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“Healing people and the planet through agriculture”

Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden

Profiles in Farming

Biodynamic Dairies

Dairy farming isn't for the faint of heart

No seriously. It might be the toughest profession in the world, twice a day every day—cows do not take vacations. A biodynamic dairy farmer raises the bar even higher, part lunatic-workaholic and part cow-lover- advocate, the accomplishment of creating a closed system, growing one's own feed and managing a herd holistically is an incredibly hard job. It's no wonder why there are only four Demeter-certified dairy farms in the United States.

Demeter's February focus is dairy and Demeter-certified dairy products. All Biodynamic® products are special but high quality pastured based Biodynamic dairy products are extraordinary. In an era of enclosed dairy operations and genetically enhanced production aids, finding dairy farms that champion their cows' wellbeing over bottom lines is near impossible. Dr. Steiner viewed food as sustenance for mind, body and spirit. It shouldn't just be stomach filler. The quality of an animal's life dictates the quality of the food it can offer. And as Demeter certified farms, Hawthorne Valley Farm, Paradise Springs Farm, Lifeline and Seven Stars all operate at the highest standards for animal welfare, feed and management. All cows who are naturally born with horns, keep their horns. Herds spend the maximum amount of time grazing Demeter-certified fields and uphold organic operation standards for herd treatment programs. In fact, all four Demeter operations have been recently recognized by The Cornucopia Institute's forthcoming and updated Dairy Report. Each of our Biodynamic® dairies was awarded the highest score.

Hawthorne Valley Farm produces over twenty-two dairy products but recently launched a yogurt and buttermilk line now available through United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI). Hawthorne Valley Farm is a touchstone community for Dr. Rudolph Steiner's teachings in North America. Hawthorne Valley Farm is part of the Hawthorne Valley Association, which is dedicated to education, agriculture and the arts and has a wide range of programming. HVF continues to remain a vibrant community that educates and feeds the Hudson Valley in New York.

Andreas Schneider, newly appointed marketing director and grand alum of HVF and HVWS is paving new roads for the HVF products. Andreas' father, Steffen came to HVF first as an apprentice and then returned with his family and remains the Director of Farming Operations. As Steffen sees it, "Biodynamics is the oldest, most established holistic farming practice and at the same time the most future bearing, way beyond organic. It is truly regenerative, for soil and planet, for the economy and human communities. Agriculture 3.0!" The Schneider family is rooted in Biodynamic agriculture.

Ernie Harvey of Lifeline Farm in Victor, Montana in many ways pioneered BD principles out West. Lifeline is located in the Bitterroot Valley near Missoula, MT, and since the seventies has been bottling milk and producing cheese, as well as raising beef cows and running a vegetable farm. Ernie is one of the few who has met and studied with Maria Thun. Ernie was most impressed with her practicality. "She knew farming from the inside, and intellectual pursuit, grown up poor and needed to farm. That's who Steiner addressed was the peasant farmer. I loved talking and attending her workshops. I spent a lot of time in Switzerland and spoke Swiss-German and got some very practical tips on the barrel compost and influences of different alignments." Ernie has been cheese maker, vegetable farmer and field worker but time with the animals and managing the feed crops remain his favorite parts of the profession. "I find that I am really proud of our community, that it gives the farmer a whole other reason for being, you're not there to live your philosophy, you have an important duty to your community—we always fit into the needs of the local community."

Or as Seven Stars puts it, "The beauty of biodynamics is that its interconnected philosophy encompasses the forging of strong community ties. The creation of lasting partnerships with our local support network has been essential to our small farm's continued success." Seven Star Dairy sits on 300-some acres of land owned and put into a land trust by the local Waldorf school, which emphasizes farming and other practical skill building.

According to Andreas, the better food the cows can eat, the better milk, it's that simple.

One thing that's obvious when talking to any of our Demeter certified dairy farms, the dairymen love their cows. "The cows deserve all the credit, they're truly amazing beings. They take one of the most common plants on earth, grass, and they turn it into one of the most nutritious substances for mankind," beams the dairy farmer.

"The cows deserve all the credit, they’re truly amazing beings. They take one of the most common plants on earth, grass, and they turn it into one of the most nutritious substances for mankind."