In 1987 my late husband, Christopher Bird, whose passion was bringing frontier science to the fore, travelled for months in Australia researching for his book “Secrets of the Soil” which he co-authored with Peter Tomkins. This led him to a deeper understanding of Biodynamic Agriculture. Also in 1969 and again in 1987 Chris interviewed scientist/inventor T. Galin Hieronymus for his chapter entitled “Cosmiculture”.
I’m personally dedicated to the entire planet being covered with living soils in the next 200 years, which will require passionately inspired young blood. Since arriving in Melbourne on September third 2009 to partner with my former neighbour, Hugh Lovel,
I have been blessed to visit with Hugh’s clients on farms, livestock stations, biodynamic dairies, vineyards, orchards and vegetable operations, all of which have opted for a new approach to agriculture that we call Quantum Agriculture. It is exciting seeing these ideas, based on biodynamics and the quantum nature of reality, put to use, and Australian farmers seem to be leading the way. –Shabari Bird, 22-11-2009
When interviewing farmers and station owners I ask who is going take over your operation when you retire? Ninety percent have no answer. I see the dearth of passionate and dedicated new farmers as a greater issue for the planet than the short-sighted exploitations of corporate chemical agriculture.
A Case In Point
When Hugh and I first drove into Kyabra Station near Kentucky, NSW on an early spring day, I was intrigued to see a cheerfully painted building with an amusing illustration of a ram lying in a lounge chair, wearing sunglasses and reading Playboy magazine. Above were the words, Ram Resort. Surely something different was occurring here.
We were warmly greeted and served a delicious lunch by Susan Lytton-Hitchins and her husband Michael; and within minutes in walked their son, Peter, manager of Kyabra and developer of the distinctive breed of sheep branded Coolmeina. A dynamic thirty year old who has passionately embraced cutting edge eco-agriculture, Peter grew up on his parent’s 1000 acre sheep station south of Sydney where, amongst other things, the family spent a decade stirring and spraying the Biodynamic Preparations.
At sixteen Peter met Dr. Jim Watts, whose unique breeding system kindled Peter’s personal ‘sheep quest’ and changed the course of his family’s enterprise. Peter wondered if they had a larger acreage and more sheep what could they genetically develop; and he spent several years researching and consulting with experts to create his future plan for a new breed of sheep.
Every animal has dominant and recessive genes, but for 200 years Australian sheep breeders have paid little attention. Dr. Watts’ approach takes time and a genetic pool of thousands of sheep. Peter’s family vigorously embraced Dr. Watt’s SRS (Soft Rolling Skin) method by purchasing a much larger station. This nature based approach requires understanding how Nature produces the animal and how the skin of the animal grows the fibre structure. Then it is possible to carefully select how fine your fibre will be.
To create the Coolmeina breed Peter included such natural factors as year round cover and rotational grazing, and the development of more than 250 carefully tended, ecologically sustainable paddocks for nutritional support. Peter spent a mere 12 years using a breeding pool of 85,000 sheep to create the Coolmeina breed. While wool is the oldest natural and sustainable fibre, working with nature at Kyabra Station they generated a new natural fibre that is so fine it is no longer called wool but is globally branded as Coolmeina. This breed is raised on open pastures, tenderly cared for and carefully rotated to provide an even plane of nutrition. Coolmeina fibre is so sensual against the skin that you think it is silk, while at the same time it has such stretchiness that it is in a class by itself, and the price received reflects the fact that this fibre is the finest (13.6 micron) in the world.
As Peter notes, the secret to success in agriculture is understanding nature instead of over-riding nature. Kyabra Station’s Coolmeina breed is extremely fertile and fast growing with particularly loose and non wrinkling skin structure, suited to low intensive farming. They eat less, produce less methane, eat a greater variety of forages and are easier on pasture. An added benefit of breeding an animal whose skin and fibre is very fast growing is the animal not only does not need mulesing—a barbaric mutilation that is being phased out all over Australia—it also does not need jetting, which is the external application of a liquid substance to kill parasites and deter infection by blow flies. This is important since fly strike is the main cause of death in sheep.
