Some say that humanity has lost its spiritual connection to the Earth that sustains us and must turn back to its natural rhythms. Biodynamic farming, a practice that seeks to bring society to a sacred and conscious connection with the act of farming, helps recreate this intentional commitment and relationship with the land. Many farmers know it as "the real thing."
Any interest in biodynamic agriculture quickly leads one to its founder, the Austrian scientist and philosopher Dr. Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925). Best known as the creator of the Waldorf schooling methods, he offered insights and practical suggestions that became the basis for biodynamic farming.
Steiner's system is a spiritual, ethical and ecological approach to social and economic life as well as agriculture. Seeing the farm as a complete living organism, biodynamic farmers strive to create a balance that generates health and fertility from within the farm itself.
Christina Chang, holistic practitioner and homeopath for 35 years and president-director of Lokelani ‘Ohana, is an environmentally conscious leader in the community.
Preparations and composts made from fermented manure, minerals, herbs and other ingredients are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm. That harmony enhances the nutrition and quality of the food being raised. Biodynamic farmers use no artificial chemicals on soil or plants.
Maui resident Christina Chang, a holistic practitioner and homeopath for 35 years, is the president and director of Lokelani 'Ohana Waihe'e Farm. As an environmentally conscious leader in our community, Chang has applied many of Steiner's teachings on her farm, along with elements of Native Hawaiian culture and tradition.
"Lokelani 'Ohana was inspired by the desire to grow vital food for our 'ohana and the Maui community," said Chang, whose own, local-born daughter, Angelica, 31, has autism. "We want to support therapeutic and educational gardening opportunities and programs for all people, including those with developmental disabilities."
In 2006, Chang developed the dynamic 501(c)(3), nonprofit farming program in Waihe'e on Maui's North Shore. Modeled after the worldwide program for people with special needs, Camphill Communities (also based on Steiner's teachings), Lokelani 'Ohana offers transformative living by recognizing the whole person's individual gifts.
"We provide a life-sharing environment, where all people live a dignified life full of self-discovery and purpose." said Chang. "All participants at Lokelani 'Ohana strive together to reach their full potential."
Lokelani 'Ohana has offered programs in biodynamic gardening and Saori weaving for seven years. The family runs two life-sharing homes and recently received a $400,000 affordable housing grant from Maui County. The plan is to provide a home for five additional people with developmental disabilities.
"In addition," said Chang, "we open the farm and the creative arts program to other agencies for vocational and educational day programs. We welcome volunteers to support both the gardening and Saori weaving programs. We offer tours for school children and teenagers to pick and gin cotton."
"Lokelani 'Ohana was created, built and run by Chang and a group of people who saw a need in our community regarding children and young adults who have physical and mental challenges," said Mayor Alan Arakawa.
"I consider them heroes who persevered because they saw the task before them not as an obstacle but as a labor of love," the mayor added.
The Waihe'e farm is on old, sacred, Hawaiian farmland that is fed by kuleana water from the Waihe'e River. Similar to old Hawaiian farming practices, biodynamic farming works with the stars and lunar calendar for planting, harvesting and caring for the land.
"We make our own compost, using plants and minerals to enhance soil and produce and to manage pests," said Chang.
The core of biodynamics is rooted in the individual people on the farm, the animals, soil, microorganisms and plants working together in a unified ecosystem. Biodynamics is not just a holistic agricultural system, but also a potent movement for new thinking and practices in all aspects of life.
"The importance of a holistic approach to agriculture makes farmers and workers think of themselves as stewards of the land, not just as producers," said Chang. "Spiritual development and values, such as truthfulness, purity and gratitude, are one of the main concerns of biodynamic farming."
Besides sharing produce with friends and family, Chang's daughter, Angelica, regularly delivers to Mana Foods in Pa'ia, Down to Earth in Kahului and Hoaloha in Lahaina. Chang also donates to various island service organizations that provide food for those in need.
Chang initiated Lokelani 'Ohana with advice from her good friend and mentor, Patrick Moser, owner of Patrick's Ha'iku Biodynamic Farm. A graduate in biodynamic horticulture and natural ecology from Emerson College in England, Moser is Maui's expert in the field.
"For me, biodynamics is the best method," said Moser. "Soil is the foundation upon which the success of agriculture rests."
"My principles on the farm are based on ethics and our motivation is humanitarian," he said, adding that food grown with a spiritual purpose in mind will stimulate the spiritual development of those who partake of it.
Lokelani 'Ohana and Patrick's Ha'iku Biodynamic Farm offer work-exchange programs for those interested in learning more about this holistic way of life. A program, known as WWoofing-USA, connects sustainable farmers with willing volunteers in exchange for education, cultural experiences and work to bring forth wholesome agriculture products from farms in the U.S.
"We appreciate having WWoof-ers lend a helping hand," said Chang and Moser, who are grateful for the extended community and heartfelt contributions people bring to them from all over the world.
For more information, go to www.lokelaniohana.org or call (808) 249-0254.
For more on Patrick's Ha'iku Biodynamic Farm, visit www.patsbdfarm.com or call (808) 572-1766.