Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Biodynamic Seed-propagation

On July 11th we where invited-to the open Seed- day at “Fintan” the 140 Ha Farm in Rheinau, the largest Biodynamic Farm in Switzerland.
Since over 25 Years farmers and researchers have been involved in developing seeds appropriate to Biodynamic and organic farming methods. Quite a number of vegetable seeds and cereals have by now been registered and made available since.
It takes thousands of seed trials and about 15 years until an acceptable variety of cereal is produced, an effort which can only be carried by subsidies and donations.
With the rapid disappearance of a large diversity of seed-stocks (and animal breeds as well) and the concentration of seed-propagation in the hands of a few powerful multinationals and lately the development of GMO seeds this work has become crucial for the future of humanity. Conventionally available seeds are not appropriate for sustainable farming methods, the only give results with high fertilizer inputs, herbicides and pesticides, and in general can not be propagated by the farmer, so that he has to buy new seed every year.
As a Banana grower I regret not to be able to work on seed propagation, the development of new Banana varieties is extremely difficult and costly, the Banana industry relies on the only one marketable Cavendish variety, which is propagated since over 30 years vegetabily and becomes increasingly susceptible to diseases. In Biodynamics we know that plants are cosmically rejuvenated by going through a flowering and seed-process.
We are glad to be able to contribute to this effort at least financially, apparently this seems to be typical for older people to be concerned about the future, it is the old farmer planting apple trees even if he does know that he will not be the beneficiary of the fruits, in that category also fits seed-propagation and the caring for the future of children. It could also be said that believing in re-incarnation this may not be all that altruistic as it seems!

Our home on wheels in Europe.

Since several years we are fortunate to spend a few month in Europe in order to escape the peak caribbean heat.
Our home there is a “camping car”, the kind of ugly white plastic box cluttering the most scenic tourist sites that we in the past we used to look at with disdain!
However, after initially having rented one we learned to appreciate its convenience, and eventually bought one ourselves, and when not in use it is parked in Switzerland, with our son Sebastian (who has abandoned farming and is now making a living giving tourists paragliding flights) in Interlaken.
On a relatively small space it has all the conveniences, sleeps 4, can be heated, has a mini-bathroom with toilet, sink and douche, a 4 pit gas-range and refrigerator. There is enough space to store paraglider, inflatable canoe and our bicycles which are great for sightseeing and entering towns for shopping!
Traveling longer distances is now a pleasure, after a few hours driving we pull of the road take a coffee brake, often cook lunch (Annelien!) and take a nap. Overnight we often park between farm fields, the edge of the woods or along a stream, and if we get caught in an urban area we look for a quite parking spot often found next to a church, or a sport field, and in France and Italy most towns have a designated parking area for camping cars. Often when parked for the night close to roads, other campers park alongside feeling more secure in company.
Whenever we decide to stay longer or when it is time to do laundry we check in to a campground.
Visiting relatives and friends is easy, nobody has to be inconvenienced, we are simply temporary neighbors, can be grandparents and retire to our own quarters if the kids get to rowdy!
Business visits are uncomplicated, if Annelien has her fill of seeing one more cold-storage with Bananas she can simply stay at “home” in the parking lot, knit socks, read and sometimes join again for a business lunch.
Escaping unpleasant weather, especially in Switzerland is often (to) easy, it takes about three hours to cross the alps to the italian sunny side, a temptation which tends to bring some undesirable restlessness if not checked.
The planning of our itinerary has the following pattern: Family and friends, Banana customers, Paragliding sites (usually in mountainous areas) and Biodynamic Farms, where sometimes also our help is welcomed!
After a few months however we are getting our fill of restlessness and look forward to our quiet home and a regular working schedule.