and moon cycles.)
Observing moon cycles, applying teas and tinctures, and following a colour-coded calendar with astrological symbols and notes about fruit, leaf, flower or root plants may seem like a bizarre way to grow crops, but biodynamics has been an agricultural movement for decades.
Relatively few North American growers have tried the methods introduced in 1924 by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in his lectures. Those, like Anna Helmer, a self-described former party-girl turned biodynamic farmer, started out questioning the practice’s efficacy, but years later found herself giving a presentation about it at the Certified Organic Association of BC’s annual conference.
“I’m here to make the case of why to do it and why it’s so important for the future of farming in BC,” Helmer says. “If it didn’t work, I wouldn’t bother with it. I think it’s a really important thing to look into. You don’t need to stop what you’re doing in terms of fertility to start biodynamics. It’s a delicate blend of science and spirituality.”
Helmer’s is not just an organic farm, but also biodynamic. Last year, Anna delivered a presentation about biodynamic farming at the COABC’s annual conference. So she really does know what she’s talking about. And she starts with one of her favourite topics – the nutritional supremacy of the potato. Anna shared this with me over a decade ago, with such conviction that I’ve been passing it on… that all you need to be healthy is potatoes and milk (for the vitamin D)… and that really informed my pandemic gardening this past summer. I grew a lot of potatoes. In this episode, Anna calcifies that Vitamin D comes from the sun, so I’ve now adapted my survival strategy to eating potatoes while sun-bathing.
Of course, all these nutritional benefits come directly from the soil. Hence, the importance of feeding the soil. Which leads us to Steiner’s investigations into how to feed the soil, by harnessing the vital energies of the entire universe, baby. And why not.