Saturday, May 24, 2014

May




 Interviewee: Elke Rants



 Elke, you started this beautiful flourishing garden here in Frankfurt out of nothing. What was the inspiration behind?


The garden already existed as part of the Raja Yoga center but was in a rather wild state. When I came, lots of weeds were already growing, dandelions, goutweed and others. These plants are healthy and edible but they make deep roots underneath the earth that hardly any space does remain for other plants to grow.So I had to clean a space of about 450 sq. m.   I had no experience with gardening before, knew a little bit about flowers but not much about vegetables or herbs. So first of all I started collecting information. I got few books about mixed cultivations and herbal spirals. I watched a lot of videos online. I didn`t really know where to start and  began cleaning up the first bed and then the next, one after the other.  It took me weeks. I had to remove about 130 sacks full of weeds.  Then I had to decide what to plant and the right combinations of herbs & vegetables.

How did you manage with the combinations?
I was reading it up in books and sometimes in the Internet.  For example beans grow very well here for summer. Brussel sprouts were growing fine but then the flies attacked them, so I had to find out what to do. I bought a lot of thyme & rosmarin which are very good in keeping the flies away, so i planted them in between the veggies. There are some special flowers also that keep away snails in readymade seed ribbons so I put them all around the crops.

Did it work?
Partly it did. We also have moles in our garden, they eat snails. So they are good gardeners! I built a small lawn and a herbal spiral. There are many questions to consider:  which herbs go where, which plants prefer more sunny spots and which not... At the top, the earth is more sandy so lavender is growing there.



...there is also a little lake
 Can’t really call it a lake. I just took a big bucket and filled it with stones and water and buried it in near the spiral. So water is always there, it belongs to the herbal spiral. I built it around with material that was disposed, then earth and finally the plants. In springtime I started sawing seeds in small glasshouses in the house. So I got some nice tomato saplings. I also prepared saplings for bush-beans, cucumbers and pumpkins. A raised bed also already existed there, so I cleaned it up and planted pumpkins there. They became so huge, and so many….

Where did the soil come from?

This year I bought  humus,  as the compost was not ready yet. The pumpkins were growing everywhere. I harvested a few, but when they got ripe, somebody took them away at night... and then they got stolen a third time again... There were traces of big feet there... So I got new garden doors and locks and build them. The carrots did not grow that well. I know now that they grow well in sand,  you have to mix humus with sand. The  timing should also be right, otherwise  carrot-flies may attack. I got some good guidelines in a book called herbal bible. In autumn i will prepare some ointments for healing and some good pesto. 


So you kind of have a “green thumb”...
I am also meditating in the garden. I have a rock chair and very often I am sitting there in the evening and meditating.
In my neighbour’s garden the vegetable production was over six weeks earlier while in ours everything was still flourishing. She was wondering about it, how come I still had beans, radish, tomatoes & silver beet.
This year I got an old variety of tomatoes which is resistant to diseases. We are exchanging seeds with others here. I also have topinambur, in autumn I had two full buckets. Also the rose-arc, blue-asters, lavender, rhubarbe, sage, strawberries. It looks very beautiful. My aim is that all flowers should help each other. If I put Calendula for example I need no manure. Flowers and vegetables grow where it was once said that ‘nothing works any more in this garden, we will give it up!’.

Is this a form of  Permaculture planning?
Yes, this is my aim. I have sawn green manure and worked really good. Yarrow is keeping snails away. We also have healing plants. A woman here, Christiane organises wild herbal walks. We even grow feverfew in our garden. It is good for women. I left one field with dandelion for making honey. But the buds have to be taken off in time otherwise it will grow everywhere wild. Christiane has a recipe for a special dandelion honey. There are so many herbs and flowers which I want to put there. There is no water and no electricity, but somehow I can manage. Some people are now helping. At first there was a lot of work to do. The rest of the weeds now can be removed much more easily.


 
Elke Rants was interviewed by Patrizia Heise

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

February

 Interviewee: Hadas Gilad


Israel is located in the Middle East, an area with lots of violence and political conflicts. Ever since Hamas has taken control of Gaza, many rockets are shot into the south of Israel, including Beer Sheva. Between ceasefires, life seems normal, with Eastern and Western life styles mixing to make the city like a desert inn. 

 

Hadas is a teacher in an Anthroposophic school (Waldorf) in Beer Sheva. She is teaching gardening in grades 3,4 &5. Hadas was born and raised in Israel. Her love for nature started when she was in High school where she was first exposed to agriculture. Many years later she returned to her favorite subject. She made some studies in Agriculture and started working with children.
Fifteen years ago she studied Raja Yoga meditation in Tel Aviv. Since then she is practicing meditation. It was interesting to observe how gardening has been integrated into her spiritual lifestyle. 





At what age do children start doing gardening in Waldorf school? 

At the primary school they start gardening in the third grade, planting wheat, harvesting it when it
dries out and then making flour out of it. In grade three, the emphasis is on creative work. They built a mud house this year. Because of the crises the children go through at this age, this work is very good for them & helps them to feel better. They learn how to work and cooperate with each other. In grade five the emphasis is on beauty and accuracy. The children there have individual responsibilities for caring for plants.

Does their working close to nature have an influence on their ecological awareness at home? 

 Even though this is not part of the school’s goals, it can have an influence as some children ask their parents to have a garden at home since they love gardening at school. On the other hand, some children live in a special " anthroposophic" village, so for them it is very natural.

Do you make compost? 

 Yes we recycle. The school has a booklet in every class and kids are used to it. They also separate the garbage. Last year I was involved in a municipal garden inside a community. The government of the city wanted to raise the ecological awareness of the citizens in that area. We prepared the garden with the children
and their parents were also involved. They enjoyed it a lot. You could feel the improvement of the atmosphere around. The garden had an influence on the people in the neighborhood. They came to show their interest and also offered to assist.

What is your special connection with nature? 

In nature I feel more connected with my spiritual origins. I sense God. When I look at the plants, I feel I strengthen something in me as a soul. Plants are offering the world just what they are & what they have. To experiencing a garden from zero, creates something powerful. That applies especially to a garden that is free from chemicals. It feels as if the earth is returning to a true state. When I meditate, I feel I'm at home, as a soul, so comfortable. The feeling is similar when I grow a garden without any chemicals. Clean and pure. It's a way of life.  

What do you think is the connection between our thoughts & agriculture in particular 

When we give our energy to a plant, we give love, and our warm feelings. It seems as all that is
needed is to start by having good thoughts and feelings of love, then you find that plants don’t need chemicals for protection. Good thoughts always help in any area. In our working with children, we didn’t make a special program about positive thoughts. Children come in contact with nature and with their good feelings. They learn how to work together and how to cooperate with each other. The
strong children sustain the weak ones. They learn how to be responsible, how to develop love for the
earth and appreciate the vegetables and flowers they grow by themselves. Before starting the garden I ask them to imagine how they think the garden should be, and to visualize how nice and lush it will look. Then we often come to the garden and watch the changes. We observe what happens in the compost. How big the plants grow and what happens to the earth. It’s about experiencing and experimenting.


