Thursday, April 23, 2009

And the second farmer said

After a lengthy conversation with Erik Landau of Kimberton CSA, I have an even greater respect for biodynamic farming. (This is written for use on our CSA website.) Kimberton is located in rural Pennsylvania, not too far from Philadelphia. It’s a 10-acre farm on the property of a Waldorf School. (Waldorf schools were developed in 1919 by Rudolph Steiner, the man who also started biodynamic farming and gardening.) It’s where we get our eggs in the winter and any excess produce they have in the summer. It’s right next door to Seven Stars Dairy Farm, the producers of our wonderful yogurt.

Erik’s love of farming is life-long. He dreamed of being a farmer when he was a child. His dream was nurtured by the Waldorf School he attended. After high school, he apprenticed on a farm in Northern Illinois and then one in New Hampshire, where he met his wife, another aspiring farmer. After living for several years in Germany, they moved back to the US and began working at Kimberton CSA. By 2002 they were managing the CSA.

Erik and his wife run the CSA with the help of several apprentices, who receive room and board and a small weekly stipend. It’s a lot of work for everyone involved.

They maintain the nutrient level of the farm by applying cow manure from the neighboring dairy farm and mushroom compost from another local farm. The flock of chickens also provide useful natural fertilizer.

Although Kimberton focuses on growing vegetables, they also have around 150 chickens at any point in time. When they mature, they sell them as soup chickens. These are the chickens who produce the delicious brown eggs we enjoy all winter, when the Kimberton CSA is not operational.

The chickens are a mix of Rhode Island reds and White leghorns, all laying brown eggs. I asked about the life of a typical chicken on this biodynamic farm. The day after the chickens are hatched, they arrive at Kimberton. They get one or two vaccinations, but no beak trimming, as would be done on a large commercial chicken farm. They live in the chicken house for 4-5 weeks until they are too big to slip through the electric fence. From that point on, they nest in the chicken house, but pretty much have the run of the farm. They get their feed and water outside, eating a mix of organic grains, soybeans, and corn.

There are only 3 roosters for the 150 chickens. They serve as the eyes and ears of the flock, often warding off potential predators. The electric fence also helps keep away animals that might otherwise prey on the chickens.

Kimberton CSA is too small to have much left over after their 200 members have been served. During the winter months, for many years they have been providing eggs to Spiritual Foods CSA, but otherwise everything they produce goes to their members.

As a relatively young man of 33 years, Erik says his biggest challenge is trying to figure out how to farm long-term without wearing out his knees and back. The season from May through October is intense with a huge workload.

His long-term goal is to have his own farm, instead of managing someone else’s farm. He would like to have more land and a more stable financial situation. He would like to be able to afford health insurance.

But for now, it’s his love of what he is doing and the fruits of his labor that keep him going.


Blogger Kristin said...

I love these interviews! You really bring a fresh perspective to the fresh food we eat.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

A wonderful analysis of organic farming with a very touching human interest angle.

11:11 PM  
Blogger lettuce said...

Steiner's theories are linked to the wine-tasting on my blog. Which make sense to me!

chickens are so funny.
who squeezed into the henhouse to get that shot?!

2:47 AM  
Blogger Pauline said...

Bringing attention to the benefits of organic food and farming practices is a good thing you're doing. Here the rooster starts my day for me at 4:30 a.m., and the chickens have upped their egg production, tilled my garden soil and fertilized it for me.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Interesting! I'm glad there are still people out there with a love of farming. (I'm sure the chickens are glad, too -- even if they wind up in a soup pot, they live a better life beforehand.)

10:31 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Lettuce -- Apparently biodynamic farming is big in the wine country of Argentina. It's amazing to me how Steiner's practices for farming and education seem to have become so international.

Pauline -- You have been practicing biodynamic farming for years apparently. You may just not have had a name for it! Aren't those eggs delicious?!

5:19 PM  

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