We held the working session of 2010 at Dottenfelder Hof in Bad Vilbel from October 15 to 17. The theme was Soil fertility. Normally, the farm does not host any workshops, but for us, or rather the main organiser, Johannes Kotschi, the farm community made an exception. Accommodation was spartanic, and we prepared breakfast and supper ourselves at the farm-school. However, living and working together for two intensive days created a very warm atmosphere.
We were all very much taken with the farm and the many-fold actitivities of the farm community – besides bio-dynamic agriculture with cereals, vegetables, fruits and livestock (about 80 dairy cattle plus pigs and poultry) there are a bakery, cheese making, a restaurant, a farm shop, the agricultural college, research and, further more, various events for people from around. We enjoyed the freshly pressed apple juice and the many other farm products. During the tour through farm and fields, and later-on while having coffee, we had lively discussions with bio-farmer Martin van Mackensen over many different topics, from compost making to decision making in the farm community, which is composed of several families. We were impressed, that the managers of the farm keep to the principles of the founding father of DEMETER eco-farming Rudolf Steiner, but react pragmatically on practical issues. And for other climatic zones than Germany, they can admit, that there, extracts from stinging nettles may probably need to be replaced by extracts from other plants.
The programme for the weekend was a well balanced mixture of presentations, discussions, group work and visits. Joachim Raupp brought an overview over biological-dynamic methods of agriculture, from a scientific point of view (he has long-standing experience in research), above all about the effect of bio-dynamic extracts on root growth. Johannes talked about use of mineral fertilizers in the ecological intensification of Agriculture, a study he made recently on behalf of AGRECOL. Berthold Schrimpf and Johannes contributed their observations on „Conservation farming“ in the tropics. Willem Stoop reported about the relation between SRI (System of Rice Intensification) and soil fertility. In group work sessions, we exchanged further experiences with „ecological intensification“ and „conservation agriculture“ in smallholder agriculture at sub-humid and semiarid locations – and one group dealt with the question what actually is being intensified with „ecological intensification“ ( and proposed Knowledge and Creativity).
Many thanks to Johannes, who organised the session thematically and logistically, and to Jochen Currle and Georg Dürr for the moderation during the seminar. We also thank Martin van Mackensen for the guided tours and the discussion about the life and makings at Dottenfelder Hof and Reinhard Lübbert from the agricultural college for organising our accommodation and food.
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