In Anthroposophy a bio-dynamic system of agriculture is used. Is it also used at school? 

This system is a little bit more complicated, so we do not use it so much. We make the rows north south, as the bio dynamic do, but that is all. Sometimes the compost is brought from a place where they make special compost with bio dynamic preparations.

Hadas, how does your own experience with meditation help you develop your work & how does this work with the garden help others and the world? 

I like the attitude of looking at the cosmos, at nature, as each part of nature is playing its role. It is as in a theater. All four seasons are playing their part. The children are experiencing it. They are experiencing themselves as a soul and through this they play their part and observe the seeds they put in the garden, following and watching how they grow… knowing this way that everything in the drama is as it should be and accepting it. Through the growing plants they are getting close to their feelings.
For me…I know I'm a soul, so when I work with children I see every one of them as a soul that has his own individual part to play. We are all part of something very big and unlimited: The soul, the earth, the elements, purity and God. To respect the earth is to respect every one especially ourselves. The vibrations are there.

Hadas Gilad was interviewed by Tova Asaf

Thursday, August 29, 2013

September


Interviewee: Guillaume Maurel 

Guillaume Maurel has 15 years experience in the field of Sustainable Agriculture. He is an expert in Agronomy and Horticulture, specialization for which he possesses a Masters from University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He has directed his savoir-faire towards biology-driven sustainable production systems, while he has invested in the development of import channels and distribution of environment-friendly inputs for sustainable agriculture in Mauritius. He is the Managing Director at Animaterra Co Ltd in Mauritius, a company that promotes sustainable alternatives to agriculture. As Guillaume has an expertise on the whole chain of food crop production, from variety selection to production techniques, resource management, postharvest management, quality control and marketing, he shares with us his deep wisdom & experience.


What is your vision behind Animaterra?

