We have heard a lot about the unique farming methods you practice at Be Here. Can you share more about that as well as your Biodynamic certification?
Over the last decade we have developed our own personalized farming practice that works best for us and our land. Our efforts have been inspired by specific authors and individuals as well as the collective of indigenous and traditional wisdom that underlies the following “named” systems: organics, permaculture, French bio-intensive, no-till, Korean natural farming and most specifically, Biodynamic farming.
Biodynamic farming is a holistic style of agriculture inspired by a series of lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in 1924.
At the end of the day, Biodynamic farming encompasses everything that you would imagine seeing on the absolutely best regenerative farms, plus a few unique aspects of its own.
Regardless of certification (or lack of certification) the best regenerative farms in the World will all focus intensely on soil health, which, amongst other things, comes from increasing biodiversity, rotating crops, covering the soil with plants that nourish, feed, aerate, deepen and loosen the soil, supporting life at all levels from microbial, viral, bacterial to insect, reptilian, avian, mammalian, piscine and human.
They will reduce or eventually eliminate the need for tilling (the mechanical disturbance of soil to “prepare” for planting). Excess tilling leads to soil degradation, loss of soil and increases the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
They will reconsider their inputs, oftentimes eliminating fertilizers, pesticides and other tools in the farmer's toolkit which come from toxic or destructive origins, instead seeking better ecological solutions to their problems.
At best, they will incorporate humanely raised animals into their farming system, and at worst will incorporate compost from such animals. I am sure I missed a few things, but the last thing I will say about truly regenerative farms is that they will extend their sphere of concern and influence from “just the crop” to recognize all levels of life that are impacted by the work—soil organisms, local wildlife and ecosystems, farm worker health and well being, community health and well being, and of course, the health and well being of the end user.
In my own direct experience I find that the best regenerative farms tend to be active in their community, donating time, care, money or products to local causes that truly matter, including the support of communities who are massively under-represented in this art, work and sector. I know in our case we are proud partners with a local non-profit known as the Botanical Bus. The Bus travels around Northern California offering free herbal medicine, education, seeds, tools, acupuncture, massage and therapy to LatinX communities who cannot otherwise access it.
All of the above you can find on various types of regenerative farms, while the short list below is more specific to Biodynamics (or the indigenous farming practices that inspired it).
- The belief that the Earth is a living, creative, sentient being. This concept extends to the farm which is seen as a living individual known as “the farm individuality”. We treat the farm as a beloved family member.
- Biodynamic farms will purchase (or in our case and the case of others) make a collection of homeopathic remedies known as the Biodynamic Preparations. These medicines are made from things grown on the farm or foraged in the wild. Chamomile and Nettle are two examples, as are Horsetail and Quartz Crystal. In our case these homeopathic remedies replace our entire need for fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, rodenticides or any other product industrial farming conjures up (whether they are Certified Organic or not).
- The remedies are applied (and the farm work in general is performed) in accordance with planetary and cosmic rhythms. This is tracked through the Biodynamic planting calendar based primarily on the research of Maria Thun. A contemporary to Rudolf Steiner, Maria Thun spent 50 years of her life researching plant growth and health and its association to planetary cycles. The result of her work (based on early unproven insights of Rudolf Steiner) is that Biodynamic farmers will to the best of their ability work with their plants according to four distinct days based on the cosmic qualities present: root days, leaf days, flower days and fruit days.
- Much like all indigenous cultures, Biodynamic farmers engage in ritual, meditation and ceremony to honor Nature (the living Spirit behind stones, plants, animals, the beings that animate the elements of life, the cycles of time and the geometries and rotations of the celestial bodies).
There is little scientific verification of the Biodynamic practices which leaves modern minds wondering if it is all a bunch of hooey. Those who have experienced it (through their own practice or through the direct experience of consuming finished products) hold no doubt that something phenomenal has occurred.
Once you experience enough Biodynamic products and the effects they have on your body you may start to wonder, “who was this incredible farmer Rudolf Steiner that inspired Biodynamics?” Learning that he was not a farmer, or that he also inspired Waldorf education, his own style of architecture, his own style of healing dance, his own style of homeopathic medicine, and his own university, you realize that you have just entered a pretty slippery rabbit hole.
For us it has become a way of life. Living in balance with and in reverence of the living Earth is infused into our daily life.
How did you discover Biodynamics?
In terms of our path down this road, we came to discover Biodynamics as consumers on our own personal health journeys. Having discovered the transformative benefits of fresh and organic food by that point (let’s say 2007), Velisa and I started taking our vacations to locations where we could have access to Nature and regenerative farms. While on a short trip to the North Fork of Long Island we discovered a farmstand that was so magical I can’t tell you to this very day whether it truly existed or was some sort of mirage. It was one of those honor system places where you take what you want and put some money in a jar. A few newspaper articles were on display, including a mention of Biodynamics. That is as deep as the introduction went but the term stuck with us nonetheless.
