Alan Brockman is a veteran biodynamic farmer, having farmed 300 acres of beautiful Kent near Chartham since 1953. Meeting him at Perry Court in early April sparked some key questions.
Firstly about Biodynamic Farm Land Trusts. He told the story of his friend Gotthilf Goyert who set up the Verein Rudolf Steiner Stiftung fur die Landwirtschaft at Atleiningen, Rheinland-Pfalz in 1994. This holds seven farms in trust and farmers can nominate their successors when leaving. (www.neuhof-goyert.de, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Secondly, Alan talked about the challenges of running a biodynamic CSA, saying, ‘If you can’t sell it, you can’t grow it!’ Perry Court has worked with a succession of CSA schemes and some of the learning includes : the importance of a good grower, sound control of the business and financial management, the need for a local community of support and local customers rather than distant markets, the value of working with other biodynamic farms like Plaw Hatch and Tablehurst e.g. supplying them with BD grain, the higher added value of on farm processing such a making chicken food pellets to sell to a BD egg producer and milling flour, and the importance of identifying high value added food-processing opportunities like BD baby food.
He said one key challenge was to show what an ordinary biodynamic farmer can do to survive without any extra help. How can farms stand on their own two feet? He said that either the option was to build up supportive communities around BD farms or to develop national networks for distributing processed food, Finally, he asked,
‘What are viable biodynamic farm business models for today?’
The BLT Action Research project will be planning a March 2012 workshop with Jade Bashford of the Soil Association CSA Project on Direct Marketing for Farm Viability as one response. Clearly, setting up a Biodynamic Land Trust is one task, but another key task is improving biodynamic farm business viability.