I studied agriculture at university in South Africa, where like at any other university worldwide, they teach only the conventional chemical way of farming. However, during the curriculum we also covered the great numbers of microorganisms present in the soil, the numerous biochemical pathways involved in the synthesis of the various molecules necessary for organisms to live, and the diverse requirements for these organisms to thrive and contribute to the complex life-creating system of Nature. There was a blatant discordance between the balance and equilibrium of this exceptionally complex and powerful natural system and the very extremist and limited vision behind the chemical farming system, according to which only 3 chemical elements (NPK) and a handful of toxic herbicides and pesticides will make agriculture successful.
 I never really believed the chemical system I had been taught about was the right way, so I looked for better alternatives. I have been on that road of discovery for 15 very enjoyable years now. Sustainable agriculture is a very simple principle, but at the same time a very complex system, as there are so many components to it. Everything is inter-related, in the same way as all the species and systems are inter-connected in Nature. One never stops to learn : one only gets a deeper and deeper understanding of this amazing, unlimited system. A sustainable agriculture system is one that respects and utilizes biological systems and species Nature has created, thereby reducing the need for chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides in agricultural production.When I came back from my studies in South Africa in 1998, I started working for a company producing vegetables using soil-less hydroponics systems in greenhouses. The plants were grown under greenhouse structures with insect nettings as physical barriers to insects and other pests. The plants were cultivated not in soil but in raised channels filled with some artificial growing media as anchorage for the roots. The plants were fertilized with a man-made mix of chemical fertilizers, and repeatedly sprayed with a long list of fungicides and insecticides so that the plant could keep producing for as long as possible. This was as far as one could be from Nature - it was as if man thought he could build a production system better than Nature could.
Anything alive in the production zone (microbe, fungus, insect, etc.) was seen as a lethal enemy, and the production system was kept as sterile (void of life) as possible, using all sorts of disinfection chemicals, pesticides and UV filters. Needless to say, the plants in this production system could reach yield levels superior to similar plants grown ‘the old fashioned way’ outdoors, in soil, and using no toxic chemical inputs.
Which brings us to what probably is the most fundamental question about agriculture: what was agriculture originally created for? If one was to hypothesize that agriculture is about feeding the world, one would find it very difficult to understand the direction taken by agriculture since the ‘Green Revolution’ of the 1950s, when the chemical fertilizers were first released. The traditional small family farm system, based on recycling organic wastes, biodiversity and closeness to Nature was replaced by larger and larger conglomerate farms relying on mechanization, farm chemicals and the dream of dominating Nature.
For thousands of years, the world’s soils had been respected by their caretakers, generations of genuine farmers, living in small farmsteads, on the land they cultivated, living with Nature, respecting it, understanding its principles, and using them to produce crops that would nourish themselves, their families and their customers.
Then we got to a point in our history when a bunch of scientists, backed by wealthy industrialists, came up with the invention of chemical fertilizers. These are very concentrated forms of 3 of the chemical elements farmers had until then derived from composting their farm manures, natural deposits, etc. These chemical fertilizers showed tremendous yield increases all over the world, and their high concentration meant more ease for the farmers, who did not need large volumes of compost anymore. It was a huge simplification for them. A farmer using this system could farm a lot more land than he did before, as he only had to buy more truckloads of concentrated fertilizers to fertilize his ever growing farm, and reap the benefits. Small farms grown the organic way rapidly gave way to ever larger farms, run with more and more chemicals, and focusing only on increasing the quantity of crop produced. Business took over the farming industry, and the link with Mother Nature was soon a thing of the past.
Monocultures started to become the norm, and crop biodiversity and its pest- and pathogen-controlling effects were gone. The vast expanses of single crop were soon hit with ever-increasing disease and pest problems, as the natural equilibrium of soil fertility and predator-and-prey relationships maintained for centuries was destroyed. The same companies who were flooding the farms with the chemical fertilizers that had caused the pest problem saw this as another golden opportunity: they had created the new, very lucrative business of pesticides. At the same time, the farms becoming larger and larger, the farmers could not devote too much time to the task of physical weeding. With the same desire to ‘facilitate the farmer’s life’, these same companies also offered to the farmer various toxic chemicals to kill the weeds in their fields: the herbicides were born. What a good business was created by the introduction of chemical fertilizers and the subsequent drastic change in farming mentality! The fact that these chemicals did not only kill the pathogens, insects and weeds they were created to control did not stand in the way of ‘development’. Producing more yield was seen as the only priority.
But a very small group of people understood that more is not always better, and started reflecting on the concept of ‘food’. Is food just something we need to eat in order to fill up our stomach and not feel hungry anymore? Or is food supposed to play another role as well?
The human body is a living organism, which needs to be properly nourished to remain in good health. Properly nourished does not only mean having a full stomach. A full stomach of water will not feed the body. The nutritional content of the food is therefore a crucial aspect of human health. Another very important consideration is the toxicity of the food. Quantity of food is a much less significant factor, especially when considering the toxicity aspect: will you be in better health if you eat more of a food that contains residues toxic for your body? When we consider the aspects of nutritional content and toxicity of food, we start to realize that the modern, chemical-based agricultural system, is rapidly leading Humanity to its doom.
For the last 60 years or so, farmers have been adding only 3 nutrional elements (fertilizers) to their soils: N, P and K (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium). These highly concentrated chemicals have destroyed most of the natural soil life that had been nurtured for thousands of years by the ‘old style’ farmers and their organic-based, lower-yield systems. These large quantities of these 3 elements have also disturbed the natural soil chemical equilibrium, which has negatively affected the soil’s physical properties, which in turn led to reduced soil biological diversity and population levels, reducing soil fertility year after year.
And the 15 or more other minerals that are taken by the plants aside N, P and K have mostly not been replaced in the farmers’ chemical fertilization programs, leading to their low and un-balanced levels in today’s agricultural soils. These minerals, called micro-elements because they are needed in lower quantities than the macro-elements N, P and K, are nonetheless needed in adequate and balanced levels in the soil. This balance determines the strength of the soil’s biological workforce that is the backbone of a fertile soil and a nutrient-dense crops. It is this biological world that helps the plant take up the nutrients from the soil. Crops grown in soils depleted in minerals, can only get poor nutrition from the soil. These plants being malnourished, they are in weak health, and are more susceptible to disease and pests.
And this poor plant nutrition is passed on down the food chain to humans. This decrease in nutritional content has been well understood by these companies that brought the chemical fertilizers to the world. However, instead of fixing the problem, they have seen it as a source to make more money: as your food does not contain the minerals they are supposed to contain anymore, when you have finished eating your meal, you take a tablet of multiminerals! Fixing the symptom is much more financially interesting than fixing the cause. Isn’t the world a perfect place? The more chemical fertilizers and pesticides/herbicides are used in agriculture, the more the soil is damaged, the less the foodcrop contains nutrition, the poorer the health of the consumers, and the bigger the market for pharmaceuticals to cure nutrition-related illnesses. Is it a coincidence that it is the same companies that produce the chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and pharmaceuticals?
However, there is another aspect of the drama that the big corporations behind the worldwide food scandal have not found a solution to: the poisoning of our food by toxic pesticide and herbicide residues. If we could go back just 60 or so years ago, before the onset of the ‘chemical experiment’ in agriculture, there was no toxic contamination of our food. Whatever food you could find was cultivated with organic inputs, in other words with inputs coming from Mother Nature instead of the human industry. These inputs were fundamentally different from the man-made ones in that they contained the whole spectrum of minerals, not just 3 elements, all in the balance Nature needed them to be. These inputs improved the soil fertility year after year, and the soil biological activity which resulted from this approach ensured that the food was full of nutrition. And as the pesticides and herbicides were not yet available, the food was also free from toxic residue contamination.
Animaterra was founded by myself and a good friend of mine, Mr. Philippe Le Vieux, to raise awareness of this situation, and offer viable alternatives to those farmers wanting their products to be a source of dense nutrition instead of a source of toxicity for their consumers. Farmers desiring to reconnect with Nature and use its awesome powers to produce better crops, instead of constantly seeing it as an enemy that needs to be combated using more and more chemicals. It all starts with a deep paradigm shift in the farmer’s mind. He/she needs to realize that his/her current actions are causing serious damage to the soils, water reserves, environment, and general human health across the planet. In addition, the farmer also needs to realize that the harm he/she is doing to the planet now is the inheritance he/she is leaving for the future generations.
We are encouraging a system of agriculture based on natural equilibrium, developed at about the same time the chemical fertilizers appeared on the market in the 1950s. Far back then, when agriculture was just engaging on the chemical route, some wise men were offering a far healthier, sustainable option, but no one was to outweigh the mighty lobby behind the chemical fertilizer industry.
William Albrecht was one of the leading soil agronomists of the time, and his published works stand testimony to his wisdom and understanding of the soil, microbes and plant interactions with regards nutritional content of food crops and ultimately human health. His efforts to develop a more ecological type of farming system were taken up after his death by Charles Walters, founder of the distinguished Acres USA organization. The same principles were taken forward in Australia by Graeme and Bryan Sait of Nutri-Tech Solutions. They combined the soil balancing principles with state-of-the-art analytical technology to offer their now world-famous Soil Therapy recommendations aimed at bringing farm soil back to its optimum fertility levels. They also developed an international 4-day course on Nutrition Farming to train farmers in these long-forgotten sustainable ecological farming principles. They also developed a range of some 300 nature-derived, balanced inputs to ensure the willing farmers could feed their soils and crops as precisely as possible, bringing back fertility to the soil and nutrition to the crops, while at the same time reducing the dependency on agricultural chemicals and therefore reducing the toxicity risk in the end product.
Animaterra is proud to promote these principles in Mauritius, as the local distributor of NTS. We offer awareness talks, Nutrition Farming courses, and make available the necessary inputs to the farmers interested in implementing this system on their land. We started this most exhilarating adventure in 2010, and we have seen the most incredible results. Our biggest satisfaction is the evolution in the farmers’ attitudes, from doubtful at first, to surprised at the first results, to euphoric and passionate thereafter.
You will note that I have not yet mentioned the latest infamy to date to come from the companies behind chemical agriculture, namely the GMOs (genetically modified organisms). This latest atrocity is probably capable on its own to annihilate the future of humanity, but is a different threat to the ones being discussed here. It is not directly related to killing the soil, but certainly is a major contributor to the reduction of food nutrition content. Each individual organism has a genome, a set of genes containing all the information that allows the organism to develop into what Nature has intended for it. Plants have a set of genes that allow their seeds to germinate, create root systems, stems, branches, leaves, flowers, and eventually fruits that will contain seeds and ensure the perpetuation of the species. There is a certain amount of space on the genome, similar to the amount of space on a CD. If you have space to write 15 songs only, you can’ t write 16 songs on the CD. If you want to add a new song, you need to delete one of the 15 others first. Similarly, on the plant genome, there is the space for putting a limited amount of information – exactly the amount of information the plant needs to perform as Nature intended to. In the last decades, scientists using brand new techniques have been able to modify this most sacred of codes. They have taken the right to delete some genes (information leading to the expression of a quality in the plant) and to replace them with new genes that allowed the plant to do un-natural things. For example genes have been inserted into plants to enable them to be resistant to some herbicides. Other genes have been inserted to allow the plants to produce toxins that would reduce some form of pest damage. Other genes have been inserted so that the plant’s pollen would be sterile, thereby halting the plant’s ability to reproduce itself, so that the farmer would need to buy new seeds from the company having developed this plant every season. More and more space on the genome is being dedicated to giving the plant the ability to resist the chemicals sprayed on it, or to produce these chemicals itself. As space on the genome is limited, something has to make space for them. Taste and nutritional content are usually the first to suffer. The problem of GMOs is three-fold. First, the farmers are becoming completely dependent on these seed/fertilizer/herbicide/pesticide companies. Secondly, these genes that have been added are absolutely un-natural in the plant, and are most likely producing other molecules which might be highly dangerous for human health, while the molecules that had been planned to be produced by the plants are not produced anymore or produced in lower quantities – we have entered a worldwide clinical trial where the whole human population has become the guinea pigs, without, as far as I am aware, asking anybody if they felt like being guinea pigs. Thirdly, these GMO plants when they flower pass on their modified genes to the environment. Numerous reports have been published of these GM genes being spread to native species. We may very well be sitting on the worst time bomb in human history. The decision of a few have put the future of all in jeopardy. With each flowering cycle, all these genetically modified plants are giving to the wind more and more of their un-natural pollen to disseminate all over the world. The time-proven species selected and bred by responsible farmers and botanists over the centuries are getting slowly but surely contaminated by these rogue genes, and it is a question of time before we lose this natural biodiversity so crucial to our survival.

