Thirty-four people from Luzon to Mindanao gathered at the Vidar Garden 2.0 at Libongcogon, Iloilo to participate in the 5-day (Aug. 17 to 21) Biodynamic workshop facilitated by Nick Perlas. Many were farmers, some educators, doctors, hobby gardeners, religious, mothers, and businessmen.
The first hours in the morning were spent in observation of nature. Learning to observe, immersing oneself, listening. Nick had thankfully prepared a narrow gravel pathway edged with bamboo. Beside this pathway was deep muddy sludge. Sunflowers and zinnias and mature okras lined the path. The farm itself is edged by trees. There is a river running nearby. This is originally a swampy area with heavy clay soil. Soil was dug up to raise the farming area thereby forming ponds and trenches. A diversity of weeds and grasses abound making the area ahaven for wildlife. Those who did not take the matter of bringing boots seriously had a surprise. They had to trudge in the mud. Joffel, a farmer, enjoyed being barefoot and we secretly admired his feeling of freedom. Nick brought us to the compost piles, one a BD compost, another one, an organic compost. Our untrained noses were challenged to smell the difference.
Every day early mornings and late afternoons were spent outdoors before the heat of the day descends in full blast. We were blessed in that most days were sunny. As if by arrangement it rained before and after the workshop week. We prepared a plot (1×10 m) from scratch. Wild grasses were cut and their resistant roots dug up. A trench was dug to bring soil up for the plot. 34 pairs of hands helped in crumbling the clay soil, our hands happily squeezing the mud. We took turns making a vortex from a BD preparation with water. Then this solution was sprinkled on the new plot. The next day we transplanted lettuce seeds after which we spread a mulch of dried rice straw to prevent compaction from rain and from the soil drying up.
Following the BD sowing calendar, we started lettuce seeds by wetting tissue paper. Each one also planted Terry’s sweet papaya seeds in black bags, including an avocado. One afternoon was spent in preparing a BD compost from scratch which included using the BD preparations 502 to 507. These preparations stimulate the life energies of the pile, and are used to “manage the formative life forces that abound in the farm”.
Our workshop indoors challenged us to answer questions like Why am I here?Why did we start with a walk around the farm? What did I observe on the field? What are the hazards of chemical farming? What and where is the plant? A plant study was made by groups one afternoon. We observed patterns in the plant growth (of expansion and contraction) and other phenomena. We answered the question What is the spiritual function of food?, and came to realize that eating processed food, junk food, chemical laden foods or chemical-mimicking food is actually blocking the body from being a worthy receptacle for the divine.
A sharing from Gilbert of Dumaguete Mission Node with promptings from Teresa re China’s rice production problems….led us, in short, to the 3 gorges dam project in China is a failure. Many parts of China is drying up, even lakes. China is looking into other countries including the Philippines to lease huge tracts of land to grow rice to export and feed the Chinese. They will use our land and our people to grow rice for them. Many questions arise. Will they require the use of chemical farming? What about our own needs to feed our own people? Gilbert is encouraged to write about this in more detail to the MISSION group.
We come up with more questions. How do we revive the respect for agriculture? How do we bring back the dignity due to the farmer? We see that in working the land these past few days, we were sweating, huffing and puffing. We are suddenly made aware of the hard work our farmers give to be able to produce and feed us real food. We realize that, as the workshop ended, our baby steps towards biodynamic farming are just beginning.