Sunday, October 7, 2012

Visit to The Pfeiffer Center

For years now I’ve wanted to visit The Pfeiffer Center, a biodynamic farm in Chestnut Ridge, NY, not far from here.  I finally had my chance last Sunday, during the Rockland Farm Alliance “Farm to You” Festival and Tour.    It was just one of the places visited that day, along with Cropsey Community Farm in New City, Bluefield Farm in Blauvelt and Hook Mountain Growers in Upper Nyack.

Apart from their attention to the lunar calendar, I wasn’t too familiar with biodynamic growing.  Biodynamic ideas originated with Rudolf Steiner in the 1920's, when he realized that conventional fertilizers weren’t maintaining soil quality.  Biodynamics takes organic farming a step further.  

From the Pfeiffer Center website:
Steiner described an approach to plant and land care that combined novel techniques of building up healthy soil with a renewed awareness of all the forces at work in the farm organism: among and between the soil, plants, animals, and humans, as well as the cosmos itself.  Rudolf Steiner set forth the principles of a modern, organic agriculture that works with life-regulating processes and subtle catalysts such as trace elements and enzymes. He emphasized that each farm is an organism in its own right, with an organism's powers of self-healing.”

On Sunday, I was able to watch and take part in a biodynamic practice that has the potential to affect growth on their farm for years to come.  We made a composted manure “tea” solution, known as “Preparation 500” that will be sprayed on the crops and gardens.  The diluted preparation introduces beneficial microbes that both feed and protect the plants, stimulate growth and fecundity, and enrich the soil. 

We started with a pail full of hollow cowhorns.  We used spoons to fill them with fresh cow manure.  The cow horns are usually planted in the soil during the fall, around the time of the equinox, when the earth starts to withdraw into itself.   In the spring, they’re recovered, and the composted manure is used to make the solution. 

For this workshop, the staff had some already-composted manure ready to go, and the participants all had a part in stirring the compost into the water using paddles as well as bare hands. 

I also got a peek at their beautiful vegetable garden.   The site pictured here is only part of their farm.  They have a total of 70 beds, two horses, an orchard and berries, a greenhouse, compost piles, wood-fired oven, an apiary, and dye garden for a fiber craft studio.  They also have a seasonal farm stand that is self supporting and open on Monday and Thursday mornings. 

The Pfeiffer Center runs regular workshops that are open to the public. So much to learn here -  hope this visit was the first of many!


Ashling said...

How cool! There's a biodynamic farm up this way--Hawthorne Valley--but I've never actually gotten to see some of teh practices. Are you planning on incorprorating any of that into your gardens?

Bill Day said...

Hi, I'm from the Pfeiffer Center and want to thank you for your warm comments. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit. See video of Mac and the garden at

Bill Day