We interview for you, Carlo Noro , one of the leading Italian experts in biodynamic agriculture.
I have an imprinted image of me as a child in the garden at home. I’m under an uninviting looking apple tree. I take one and eat it, and then another. What a flavour! How sweet! But above all, how wonderful it is to think of that gesture conducted with naturalness and spontaneity. That gesture that I would no longer be able to do today.
I would be assailed by 1000 doubts: will they be treated? What am I eating?
All these doubts do not exist in the company of Carlo Noro and his family. You can still take a strawberry or an apricot and eat it without going through various washes and disinfectants. No doubt. Just a blaze of joy for the throat and stomach, a sense of satisfaction, of freedom, of connection with nature.
The first thing I would like to ask you, a question that I imagine many have asked you, is how this company was born, from what emotional drives. I know you worked in a bank, a well-paid position, so I think it wasn’t easy to decide to go into farming.
The emotional drive is purely ethical, personal. But I start to explain how I started working in a bank even though I never liked paperwork and accounting. I had professional technical qualifications, I studied at the Salesian schools for typography. I was a linotypist, I dealt with mechanical composition, the one who writes the “lines” that we read in books. After leaving professional school I opened a printing shop, at 20 I worked 14 hours a day and I no longer felt in control of my life. I didn’t want to continue, I was young and worked long hours under stress. At a certain point I broke down and sold the printing shop to one of the workers who worked with me. For the next two years I opened an insurance agency, searching for my professional identity. I did photo shoots,
Then I joined the bank as an auxiliary and worked there for 22 years. I did a bit of everything having no qualifications until, after a few years of apprenticeship, I joined as an employee. But I didn’t like that environment, I realized it immediately, already from the third day of work. At the beginning they sent me to the post office, to make photocopies, but I looked at this situation from the “outside” and in a few years I saw myself behind a counter counting the money, doing a file, a credit line, an accountant… this one of mine I didn’t like the image, I went into crisis. That day I locked myself in the bathroom crying asking myself “And now what do I do with my life?” But I knew I had a good job, well paid and envied by many. I didn’t know what to do, I was sick, I needed medical support. So a friend of mine at the bank suggested I go to his doctor, an anthroposophist, who knows how to study the human soul. I remember the first visit I had well because this doctor had physical problems, a very pronounced hump, and looking at him I thought “but he who is so poor, wants to help me?”. This doctor gave me the key to unlocking my pathology… he told me that I needed a detoxifying nutritional treatment and an internal journey. All of this was fundamental to getting out of that moment of mine. My doctor was an important point of reference for me, a life teacher more than a doctor.
The key question was: what truly makes you happy? What would you like to do?
I liked agriculture, I instinctively believed in nature more than in medicine… my father was a farmer and my parents certainly passed on to me the passion for the agricultural world and for nature. My father had to quit his job after 3 years of hail.
I remember my father’s smell of copper and sulphur, which are poisons for nature and I didn’t like the idea of being a farmer using poisons. I talked about it with my doctor and he opened the doors to a new world for me when he asked me: Do you know Biodynamics?
It was the turning point.
20-30 years ago the organic and biodynamic world was not ready to challenge chemistry. Today I tell you that based on my experience and thanks also to the great masters I have met – when I say masters I am talking above all about farmers, my grandfather, the “old men” of the town – I am ready to give an agronomic solution to have food healthy.
What are the differences between organic and biodynamic?
Biodynamics was born before the biological world, indeed it includes and surpasses it.
The difference is huge. Biodynamics is an evolution of biology. Organic has not gone deeply enough into the agronomic field and in this regard biodynamics, supported by science, has a lot to teach:
improve a soil, make special fertilizations, gain a deeper knowledge of the microbiology of a soil. The chemical route must be abandoned immediately because it has affected the vitality and biology of a soil.
Organic agriculture is a bit of a straddle, with some glaring errors.
Manure, for example, must be used especially as an initial substance but must be transformed . Organic matter at the microbiological level is a combination of nitrate salts that must be broken down by soil microbiology and the resonance of this transformation is humus . Composting, the process that leads to the formation of the compost used by us farmers, must follow highly scientific, biological and microbiological processes .
The plant must draw from humus, not from organic matter. In this, organic farming is lacking.
