The farm was established in 1921. Today, Alexandra Tsiadi, one of the third generation of a family of farmers, has converted it from conventional to ecological biodynamic farming. On an area of 40 hectares, she grows cereals, vegetables and legumes, breeds a herd of sheep and has planted about 2500 trees as a contribution towards balancing the ecosystem. She makes the most of the land’s potential arising from its composition and microclimate, using artificial interventions as little as possible. Starting with respect for humans and the environment, she has extended her respect to the ecosystem as a whole.
Our onions, beans, corn and oats co-exist and grow healthily and beautifully without chemicals. Starting with respect for humans and the environment, we extend our respect to the ecosystem as a whole. We recently started sharing our home-made food, using our own produce, with our farm visitors. It is always a source of pleasure to see how much they enjoy it and a chance for us to spread the word about our biodynamic approach to farming!
The ecological farming practices
Soil fertility, plant growth and livestock care are regarded as ecologically interrelated tasks. The biological approach Alexandra takes to farming is centred on the idea of growing healthy products on healthy land. At its heart is a continuous cycle of resource utilisation. Animal feed is produced exclusively on the farm, and crops are replanted after harvest according to a carefully planned crop rotation system. This approach permits a perfect balance between geographical location, humans, plants and animals.
Technical info on the biodynamic practices
Using a well-organised crop rotation system helps to maintain a balanced ecosystem and minimise diseases and insect damage, while avoiding depletion of soil nutrients. Alexandra always spends quite a bit of time and thought on the following year’s crops and their positions. She aims to keep a balance between cereals, vegetables and other crops on the one hand and soil-building legumes on the other.
She tries hard to exploit plant ‘chemistry’: that is, to take plant companions seriously. For example, she plants roses with her garlic every year, and avoids growing plants together that dislike each other.
Trees play an important role through their contribution towards balancing the ecosystem and the climate; they serve as windbreaks and cloud magnets, host birds and other useful creatures, provide shade for crops in the summer and minimise the effects of wind in the winter.
Ploughing the soil is done rarely to avoid bringing lower infertile layers close to the surface and generally ploughing goes no deeper than 25 cm. The disc harrow is also rarely used. To break up big lumps of soil, she uses a heavy cultivator with a cylinder attached to the rear – the farm’s own modification to the original machine. Just before sowing, a preparation cultivator is run across the land once or twice.
Alexandra tries to keep weeds under control rather than seeking to completely eliminate them. This is both for cost reasons and in appreciation of their contribution to the farm environment, such as their hosting of useful insects, providing possible benefits to crops, etc. Nevertheless, keeping the weeds under control is a difficult task. Generally she hand-weeds crops, especially vegetable crops; even if a tractor implement is used, manual weeding is still required close to the plants. This is one of the major costs. For cereals, a tine cultivator is used at about the third leaf stage, and this is very effective: it removes small weeds and aerates the soil.
Crops are irrigated either in the afternoon and evening or early in the morning to minimise water evaporation.
The timely application of biodynamic preparations is an important part of Alexandra’s farming methodology. It’s important to adjust application levels and frequency to suit conditions on the farm, the climate and so on. For example, when Alexandra sprayed silica preparation (BD preparation 501) on her carrots 3 times, she managed to burn the leaves; that spraying is more appropriate to northern areas which have less exposure to the sun.
She hasn’t experienced any serious outbreaks of disease: her crops are generally disease-free. In the event of an insect attack or a disease appearing, she checks the effectiveness of using herbal sprays such as stinging nettle, horsetail, camomile, etc. And she always spends substantial time trying to work out the origin of the problem, since it’s felt that it will have arisen from an imbalance in the system.
A serious concern is the threat of insect attacks when grain is being stored immediately after harvest, since no chemicals are used for debugging. Attacks can be reduced if the produce is well-balanced, but it still remains a major issue. Alexandra uses SilicoSec powder against insect attacks on grain in storage, using 1 tablespoon per 50 kilo sack of grain.
As far as bruchus is concerned (an insect that attacks grain in storage), an effective treatment is the post-harvest combination of refrigeration and freezing. This applies mainly to lentils and beans, less so to chickpeas.
Alexandra recycles: for example, when carrots are sorted after harvest, quality A produce is sold to consumers, quality B (less pretty, with broken ends) is made into condiments, quality C is fed to the farm animals and quality D is composted.
Financial information on biodynamic practices
- The average hourly fee for manual work is €5.
- Crop equipment: Tine cultivator €10000; Manure spreader €12000; Sprayer 500 litre €1500
- You can charge higher prices because consumers these days appreciate the better quality and purity and understand the increased operational costs and lower yields
- Number of associates and workers: 3 plus seasonal staff for planting, weeding, harvesting, sorting etc. and subcontractors for certain operations such as arable crop harvesting.
Trinity Farm organises Open Farm Visits to promote its practices and products.