What do you consider a safe & sustainable way of cultivating the land?

Safe and sustainable agriculture is a production system that respects the environment, including soil, water, air, biodiversity, and human health. A system that harms or destroys any of these is neither sustainable nor safe. Any action causes a reaction, sooner or later. When the action is wrong, it will have a negative impact on something at some point in time. The chemical system of agriculture showed wonderful results when it was first launched. This can be easily explained: the soil at the time was at its most fertile, after thousands of years of organic agriculture. With such fertile soil, the addition of the chemical fertilizers caused yields to increase significantly, to the great satisfaction of the farmers. However, the chemical fertilizers destroy the key factors of soil fertility: carbon content (organic matter or humus), chemical equilibrium and microbial soil life. After some time, the decrease in soil fertility started to outweigh the short-term benefits brought about by those chemicals. In Mauritius today, many cultivated lands now yield only half what they did before the advent of the chemical fertilizers, despite significant improvements in agricultural technology since.
It is clear that very soon the farmers persevering with the chemical model of farming will find themselves in dire situations. The price of chemical fertilizers will not fall with peak oil expected between now and 2020. Soil fertility will also carry on decreasing the more these chemicals will be used, leading to a double whammy of considerable proportion.
Another very serious consideration is climate change and the debate about the introduction of carbon tax for carbon dioxide producers. Chemical agriculture is the biggest contributor to atmospheric CO2, well ahead of industry, transport and the other commonly-accused CO2 emitters. And it is not the agricultural operations themselves that release so much CO2: it is the agro-chemicals that destroy the soil carbon (humus) and release this carbon in the atmosphere. The very same chemicals that are killing our soils and poisoning our food are also the main cause behind global warming. Carbon is not created nor destroyed – there has always been and there will always be the same amount of carbon on our planet. Carbon just moves between 3 main sinks: the soil (by far the largest sink), the biomass (plants, animals, humans), and the atmosphere. There are a number of scientifically-solid studies that show that the only way available to humankind today to reverse global warming before the global warming reaches disastrous proportions (within 20 years) is through a fundamental change in agricultural practices. Only agriculture has the means to solve the global warming threat. The other proposed solutions won’t have enough impact fast enough to avoid disaster. And fixing global warming through safe and sustainable agriculture would not cost more money than pursuing the current chemical system. And very importantly, yields would not fall.
It would simply involve reducing the amount of agrochemicals used, re-balancing the soil with the elements we have been removing without replacing these last 60 years, boosting the soil organic matter content (soil carbon) and its microorganisms population levels, and feeding the plant with precisely what it needs (precision fertilization offering the plant the whole suite of elements it needs, in the balance needed).
Using less chemicals would allow the farmer to build his soil carbon level (remove CO2 from the atmosphere and fix it in the soil as humus) instead of the opposite happening (chemical fertilizers cause the destruction of humus (soil carbon) + destruction of microbes (which are mainly made up of carbon), releasing this carbon as CO2 in the atmosphere). Higher levels of soil carbon in the soil would allow for higher microbial populations in the soil. Higher populations of microorganisms would allow the plant to get better nutrition from the (now re-balanced) soil. A properly-nourished plant would be less susceptible to disease and pest attack. A properly nourished plant would also pass on this dense nutrition down the food chain to humans. Properly fed human bodies would be less susceptible to degenerative diseases and ailments that are becoming such a plague nowadays.

 How can productivity and promotion of human health work together?
It all depends what you term ‘productive’. Is the farmer producing 2 tons of nutrition-poor, toxic tomatoes per unit area more productive than the farmer producing 1 ton of nutrient-dense, non-toxic tomatoes over the same unit area? It all relates to what people are ready to pay for what they get. There is a very high value to an agricultural product that will bring the consumer all the minerals, vitamins, enzymes etc his/her body needs. Producing tons of toxic, nutrition-poor crops should have no meaning and no value.
We are witnessing here in Mauritius yields higher than with the chemical system using the NTS Nutrition Farming system, and there are numerous reports of similar occurrences all over the world where farmers are respecting Nature and nurturing their soils and plants instead of keeping spraying them with toxic chemicals. The idea of productivity,  together with the idea of facility, were the main selling arguments of the chemical fertilizer companies to get the famers to join their production system. After 60 years of this system, I do not know any chemical farmer who is finding farming easy, and happy about his productivity. And I am not even talking about the farmer’s satisfaction and pride of producing a healthy end product.
There is no doubt that soil health, plant health and human health are very deeply related. There is an excellent website that boasts a wide selection of works on the subject for those who want to get more familiar with it. Visit http://www.soilandhealth.org/.
Productivity (quantity) in chemical systems is falling every year, and quality is a concept most seem to have forgotten, or have a very surprising relation to. 
On the other hand, in more ecological-based systems like the Nutrition Farming system, productivity sees no drop when the farmer decides to move to it from chemical farming, and once the system in place, productivity increases year after year. Obviously, the system being Nature-based, this productivity will not increase indefinitely, but will increase till the optimal natural productivity of the soil is reached.
In short, producing better, more nutritious, less toxic crops does not mean falling productivity. In most cases it is even the opposite. However, sustainable farming does not mean organic farming. Organic farming certification requirements are a long list of ‘you must not do this', without any ‘you must do this’. You must not use any chemicals, but nothing tells you that you must use a complete nutrition programme for your crop, and how to do that. So organic farming is good in that you get products free from toxic contamination, but you are in no way assured of having a nutrition-dense product. A number of studies have even shown that crops from conventional chemical agriculture were found to be more nutritious than similar crops from organic farms. And one additional shortfall of pure organic agriculture is a drop in productivity.
The Nutrition Farming system accepts some low levels of chemical fertilizers, however stabilized using high quality humates, and pesticides as last management resort when all else has failed. However, it ensures that the crop is full of nutrition, and has very low (if at all) levels of toxic residues. In this system, there is also no drop in productivity.