The Ram Resort
One of the challenges in breeding a new animal is how to speed up the process. Peter did this through embryo transplant and artificial insemination, but he points out that you must work with nature and understands the animal’s natural cycles when approaching such a new method or technology. You can abuse technologies without understanding the power of nature and actually create huge negatives in your system. In this case working with nature involved observation of the merino breed. Although female sheep can be bred at any time, rams have several breeding cycles annually where the semen quality varies with the season. Some of the rams will have inferior semen during some of these cycles, and Peter and his team learned to collect the semen when a ram’s testosterone is at its highest and when the semen’s possibility of defective and inferior genes are lowest. A lot of this has to do with the quality of the environment, which should be as optimal as possible. To soak up the summer rain and yet thrive during drought and the extreme temperatures of the area at Kyabra Station they implemented a planned paddock and lane system where even a child could move the sheep with ease, and this gave rise to a deep rooted native pasture. In designing and achieving this high quality grazing system Peter was especially inspired by Allan Savory and Holistic Management International.
Peter pointed out that they keep everything as simple as they can to stimulate as much biological activity as possible. In their planned grazing system they prefer using animals instead of tractors. Instead of ploughing, their animals become the helpers that loosen and build the soil. Animals create the manure which supports both the flora and fauna of biologically active soils while sequestering carbon. Leaving the soil mostly undisturbed, with plant roots in place and stubble and crop litter on the surface allows soil micro-organisms to flourish. Then when these micro-organisms die, their decay creates carbon-rich humus that improves soil structure and water retention. This overthrows the assumption that animals degrade the soil. The rule is everything in balance. Obviously overgrazing can harm the soil, but plant growth must be digested to build soil.
People should give more consideration to what animals really add to the environment. If organic soil carbon were increased at the rate of one tonne per hectare per year over 30 million hectares, this would greatly contribute to carbon sequestration. Grazing animals can be a key part of the solution to global warming. One aspect of this is selective breeding, because individual animals vary significantly in their methane and fibre outputs. Another aspect is careful management of nutrition, since sheep and cattle produce less methane when grazing on good quality bio-diverse pastures. Over a period of a few decades, environmentally aware paddock management can probably restore or improve on the original soil carbon of most farm soils.
Energy in Agriculture
Peter calls his system natural biological farming. He recognizes the connection of all the creatures and their life force, the free nitrogen above and animal and microbial life in the soils and on the land—a concept compatible with their years of experience with biodynamic agriculture, which conceives of a farm as a living, self-contained entity with its own individual characteristics. In Peter’s system emphasis is placed on the integration of crops and livestock, recycling of nutrients, maintenance of soil, and the health and well being of crops and animals. The farmer too, along with his family life, is part of this whole.
In Peter’s opinion the success of every business depends on how well it uses its energy. Energy creates life and is in all things. On the one hand he feels the BD patterns give an energy boost to the soil, and on the other he is a fan of low cost and low input methods that give a significant kick to the system. Peter knew that they could not continue the practice of stirring and spraying the biodynamic preparations at Kyabra Station with its sixteen thousand acres. Moreover, Peter and his family found that stirring and spraying biodynamic preparations worked well where soils had moisture but not so well where rain fall is challenged. After considerable investigation he believed that using Field Broadcasters could best fill this need. Thus to establish the homeopathic biodynamic energy patterns he installed three field broadcasters as a way to save money while more rapidly stimulating the energy of Kyabra Station’s paddocks.
Earth and Sky
Surely earthworms are the gate keepers of the soil. In addition, Peter has come to appreciate that there is a balance between the atmosphere and the soil. By stimulating the organizational patterns of the atmosphere with an Atmospheric Reorganizer, another of Hugh Lovel’s devices that utilize biodynamic preparations, he hopes to establish a better relationship between the soil and the atmosphere. Peter believes that a good farmer must work with the energies of the earth environment, both seen and unseen, and he finds the synergy of these Quantum Agriculture implements are compatible with all his other management tools. Peter noted that Nature has loads of invisible presences and processes.
Because he increased his knowledge and wisdom through consultants like Allan Savory, Jim Watts, Graeme Sait and Hugh Lovel, he recommends that all young farmers bring in consultants in those areas where they need support. He also feels farmers should keep benchmarks so that each year they are able to refer to the data for that year. Thus he tasks helpers to record data, and he feels gratified that his ‘sheep quest’ has led him to using his management skills along with his inquiring mind to build a new approach to sheep grazing which includes teaching of the method.
Peter’s passion for agriculture is the driving force behind Kyabra Station. He states “Tomorrow is about producing food, fibre and fuel for the future and simultaneously restoring the balance of nature and sustainable fertility of the soil. Young farmers have the possibility of great financial success in the future because of the mass desire for highly nutritious and densely organized plants which are sustainable.” Peter encourages other young farmers to create their plan now. “Agriculture is where we can improve the environment; agriculture will create the products that will fuel the world, build our homes, and anyone entering agriculture is in the most exciting industry for the future. Without agriculture life will not exist on our planet.”