The Saugeen River CSA was started in 1997 with these aims in mind:
- To provide our local community with high quality Biodynamic produce.
- To provide a personal link between families and individuals and the land that nourishes them.
- To provide a Community Supported Agriculture model that encourages our economic life to be an expression of our conscience.
- To provide an educational environment to apprentices who want to learn about Biodynamic and organic farm management.
- To provide the future farmers of this land with a vibrant and healthy soil.
Cory Eichman, manages the Saugeen River CSA. He began his training in Biodynamic CSA farming in 1992. He spent three seasons in the vegetable garden at Camphill Village Kimberton Hills in southeastern Pennsylvania, an intentional community witch include residents of varying degrees of developmental disabilities. He then apprenticed two years at the Kimberton CSA with master gardeners Barbara and Kerry Sullivan. The Kimberton CSA was the second CSA to form in North America and much of the Saugeen River CSA’s garden management is based on the Sullivan’s vast experience.
The farm is also host to two or three full time apprentices each season. These are usually people with little or no farming background who come to exchange labour for learning. Room, food from the farm, and a modest stipend are provided. In addition to hands on learning, apprentices receive a few classroom type lessons in some of the basics of organic and Biodynamic theory. The Saugeen River CSA is also part of C.R.A.F.T. Southwest Ontario, a network of farms in Ontario that take on apprentices.
The Saugeen River CSA began in 1997, with Cory Eichman and Holly MacKay managing the business. They were asked by Michael and Dorothea Schmidt of Glencolton Farms near Durham, if the CSA could begin at their farm. It was a good opportunity to rent a house and 10 acres on an existing Biodynamic dairy farm. The 1997 season had a total of 48 members spread across the region. We also went to the Guelph Farmer’s Market. The next year the CSA sold out at 75 shares with a waiting list. In 2001, as the CSA was outgrowing the space, it was decided to buy our own land. The present farm was purchased by four people. Holly and Cory managed the farm, and their partners worked off farm. Two cows were purchased to start building the herd of Highland Cattle. In 2002 the Saugeen River CSA began going to the Owen Sound Farmer’s Market. In 2005 the CSA was providing for 160 families spread between Durham, Owen Sound, Guelph, Caledon, and Richmond Hill; providing some produce for the Market and training four apprentices. This was a turning point as the farm was getting hard to manage at this size, working with a model of predominately hand work. Holly decided to leave which lead to the decision to down size. In 2007, Cory and his wife bought Holly and her partner out of the farm and business.
The farm is now providing for around 75 families in Durham and Owen Sound areas, as well as going to the Owen Sound Market. 2007 also saw the construction of the root cellar, allowing for the start of a winter CSA, providing around 35 families.
Cory Eichman and his wife Tanya Coulter own and live on the farm with their son Stefano and daughter Georgia. Two or three apprentices are on the farm full time from the middle of March to the end of October. There might be other volunteers and visitors off and on through the season.
The Saugeen River CSA was certified by Demeter Canada from 1997 to 2010. Demeter Canada is a member of Demeter International, a world wide organization that sets Demeter standards and guidelines. Demeter is the certifying body for Biodynamic farming and gardening. Biodynamic agriculture meets, or exceeds the standards of other organic certifiers. Currently, since everyone who eats food from our farm we meet face to face, we are experimenting with a new community certification process that involves members and customers inspecting the farm directly. Certification is a way for customers to know something about the farm where their food comes from. For us, certification has always shortened the conversation about our farming practices. But with this new community process, it actually opens the door for more conversation, which is a good thing.
WHAT IS BIODYNAMICS?
Biodynamic agriculture started in the 1920’s as the first systematic approach to organic farming, aiming to counteract the chemical agriculture that was beginning to take hold. A group of farmers asked Austrian scientist/philosopher Rudolf Steiner for advice. They were experiencing a depletion of vitality in their food crops and livestock. The lectures Steiner gave in response cover a vast range of agricultural topics from astronomy, to soils, plant and animal biochemistry and morphology, composting, cover cropping, orchards and forestry, pest management, animal feeding and housing, bird and insect life, overall ecosystem management, and human nutrition. All this coming out of his background work in natural science with a gift of clairvoyance.
The basic idea is that a farm is healthiest if it can be organized as an “Agricultural Individuality.” This means it needs to be self contained, having the right kinds and number of animals to provide fertility to the land, and the right kinds and quantity of feed for the animals. To aid the health of the farm individuality, some preparations were recommended. These can be made on the farm from common medicinal herbs and animal organs, and are applied to soil plants and compost much like homeopathic remedies. For more information about Biodynamics, see http://www.biodynamics.on.ca.