How do you find the response of people in Mauritius?
We have been going for only 3 years now, and despite the great resistance to change, we are starting to see more and more farmers convert to the system now, as results from the pioneer farmers are becoming available. Most farmers are happy to sit back and wait for others to ‘take the risk’ with a new system. But once they see that their neighbours are doing better than them year after year, the idea of risk relates more to their own chemical agricultural system.
We are sad to see that until now the agriculture-related governmental institutions are not taking a very active role in developing the awareness and information channels about low-chemical, sustainable approaches, and are still recommending the local farmers to rely ever more heavily on toxic chemicals. With one of the highest rates of cancer, diabetes and degenerative illnesses in the world, and a territory limited to 1,800 square kilometers in the middle of the Indian Ocean, we are in a very precarious situation. There is a report by a neighbouring country receiving many Mauritians for cancer treatment that through blood analysis they can tell the patient is from Mauritius, just by the amount of toxic residues in the blood, and these residues have been linked to agro-chemicals.
It is also a pity that the local training institutions are still teaching their agriculture students the conventional chemical agricultural system, even though there are so many signs of its unworthiness.
There are very few young farmers in Mauritius, the vast majority of farmers being aged 50 or above. We are going to face very serious issues in terms of food security in the years ahead, and with the intense dependency on toxic agrochemicals of the actual system, it is very unlikely we will be able to get the youth interested in this most critical of activities.
We recently started a cooperation programme with the local Brahma Kumaris office, where we have animated a few talks about the principles of Sustainable Agriculture, the links between nutrition of soil and plant and human health, and how to achieve this high level of nutrition. We are awaiting the visit to Mauritius in mid-August of BK brothers from India specialized in Yogic Farming, to enlighten us on this most interesting concept. We have focused so far on satisfying the chemical and physical needs of the soil, microbes and plants, but we have not entered the energy dimension. We have no doubt that precision feeding of soil and plant, coupled with positive thoughts and energies directed by meditation to the good development of the crop will prove a most successful combination.
More and more people nowadays are aware of the health risks linked to poor nutrition. Very many people, especially young people, also know how toxic the common agriculture system has become, and very few of them want to venture in such a toxic-chemicals-based production system. Animaterra is putting a lot of emphasis in transmitting to farmers, their children and the potential next generation of farmers the knowledge that successful agriculture is not about chemicals. The people need to regain control of agriculture, and regain control of their health, if any of the other sectors of the economy are to stand a chance to survive. A sick population is a terrible burden for any country, and fixing the symptoms will not resolve the crisis: we need to fix the root cause. We need to fix the way we produce our food. We need to fix our agricultural system.


For more info on Animaterra or contacting Guillaume Maurel visit: www.animaterra.net


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July




Interviewee: Milota Pfeffer




 In the heart of Slovakia, in the wildness of the Slovak nature, in between woods, mountains & meadows, far away from the noise of the city, there lies the small village Sklené. Sklené is located 800 metres above sea level, 200 kilometres from Bratislava - the capital city of Slovakia.
  

A GreenAngel Niche is found there situated in a wild and beautiful nature abounding in healing herbs. Milota Pfeffer, the green spirit that inhabits there owns a beautiful house that is a hundred years old. Near the house there is a big garden which covers an area of 3000 m2 with lots of fruit trees, flowers and bushes. This special place was chosen by Milota to cultivate her own relationship with nature. 


Milota graduated as a pharmacist and then dedicated herself to alternative medicine, homeopathy, phytotherapy (healing with herbs and flower essences) and apian products. Because of the richness of the healing herbs in that particular area she uses these healing herbs for preparing healing tinctures and teas. The people from the neighbourhood often visit her for advice and treatment. 



The house there has been renovated so that it can host small spiritual retreats around topics such as: Meditation and positive thinking, secret of the healing energies, the healing herbs in our life, silence retreats and Raja Yoga meditations for yogis.
In this interview she shares with us her own experience on how the healing energies of nature connect with the energies of people.





 It is said... we are what we eat and more accurately we are what we absorb. Our strength and vitality, even our thoughts and feelings are dependent upon what we choose to put into our body. From your experience how can herbs contribute to our well-being? 

Certain herbs have specific effects not only on our body but also on our mind and feelings. People in the ancient times knew very well from intuition which herbs have which effects. Today we have lost
this ability this is why we have developed the complicated pharmacological laboratories to examine the chemical content of the effective essences in the herb and their effects, all this at an experimental level. Some herbs have detoxifying effects, purifying for the organism, other heal the sick organs and some others have an influence on the psychical state either stimulating or relaxing. Some of them for instance help to heal  insomnia. It is said that the herbs are our helpmates and herbs which grow in
our surroundings and in our garden indicate the imbalances which we have, e.g. if there grows chicorry or taraxacum (blowball) this indicates that we may have a troubled liver. Most people disregard these warning signals.

It is not a secret that especially the flowers have a harmonizing effect on the human soul. Even certain flowers help harmonize certain states of mind, this is the basis for the therapy with the flower essences.

Herbs are considered as powerful healers when used correctly. For their healing power, how important is the caring they receive during their growing stage according to your experience?

Healing herbs usually grow in the wilderness. However in some cases we do cultivate them in big quantities, e.g. lavender, salvia, lemon balm. In this case caring for is important - not only by manuring them with natural fertilizers and watering them but also to take care of them as the living energy that responds sensitively to our vibrations and energies.. Bekstler (the American scientist) made experiments with leaves of dracaena to which he affixed a sensitive galvanometer. When a leaf was injured, the galvanometer showed an upwash (aberrance). There was nothing so extraordinary on that but when he then had a thought of  injuring the leaf, in that case the galvanometer also showed an upwash irrespectively of the existing distance between the herb and the human. The same response was observed in the case when the herb was in the plumbum cover. This demonstrates that there is some energetic connection outside space and time and thus it is of an immaterial origin.

It was also a fact that  herbs are able to produce more healing essences if we send them our good thoughts, while this communication works irrespectively of how far that herb is situated. However, at beginning it is needed to make a contact with the herb and spend some time with that herb.
My biggest experience was with the seeding of peas. I did the following:
I put the seeds of peas in a bowl of water for 2 days and placed the bowl in my meditation room. After I took them in my hands and I started to talk to them with love, so as to make a contact with them and then planted them. Because that was a big amount of seeds I gave a few to my neighbor who planted them on the same day as me. Since I don´t live at that place I had to then go but I was thinking with love on that peas for all that time, asking  Mother Nature for protection of that peas as there was a big drought at that time. I came back a month later and I immediately went to have a look at my peas. At first I saw nothing because the seedbed was overgrown with other green plants, as if embracing and protecting them and when I looked at that closer I saw that there grows the beautiful peas. Afterwards came my neighbor who asked with reprimand what kind of peas I had given her since she had no peas crop in spite of the fact that she weeded and watered the peas all that time. 