A hand written sign pointed visitors away from the stand, down a grassy trail, and into a secluded tree lined meadow where a simple stone lined walking labyrinth awaited. This was the first labyrinth I had ever walked (for the uninitiated a maze is meant to confuse you whereas a labyrinth has only a single intentional path and has the intention of balancing the hemispheres of your brain as you meander). As I write this, I have the overwhelming sensation that a part of that labyrinth has stayed with me ever since, and a part of me has remained there as well. I can feel a complete and real connection to that place and I am only realizing now how much gratitude I have for it having inspired us.
Our journey became more real as I then accepted what turned into a two-year apprenticeship on a Biodynamic farm in rural Georgia, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Upon hiring our Farm Director in 2015 we all knew that we would be pursuing Biodynamics to develop our own farm.
Have plants always been a part of your life?
No, I would not say that this is so. In fact, prior to a 2008 vacation to Napa and Sonoma where we visited some vineyards (and now live), the only exposure I had to agriculture of any kind was when my family would take our annual jaunts to go apple or pumpkin picking. I was raised on a diet of reduced fat foods, often processed, which had little connection to their places of origin.
My love affair with plants came early on in my farming apprenticeship down in Georgia. A veteran farmer was touring me around his garden when he stopped me at a Japanese cucumber variety called Suyo Long. He said “OOOOOHHHH!!! Look at this PERFECT curly one!”, showing me a spiral shaped cucumber. About ten steps later he said, “OOOHHHH!!! Check out this PERFECT straight one”, offering up a 16 inch straight as an arrow cucumber. Awestruck by his childish joy and innocence underlined by a palpable intensity and seriousness--this moment of confusion and curiosity is when I officially caught the bug.
In what other ways do you engage with plants?
My relationship with plants has become increasingly deeper and more complex over the decades--going from almost zero, to one that is now hard to put into words (much like trying to define God or Love). Sometimes this means praying to my food by simply hovering my hands over the plate, imagining the journey the food took to get to me, including the people responsible, and asking the food if it is ready to transform itself into ME! Sometimes it means communicating directly with plants through meditation or ceremony, sometimes it means ingesting plants as medicine, and sometimes it is as simple as inspiring my artwork with its endless forms and characters.
My relationship with plants is something I usually “feel my way through” as opposed to intellectualize. For me it is a direct connection to the healing powers of Mother Nature. I feel more connected, more balanced, more informed, more open, and frankly, more myself with the support of healing plants in my life. With plants, I feel like a student in a great university.
What does a day in your life look like?
In an ideal situation each day brings something new and fresh, making this yet another difficult question to answer. Living on a farm out in the mountains has its blessings as well as its challenges, such as the fact that we have not actually returned home to our farm since experiencing devastating wildfires at the end of September (¾ of a year later debris is still being cleared and we do not have a power line). My family has taken on a “traveling band” routine ever since, and so, our days for the last half year have been anything but regular as we navigate new people, places, and practices such as homeschooling!
That said, besides the mundane things you can find in everyone’s day, here are a few musts: movement, meditation, herbs, cacao at least once, time with my dog, daughter and wife, and if possible, we spend that time in a natural body of water. If there is a clean ocean, creek, river, or lake, you will find us dipping regardless of temperature.
How do you start and end your day?
I begin and end each day with what is known as a “gratitude rampage”. After years of practice I now begin this process immediately upon opening my eyes, regardless of the circumstance. If it is a natural wake up, an alarm, a dog barking, or my daughter jumping into bed—doesn’t matter the manner in which I wake up, my first thought will always be my gratitude rampage.
The rampage is essentially a list of anything I am grateful for. I find that bringing my mind and body into a place of gratitude right out the gate is helpful for setting the tone of the day.
For me it looks like this: eyes open and in my mind I immediately hear “Thank you Great Spirit, for the beauty and potential of this day, this moment….”. I then go into listing anything that comes to mind (general or specific). Such as, thank you for the sunlight, the air, the clouds, the trees...thank you for the health of my family, the wellbeing of all sentient beings, the health of our farm and team, the vitality of our offerings, the impact they have on our clients.”
At night I do a very similar thing with one minor adjustment. I start as far away as possible (thank you for the universe) and I work my way in as small as possible until I am thanking myself for the pillow my head is resting on. I usually fall asleep somewhere during this journey.
Can you share a bit about your formulation? How did you land on these ingredients?
What is funny about your question is how close you come to answering it for yourself. As opposed to a formulator in a lab, we formulate our products with and on THE LAND. The land is in many ways our chief formulator even more so than our Medicine Maker and Farm Director Eytan Navah who can be seen performing the role of formulator every day. I think he too would agree with my sentiment. For example, our first ingredient, and the one I am perhaps most infatuated and mesmerized by, is wild harvested St. John’s Wort. This is one of the most ephemeral wildflowers, only growing during a two week window on either side of the Summer Solstice. Upon moving to the mountain and discovering this seasonal show, a quick bit of research into folk traditions led to me making our first St. John’s Wort infusion on the Solstice of 2013, our first summer living at Be here. We have a great video about this process which hopefully you can link here, but to briefly describe what happens, tiny yellow flowers are submerged into oil, left in the sun, and two weeks later the entire mixture has transformed into a shockingly bright blood red elixir which has been utilized in spiritual and medicinal practices for millenia.
