What do Biodynamics Really Mean for the Farmland?
Both Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch are biodynamic farms. The philosophy underpinning Biodynamic Agriculture is that the whole Earth is a living organism and that each farm is an individual organism within it. In common with most biodynamic farms, both Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch are mixed farms, with a balance of animals and crops, a system of recycling and benign methods of pest and disease control. Both farms use specific biodynamic preparations added in minute quantities to soil, compost and growing plants. There is no use of chemicals or artificial fertilisers. The farms strive to be self-sustaining, depending largely for their manures and feedstuffs on their own resources. They embody a deeply sustainable approach to farming and land management that is in harmony with Nature, supporting wildlife and a viable, renewable landscape. Biodynamic farming encompasses everything: the underlying rock strata, the soil, the atmosphere, the local flora and fauna and above all, the cosmic forces acting upon them.
Biodynamic preparations made at Tablehurst Farm can now be purchased through the Biodynamic Association here.
Financial Performance and Investment
On a year-to-year basis, Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch farms have to be financially self-sustaining, including making provision to replace machinery and maintain their land, yards and buildings. Any capital investment by St Anthony’s Trust, such as a new building, can only be financed out of the rents that the Trust receives from the farms, through legacies or through donations from the community. This presents a considerable challenge for the farmers and their management groups, because the yields per hectare are lower than conventional agriculture, particularly in terms of cereal crops, while the labour required is greater. This is offset to some extent by the price premium that biodynamic food commands, although both farms seek to keep their prices to a minimum viable level, in recognition of their community ownership.
The Coop, alongside the farms and St Anthony’s Trust, looks at additional ways of raising capital aiming to support the farms in developing their infrastructure and new farm enterprises and business lines. We would be delighted to hear from anyone with particular expertise in these areas, or who would like to discuss the possibility of investing in the farms.