Herbs have been used since ancient times as medicine, food and flavouring. Plants offer so much to us...  at this particular time what do we have to offer to them?

We need to protect the environment and the natural resources. At this particular time we need not only to take from nature but also to offer her… to take care of her and send our good wishes and harmonizing loving thoughts to her.




The next retreat will take place on 16 – 19 August 2013 and on 13 – 16 September 2013. The topic of the retreat will be chosen according to the interest of participants.








For contact information & more visit here: GreenA Niches


Thursday, November 1, 2012

November

 Interviewee: Agi Gehrig

 

 Agathe Gehrig, owns an organic farm in Dönihouse near Lake Sempbacher/Bern Switzerland. There, in the beautiful surroundings of the Alps, together with a friend and her two daughters she grows herbs for tea & medicine. Quite a big project that can only be realized by a spirit of cooperation filled with power, patience and adjustability; all those motherly qualitites that nature inspires us with.  A life changing experience in Tibet brought her close to nature and herself. When your personal practice becomes an inspiration for many others, you can definitely be called a Green Angel.

What exactly are you doing and how did it all start ?
We do organic agriculture and we plant herbs that are used to produce tea or medical preparations such as peppermint, vervaine and lady fingers. Also strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, sunflowers, barley, original spelt and garden-lupins grow here. It somehow started after I realized that I could not find in the market any tea that was produced locally in Switzerland. All teas are imported, mostly from India.
Because we have the lucky circumstances that we own some land, we had leased it, but now we took it back a few years ago and started to use it ourselves. In all our work we are very aware, thankful and conscious with the plants and with the earth. We try to let love, peace, happiness and joy prevail in our  daily work and activities - during plowing, planting, attending the land and harvesting. Our basic outlook is one of respect for nature. The idea behind the project is, that we send good vibrations into  our products, so that these can reach the people who eat those. If you are doing your work full-heartedly, the vibration will definitely go into the products. So joy and a loving attitude of  inner peace is transmitted. In June this year we cut peppermint for the first time in silence. We did not speak a word and were in deep meditation during the work with the intention to transmit some inner peace.

So you are saying that it is possible to make a contribution towards peace and happiness in the world through food… Did that idea come from your travel in Asia?
Yes, it was on a journey from Lhasa to Kathmandu by bike. There I discovered that people in that area live quite happy and content from their little land. When I returned to Switzerland I sold my Audi A3, I put
solar panels on my roof and I changed my life completely. I realized that I have so much land and I do not make good use of it. I go away to work and I accompany different people through difficult phases in their lives. Suddenly I thought that  it is not enough, to reach only a few people one by one. Here, is the opportunity to do something for many people. I had the vision to produce something together with others, together with my daughters and many helpers - something to spread good feelings like happiness, love and inspiration. Then I started to put my vision into practice.

I see that you are not selling the things you are growing on the market. How do you sell them?

We became members in a Napf- cooperation, that collect the herbal production in our region. Through this we have the necessary contacts for our production to reach the markets. We also have contracts with Migros and Coop, they are the regional bio- suppliers. Later we want to start selling our products through direct contact with the consumers.  For ecological reasons, we do not want to create  a shop in our place. We live in an isolated beautiful place which cannot be reached by public transport. For us it does not make sense that people come here individually by car just to buy some tea, strawberries, or asparagus. This does not accord with our green attitude. But it is important that it is grown locally. As for tea for example, - why should I have to buy it from India and not from Switzerland ?  It should be growing  where it is consumed.

Is this the idea of sustainability put into practice?
Yes 100%. It made me think…why do we have only  a few herbs here in our country when the possibilities are endless. In Switzerland I could see that it is easy with not much effort to cultivate tea. In India the land is not that ideal as it is in Switzerland and many  other places as well… I think we are just too lazy, because it is not possible to do it with machines, but only with a lot of  manual work. I wont judge it,  but I will use my ideas and vision to put it into practice.
On the other hand if you have a lot of manual work to be done, there is the idea to connect  many people with nature again and involve them, to make them sensitive to the wonders and perfection of nature and its processes. I have many voluntary workers who come here and work according to their ability and talents. They enjoy being part of this process of planting, caring, growing and harvesting. It is a great enrichment in their lives. There are some who never worked on a field or in a garden before. They feel closer to nature here – their minds opens up to the beauty of nature. During work we often have very good and therapeutic talks.

How do these people come to you, are they from the region ?
There are people who do Raja Yoga Meditation here and they see our fields and plants and want to offer help. On our farm we had some retreats, workshops and seminars. Also people from different walks of life come here by chance, they meet us and become interested. We are naturally very glad that we get  help.  In the beginning it was really difficult. There was so much investment and there was only a little income. So we really depend on voluntary help. We give back whatever we have, our products like strawberries, raspberries, salad, vegetables, tea or whatever we have in season. There is also time for talking and for questions – to come closer to nature.

Can you and your daughters live from your farm?
No, we cannot make our living only from this. In that case we would have to aim for productivity, efficiency, quick results in production, big harvests etc. We could not give enough time to our plants to grow in a natural way and time and it would not be in harmony with our vision. Therefore our younger daughter has done her training in business and office management, and she is now in a training to become a part time farmer. She will work 60% of her time there to earn money. The elder daughter is working in her dream profession as a Kindergarden teacher. She will work 80% of her time thus. The rest of the time she can work on our farm. I work in schools and I give lectures and seminars about  violence prevention and nonviolence. I accompany people to get out of the spiral of violence and violent conflicts.

Are these programs supported by the governments?
Very often private initiatives come to book us, or communities with some extra money. Also social programs, women’s associations or other organizations. Mostly they call us when violence has already reached high levels and they have big problems. This work requires all my power and energy. What I do here with soil, nature, flowers and herbs is very good for my inner balance. I can center myself and draw new energy.

Your daughters also seem to be fully motivated. For how long have you been doing this?
We had a garden for our daily needs, but we made this change to organic only since the beginning of this year. We all practice Raja Yoga meditation. From this shared spirituality new contacts have grown. I taught it to many women and shared part of their paths in difficult situations. Now these women come and want to give something back. They come here and share their wisdom with me or offer some help on the farm. I can learn a lot from these women who have grown up on farms themselves or still live on them. One woman makes good jam, the other knows how to dry herbs… It’s a giving and taking.