In 2015 we hired our Farm Director Eytan Navah whose own desire to make medicine and honor plants in the highest way possible combined with our desires to seek out the highest quality, cleanest and most potent products to support our family’s well being. As consumers on this bend we started to identify a real gap in the market between our understanding of the words clean, natural, organic, nontoxic, vegan, cruelty free and the definitions they seem to have when it comes to corporate marketing campaigns. Making truly clean and regenerative products for ourselves and clients quickly became a mission we were not only passionate about but one that seemed truly necessary.
Our products are not only grown on the farm but they are made on the farm as well. We do not own a tractor, and so all of the work is performed by human hands from the field to the lab. The botanicals that were submerged in olive oil will be left in a glass hut for one complete moon cycle (almost a month). The pulsing rhythm of daytime and nighttime is the only force of action that is applied to the Serum at any time. No artificial heat or pressure is utilized to extract the plant’s healing properties into the oil. This is the most gentle method imaginable and results in a more subtle and refined end product.
How do you incorporate plants into your life through food choices?
In regards to food choices I try to stay intuitive and in the moment as to what my body needs, adopting no set philosophy (if it was it would be Flexitarian). The only steadfast rule for my family is quality of sourcing and freshness. We go to great lengths to source the cleanest and highest quality food possible wherever we are (and usually bring some with us). When sourcing from other farms or shops it is often not from a Certified Organic origin. The overwhelming majority of Organic food comes from large Organic monocultures, or in terms of nutrient density even worse still would be from hydroponic origin. If either of those claims sound surprising I would point readers to the studies performed by the Realfoodcampaign.org which demonstrates the nutrient density variance in different farming styles. One study they performed tested for the amount of polyphenols present in carrots where they identified a variance of +20,000% (meaning you would have to eat 200 of the worst performing carrots to equal the amount present in a single carrot from a Biodynamic or truly regenerative farm). To me we should be shouting this from the rooftops.
Can you share a recipe that makes you feel your best?
I love this question, but I love my answer even more :-). One of my favorite things to make (and eat) is gluten free fermented buckwheat sourdough bread that I learned how to make from watching a YouTube video by Katita Williamson (aka Yo Soy Fermentista). Her videos are entirely (or at least usually) in Spanish, so get your translation app or Spanish speaking friend at the ready.
The recipe seems long, but this is a bit of an illusion. It does take me 2 days to make which seems crazy in today’s age, however, it is one of the easiest things to do. Since there was no written recipe that I am aware of, just a YouTube video that I cannot find anymore, I am sharing my own personal variation.
I start with an XL mason jar (half gallon size) and fill it about half way with organic buckwheat groats. Personally, I barely rinse them (or don’t rinse them at all). I then fill the entire jar to the top with filtered water and walk away for 24 hours (at least). Once the groats have expanded to the top of the jar I move on to the next step. Sometimes this takes as long as 48 hours based on the speed at which the groats expand or simply based on my own energy and schedule. There is no harm in it fermenting longer, the flavor will actually become more complex (up to a certain point where it will likely just go bad).
I then strain (without rinsing), add 200-300ml of water depending on how wet it looks, add a heaping pinch of salt, and put it all in the Vitamix for a quick blend. It does not need to be “blended to hell”. The final consistency is thick, wet, sort of like a nice oatmeal (definitely does not look like bread dough), and a little lumpy. If I am feeling fancy I will also add various spices to flavor or color the mixture during this stage.
The wet mixture is poured into a glass (non-reactive) bowl, covered with a towel (to keep off flies) and allowed to proof. It proofs for about 24 hours at which point I pour it into a bread pan (lined with wax paper for ease of removal). At this point it does a “second proofing”, resting in the bowl for anywhere from 1 to multiple hours depending on your schedule (it will rise considerably...this second proof is what ultimately makes the bread fluffy instead of dense). Right before baking I cover the top with my spice mix of choice to make a nice top (everything bagel seasoning is our family favorite) and bake at 350 degrees farenheit for about 30 minutes, depending on size of loaf. I test it by lightly pressing on the top—as long as it is spongy instead of wet you are good to go.
The end result is a gluten free fermented sourdough bread that rivals other types of gluten filled bread I used to enjoy over the years, yet, it is essentially a single ingredient (if you don’t count water, salt and optional spices) and is exceptionally digestible.
This whole process—the simple recipe, the patiently waiting, the house filling with weird smells, the interaction with the environment (it pulls yeast right out of your surroundings, there is no sourdough starter used), and of course, the taste, are all so fun and rewarding! We typically slather it with a pad of raw grass fed butter.