After undergoing Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture and Spirituality Workshop
On March 18- 22, the ESSA secretariat traveled to Culasi, Antique to give a 4 day workshop in hopes of inspiring 15 participants from Antique to engage in sustainable agriculture and form a new geographical cluster. The workshop took place in Angelo’s Beach Resort, and was initiated by residents of Antique who had attended last year’s Organic 4.0 National conference. This was also the debut of the Secretariat’s prototype workshop: “Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture and Spirituality”, which they hope can provide an entry point as well as preparation for potential ESSA members while they await the chance to continue our Inner Conditioning Workshops with Nick Perlas.
Day 1 : Thursday, March 18
The participants arrived at the venue and were served the first of many vegetarian meals. At 3PM the program began with an introduction of ESSA as an organization, as well as introductions of the staff and individual participants. After getting to know one another, a short centering exercise was done.
The first lecture was on the problems in conventional agriculture. The participants were taught about the farming systems and chemicals which have created the unsustainable agricultural practices which are very prevalent today. After this a second lecture was given , this time on climate crisis. In this lecture the reality of the climate emergency was explained. The participants learned about the time line that we are operating on, given rising temperatures and carbon emissions. Conventional Agriculture was also framed as a big contributor to the situation. After the lectures, the attendees divided into three 5-person groups to share their reflections. Finally one member from each group was asked to stand in front and talk about the group’s reflections.
There were many touching and valuable insights, including that of a young farmer who had realized that he had been doing a lot of damage to the earth. Many of the participants expressed that while they had been aware of some of these things, they had not realized that the situation was already this dire. Before ending, the participants were told that over the next 3 days, they would learn what they could do to make a change. After dinner, there was a screening of the movie ” Kiss the Ground”, an inspiring film that focuses on the efforts regenerative agriculturists have been making all around the world.
Day 2: Friday March 19
The second day of the workshop began at 9am. The first lecture explained to the participants exactly what sustainable farming is. Many were surprised to learn that organic agriculture was not necessarily sustainable, especially when it’s only difference from conventional were the types of inputs used. They were then introduced to some methods of sustainable agriculture such as biodynamics, permaculture and natural methods. A big lesson for them was that sustainable agriculture methods need to take ecosystem preservation and other factors, such as utilizing natural processes into account.
After this they learned about living soil. The idea that soil is a complete ecosystem is at the foundation of any successful sustainable farm. The participants took their lunch, and returned to listen to a lecture about plant intelligence. Many of them were surprised to hear that plants were very capable of taking care of themselves, as they had been trained to think that they were completely dependent on chemical inputs. They also experienced a Goethean plant study which allowed them to create a deeper relationship with plants. In the final lecture of the day, they learned about the science of composting, the nitrogen-carbon relationship and various composting methods including the Biodynamic method, which served to prepare them for the next day’s activities. They closed the lecture by writing a love letter to the soil and sharing it with their groups.
The final activity of the day was a seed sharing ceremony. The participants brought out the seeds that they would be donating to the group. They were then asked to sit silently, and when they felt the time was right, to approach the table and place their seeds on it. It was an extraordinary atmosphere as the room was entirely silent, save for a flute being played by an ESSA member. One by one, the participants approached the table, left their offering of seeds along with a little prayer or intention. The silence was maintained until the hall was empty of people.
That night they watched the movie “Symphony of The Soil”, a film all about the living nature of soil.
Day 3: Saturday March 20
The participants woke up early to get ready for their composting workshop. They traveled to the farm of Zenaida Sumugat which was very close to the venue. When they got there they learned how to create a Biodynamic compost heap using the method of layering different materials. While it was sweaty and heavy work the participants soon began to enjoy and the activity became a lot of fun. After 3 hours of work they had built a heap that was 5 feet high, and they washed up for lunch.
After lunch the participants returned to the resort for a well-deserved rest. Upon waking, they sat in the hall and were asked to put away their cellphones for the next lecture. The next lesson was a very special one as it was all about spiritual science. The participants eagerly listened as the ESSA staff explained to them that every being and intention on earth is connected and that reality exists beyond just the physical world. As the staff named experiment after experiment that proved this, the participants looked more and more excited to hear that spirituality is a very real and powerful thing. After learning about this, they were given a short lecture about Biodynamic farming, in which they learned about the Biodynamic preparations. with the new knowledge that they had attained, the participants readily accepted the fact that farming included not only the physical, but the non-material world as well.
To end the day, the participants were asked to reflect on how they perceived themselves and the earth after the lessons they have learned. Many of them shared about how they realized that the world and society today had shaped them and that they were now beginning to realized that they need to get in touch with their true selves and with nature. After dinner, they watched the movie “Secret of Water” which documented the multitudes of experiments which proved that intention and energy can affect water. This served to reinforce all they had learned that day.
Day 4: Sunday March 21
On the final day the participants went back to the farm to apply the Biodynamic preparations to their compost heaps, armed with their newfound knowledge. They were shown how to stir the preparation in a bucket, and also how to place the other preparations into the compost heap properly by balling them up into a handful of soil. After the preparations were applied the participants formed a circle around the heap, held hands and a prayer was said. A remarkable thing happened as they did this. Upon completion of the prayer, the compost heap suddenly began to steam! This normally happens early in the morning but for some reason, despite not exhibiting the steam earlier, visible steam rose from the compost heap at 9am. The participants were amazed at this very real experience of the power of intention as well as the Biodynamic preparations!
Afterwards they traveled to another farm where they experienced the stirring of BD preparations 500-501. All the participants had a good amount of time stirring the preparations as they needed to be stirred for one hour continuously. They then applied the potentized preparations on the nearby orchard and gardens. This marked the end of the workshops.
Upon returning to the resort, the participants were informed what it means to be an ESSA cluster, and voted for the officers of their newly formed cluster, as well as sectoral heads and other officers. Ruth Martinez, a forester and Sustainable Agriculture advocate was voted as cluster president. They then broke up into sectors and began to plan for their first activities. When they planning was done, they shared their plans to the whole group. It was inspiring to see that some sectors were already planning to conduct activities in the month of May.
The very last activity was the claiming of the shared seeds. In order to create a cooperative, empathetic process that provided equal opportunity, the secretariat asked the participants to form a circle around the offered seeds. After a prayer from Ruth, they were instructed to take the seeds they needed, while being conscious of each other’s needs. It was a beautiful sight to see, as the participants felt each other out and took only what they really needed. This indicated that they were already beginning to work as a team.
All in all it was a fruitful workshop full of learnings and realizations. The participants enjoyed 4 days of information and experience int the field of sustainable agriculture and spirituality. They even had an all vegetarian menu for the duration of the event! The result was a new cluster, full of enthusiasm and passion to heal the earth and advocate sustainable, farming. Seeing the very powerful and positive result of the workshop, the ESSA secretariat also began to make plans to conduct it again around Panay to help with the reconvening of geographical clusters.