All this seems to be not so much planned in advance, its more like a natural flow. Did you think that it would be like this ?
From the beginning there was the thought that on this land, we are also cultivating ourselves in a spirit of giving and taking.  We try to give nature what she needs and she gives us what she can: her wonders and beauty, silence, and patience. Our visions cannot be realized only with our intellect. It needs space to develop.  We try to let things flow. Just now we have made a flower lawn and we are now curious which animals and plants will be attracted by it. We have hedges, piles of stone or wood for different forms of life, bird nests, and nests for  bats. We want a natural cycle  in the cultivation of this land. During this autumn we want to build a little river with a small lake and then we will plant special things like raspberries, strawberries, peppermint, herbs and flowers, sweet lupins (we can make oil for Tofu from it) and original spelt.

Do you need lupins for Tofu ?
Yes, its an organic binder like maizena for Tofu. Migros promotes the plantation of sweet lupins for Tofu and also for the oil. This is a pioneer project for Switzerland. Because we do not eat meat, we are very interested in similar projects. After these special cultivations, the cycle goes on and nature on this land can recover in the form of flower lawns, which we cultivate very conscientiously or we cultivate something else according to a natural cycle. This form of natural giving and taking is something that I have seen in Tibet.  It takes so little to have enough for all.

What  attracted you to go to Tibet ?
Tibet has a great fascination for me, especially the mountain tops. I am a very sportive person and I wanted to test my limits. I did that together with Martina. We did not go as a group but on our own. First we flew to Kathmandu and stayed there for a week. We stayed near a Raja Yoga Center by chance. That was our first contact with Raj Yoga.

So you did not know much about meditation before ?
No, that was the first contact. We flew to Lhasa and came back by bike from Lhasa to Kathmandu. That was really an experience about pushing our boundaries.  We took very little food.

From Lhasa to Kathamandu by bike?
Yes and we only stayed with the people who lived there in quite poor conditions, we ate rice and potatoes, potatoes and rice. And very little, because they themselves did not have much. Sometimes we had flat bread and hot water. They all gave from their hearts. We went up to the Basecamp and stayed in the worlds  highest monastery  and then we drove and drove and drove -  there is a point where you have to leave your physical boundaries behind. This was a wonderful experience of what is possible. Here you do some sport and you eat all that food, cereal bars and such like. In Tibet no. It was a very healing experience to be able to live on only a little amount of food and be able to do such great efforts.

While working in the garden in a team, is there a certain quality which you concentrate on?
We try to avoid useless talking, we like to work in silence and we learn to enjoy the silence.  Of course, if someone has a topic, then we talk. I like to tell my experiences with Yoga. We want to be with our heart and soul in our work and see the beauty  and this leaves us with gratefulness in our heart. There are many opportunities to learn when you work in nature. When I weed alone in our asparagus field, where there are many weeds growing, I learn to practice patience and not to give up easily. I don`t always succeed, but it is important not to loose my joy. To stay aware is really beautiful…

Would you like to give us one last thought ?
Everything  you do, try to do it from you heart, full-heartedly. If you cannot do it, then wait, watch and look at yourself, change your attitude  until you can do it.

Agathe Gehrig was interviewed by Patrizia Heise, Freiburg.

Monday, September 3, 2012

September


Interviewee: Anthony Strano 

Anthony Strano, born and brought up in Australia by an Italian family has been living in Athens, Greece for more than 25years now as a director of the Brahma Kumaris meditation centers throughout Greece & Hungary while coordinating their activities in Cyprus and Bulgaria as well. He’s been practicing Raja Yoga meditation for the past 35 years, he is writing, teaching and travelling around the world in order to conduct seminars and retreats. He has authored several books, his most recent one “Seeking Silence” with cd “Time for Healing” has been used as tool kit for courses, seminars and retreats on meditation and lifestyle practices. He, together with a group of young Greek people has created The Green Angel Initiative as part of the Brahma Kumaris Environment Initiative as a way to awaken respectful awareness towards Nature. 
Real spirituality has a natural respect for Nature, recognizes the call of the time, feels the pulse of what is needed and is able to tune into that. In this holistic, systemic vision, such angels are universal, they don’t carry an identity, their spirit lies beyond any physical borders, their vision knows no limits and are able to embrace all life and nature. Sharing some simple truths…by a high spirit.

Trees seem to inspire you. What do you see in trees?

Trees are the lungs of the Earth and provide us with so much. I learnt whilst growing up on a farm in Australia how to respect trees, especially the fruit trees that provided food for us. I lived near a huge eucalyptus forest and often we would walk amongst the trees and feel the clean air produced by them really embrace us and refresh us.
Trees have always provided everything until recently when metals, electricity and plastics started to be used. For example houses, ships, wagons were made from wood. Trees also provided us with warmth for fire where we could also cook food.

What does Nature represent to you?

Nature is a mother. She is not like a mother but is actually a mother, who nourishes us from birth to death. Nature provides everything for our earthly existence and so we should have that respect for her. The body, is made of material elements, is a creation of nature so I am careful what I feed it, what I breathe and drink; right timings and enough sleep. To keep the body healthy I need to care for it and not just eat or drink anything. Nature also provides the herbs and medicines for our body to heal.

You are practicing meditation for many years. What do you think is the connection between our thoughts & the environment?

Consciousness impacts everything. What we think we create.  Environment responds to our thoughts. It is well documented how plants respond to people who are kind and caring to them as opposed to those who are destructive. Thought is energy and energy circulates and thus touches everything. Negative thought can damage, it can negatively interfere. Positive thought can stimulate, encourage and sustain. Experiments with crop growing have shown this. Human greed to produce more for monetary gain has also stimulated the creation and use of pesticides, which damages not only the reproduction pattern of plants but also, poisons our body over time. Hippocrates, ancient Greek doctor, once said that food was our true medicine. Now because of negative human interference it has become our poison so we see it increases in different types of bodily ailments.

What should be the characteristics of a GreenAngel?

A Green Angel seeks harmony with spirit and matter. A Green Angel returns to the roots of the original essence of living, both spiritually and materially. The Green angel respects Nature deeply and works with her to sustain the original and pure in human life via correcting eating, sleeping and behaviour patterns. The Green Angel facilitates things to return to their natural and true position and sustains the awareness of the natural, harmonious balances between nature and human beings. The respect that humankind gives Nature will allow humanity to flourish. With disrespect and disregard imbalances are created that damage and ultimately destroy the subtle threads that hold our existence together.

What do you think Nature needs from us at this particular time?

Deeper appreciation of who she is and what she does. She needs our respect as well and not to interfere in her natural rhythms that maintain life; rhythms that are destroyed by humanity's experiments with science, such as weather control, genetic engineering, atomic testing etc..

In which ways can we give our support to Nature?

Through having good thoughts and sending them out to her plus in our own personal lives being economical respectful in using her resources such as water, food (not to waste). Not polluting her with use of additives, chemicals, nor using any violence to control or direct her.

What is the inner or deeper truth that you believe human beings have lost?

The understanding of how Mother Nature gives and sustains our life. In ancient Greece that consciousness was there, as it is often in old cultures and in native cultures. Such cultures have not lost their humility, respectfulness nor gratitude whereas in modern life we have, generally, lost all these. There is not that sensitivity or wisdom which understands that our thoughts and actions have consequences. Now we are startled at great weather changes and natural catastrophes but do not realise that all these are consequence of the misuses of nature and her resources.

On what base do you think that this truth can be restored?

Through education: making people aware that once there were in most cultures the respect for Nature and her principles. It would be of interest to examine how the native Indians of the Americas, the ancient Greeks, Celts, Chinese, Indians etc appreciated nature. To return to this and start to change the way we think: not greedy for more and more, not to pollute and waste, to think and reflect before acting. To educate that violence brought about by selfish and narrow thinking does not see the larger picture and therefore the global consequences of certain actions. Education awareness is happening which is good to see, but it also needs to grow more. Governments who have conferences, discuss but, generally, do not act consistently and decisively towards deeper changes in the their own country and citizens.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Month: June - July


Interviewee: Jón Guðmundsson 


Jón Guðmundsson was born and brought up in a village in the south-west of Iceland which counts about 1750 inhabitants. He started to collect and grow plants when he was around seven years old, seeing the first results not before reaching fourteen years old. Later on, he went to an agricultural school to study about plants. He now lives in Akranes, in a village not far away from where he started his first experimentations with planting trees. Perhaps his story wouldn’t sound that interesting if one wouldn’t consider the fact that he grows fruit trees and vegetables in a country that almost a third of it is an official desert. Human intervention and unstable weather conditions makes Iceland a prime example of what could happen to other parts of the world if people continue cutting down trees and overusing the land at the rate they are doing it now. Iceland was said once to have been covered with trees and vegetation, nowadays is described as having a great resemblance to the Moon. That's why it was that Armstrong came to Iceland to exercise before landing there...

It is said that fruit trees and most vegetables cannot be cultivated in Iceland, except in green houses. Why do you think people say this?
 Nowadays the weather in Iceland is unstable, you never know what kind of weather you will get, it doesn’t matter if it is summer or wintertime, the weather is changing all the time. In most countries you have more stable weather, you have maybe a cold winter but nice warm summer.
Here you have a mild winter and an unstable summer. People often have no faith in growing sensitive plants in Iceland such as fruits or vegetables. However fruit trees and many vegetables are actually quite hardy and can easily be cultivated here in Iceland. Like an apple tree can tolerate -40°C, but needs a warm summer. So we need to find vegetables and fruit trees that can accept short summers and give a crop in a short time. Our job is to find such species and test whether they can live in that kind of situation.
A lot of people here in Iceland have no faith in growing plants because of the weather but we need to have more faith in what we can do.

What has been your greatest challenge in growing fruit trees and vegetables in the harsh weather conditions here in Iceland?
The weather conditions are difficult and especially here where I am growing plants. There are problems about the weather, especially salty winds and there is no shelter here so it is difficult to grow some types of trees.
I think the biggest challenge is to find a good fruit tree that yields a good crop of high quality fruits. You can easily get some small hard fruits but the challenge I think is to get fruits or vegetables of as high quality as possible. I have had cherries and apples that are of a very good quality and taste, so I think that is the greatest challenge.  


What type of fruit trees and vegetables do you grow? What special attention do you give them? Well I grow a lot of species. As for fruits I have cherries, plums, pears and apples. Also a lot of bush berries like raspberries, blackcurrant, jam berries and goose berries, many berry bushes.
I grow also all kinds of green vegetables and have been trying to find some perennial plants which are living a couple of years and are also edible. I have been trying to find some different plant variations that can live here. One can also grow a lot of herbs here. Some plants live for many years like oregano, thyme and many others.
There needs to be attention as for creating better growing conditions for plants. The problem here in growing fruits is that the summer heat is not high enough, so you have to create those conditions that increase the degree of heat a little more during the summer. Maybe one or two degrees per day and then you will have a bountiful crop. So you need some shelter and a lot of sun and good plants. You have to create what is called in agriculture, a sort of microclimate: more shelter, a little higher temperature by using a green house and then you can grow more difficult plants.
I have been growing tomatoes and pumpkins by creating some shelter and a little higher temperature. One can’t grow them outside, but if one did maybe with just a little plastic over it or something, one can raise the heat a little and then there is more possibility of the plant producing vegetables. Even this doesn´t cost much. One doesn’t need to have a perfect green house with hot water etc. it can be done in a more simple way. 


You have published a book, what is it about?
 I wrote a book with a friend of mine a couple of years ago about how to grow vegetables and what species to grow here in Iceland. That was published about 5-6 years ago. Also I have been writing articles for magazines for a couple of years.
 

What is your aim with the book?
To support people by showing them how to grow plants and what to grow here in Iceland.
Most books we have here are from England and Denmark; we need to have our own books and our own ways of growing vegetables.
 
What do you think is the most important factor in cultivating plants in very difficult conditions?
You have to choose the right plants, you have to choose the right place and you have to treat the plant properly.
For example, considering an apple tree, there are maybe about a thousand varieties around the world but there are just a couple that you can grow here. So the first step is to get suitable varieties. Then you need to create an area the tree will accept. Afterwards you have to treat the trees with care. There are couple of things you need to consider in order to grow fruit trees here in Iceland or difficult types of vegetables.
I work 24 hours a day in dealing with plants and even dream about them during the night. They are my food, my job and my hobby so my whole life is to cultivate and work with plants.



Would you say that love for plants is as important as water, fertilizer and light?
You need to have love and respect for the plants like all living creatures. Plants can live with water and fertilizer. But good care and love is also needed as is for everything in life.
 

What is your vision for the future?
I will just try to keep on doing what I have been doing and try to even improve what I am doing. I am looking for more space to try and test plants in different ways also, to see what they are capable of. Now I know a little bit more of what I can do in my private garden. Maybe I can experiment with what could be done in growing plants on a bigger scale.
If I can do these things in my garden maybe I can do it on a bigger scale… Apples from China are cheap but maybe we can grow our own even if it is a little bit more expensive. We should be capable of growing our own food and fruits more than we do today.
Also to try to find various kinds of apples and other species which can last longer than now in stores, half a year or so, that is what I am thinking about these days.
So I will just keep on doing my job and doing it as well as I can and see what happens... 

Green Angels - Interviews

Green Angels live among us. They inspire the spirit of rejuvenation. With their wings of insight they fly over conventionalities making the inner shift and embodying it in their practical life. With their zeal and enthusiasm they become the means to inspire others to fly towards self-realization and thus be able to express their own inner potential.
Such souls embody the GreenAngels. Through an interview they share their authenticity and truth; we learn from them the values and spiritual messages that they themselves apply and we get inspired from their unique link with Mother Nature.