Biodynamics maintains that we are part of a UNICUM and that everything, including food, is regulated by cosmic forces, by energies that also come from the cosmos (planets, winds…). The observation of the sky is resumed and rediscovered. While organic stops at the lunar phases, biodynamics embraces everything that was done in ancient times. Is that so?
Our earth is part of a large living organism: the tides, the path of the planets, everything influences and regulates nature. As a scholar I tell you that biodynamics, wanting to be critical, has sinned in terms of knowledge because it has studied too much the cosmic forces, which absolutely exist, but it has neglected the biological basis despite having great biological supports which are biodynamic preparations. Man, in the last 100 years, has sinned and is sinning of presumption towards nature and has been capable of polluting it, something that had never happened before.
Today we have scientific knowledge and the necrosis of the human mind. The microbiology of the soil is being destroyed and the use of pollutants (including GMOs, nuclear power plants…) is justified with great falsehoods. The truth is that man feels omnipotent and is power-hungry. The good news is that biodynamics has the solution to this self-destruction. The man made a mistake and we have to go back.
What are biodynamic preparations?
They are microbiological supports that derive from medicinal herbs, cow manure and a mineral, rock crystal (silica). These elements stimulate humus, from which the plant takes these nutrients. The micronized rock crystal given on the leaves stimulates the photosynthesis of the plant making it healthier and stronger. They are particular fertilizers which, processed in a very particular way, improve the life of the dying earth.
How was your company born?
Our company was founded in 1996-1997.
I bought the land, built the house and the business using all my savings. One of the factors that made me choose this land in Labico was the cold, necessary for the creation of the preparations I use. After I bought it I realized that it was highly polluted land, but I couldn’t leave because of this.
It was polluted because in the 70s – 80s there were Italian grapes, peaches, pears and apples treated with chemical products: they gave 22 treatments a year!
I had great difficulty doing biodynamic agriculture on that land.
I said to myself: either biodynamics will tell me how I can do it or I have to leave this place. My intuition and my desire to succeed were stronger. I didn’t sleep at night to find the solution.
I took up Steiner’s basic text and came face to face with the ideas of European biodynamics. However, I understood that Steiner’s dosage was too low, because he had considered the doses based on the terrain of the time. After 80 years, (in 1997), the pollution of the land I had bought was greater and therefore I decided to increase the dosages for a long period. Sometimes scientific knowledge alone is not enough, you also need a lot of intuition .
I remembered a friend of mine, a teacher and researcher who in the 1990s was invited to Chernobyl to give a scientific consultation on the pollution due to the radioactivity of cesium. He went and told the scientists who had invited him that in Chernobyl they had to do nothing but biodynamics, because to digest a pollutant you need a healthy organism. My friend and teacher invited scientists to go to Australia to teach them biodynamics that could regenerate that highly polluted area, but they didn’t go. This made me reflect, in my own small way. Luckily I didn’t have soil polluted by cesium but my soil still needed to be regenerated. So I increased the dosage and in 2-3 years I solved the problem of pollutants,
The microbiology of the soil has managed to dissolve and demolish those toxic molecules. Today we have the tools to detoxify the sick and polluted earth , organic products do not have the tools to do so while biodynamic preparations serve precisely this purpose.
How important is it that our foods are healthy if that food is to be our medicine?
Quality is at the forefront of everything . Today there is no healthy food. My job as a biodynamic farmer is to produce healthy food. And we must be supported by nutritionists who know biodynamics.
Healthy food can prevent diseases, it can help us feel better both physically and mentally. Healthy food is the basis of everything . But unfortunately no work is being done in this direction.
What is missing is prevention. We always intervene when there is a problem while we should investigate the cause of the disease and not treat the symptom.
A practical example: I have a bean crop that becomes infested with lice during the flowering phase. The question that arises today is: what can I give to the plant to eliminate lice?
But the question should be: how do I make sure there is no infestation ?
The plant is given a natural product, in this case pyrethrum or rotenone , an insecticide of natural or synthetic origin (pyrethroids). But it’s the dose that makes the poison . So even an insecticide of natural origin can be harmful.
An example: we know that much of the photosynthetic process occurs on the leaf. On the leaf we give a garlic extract, which is natural, but are we sure that that leaf is prepared for that concentration of garlic? We intervene by interrupting a photosynthesis process which intoxicates the leaf and which will certainly be harmful.
Prevention must be done upstream!
We have to ask ourselves where we went wrong to get all those lice on those plants.
The main cause is poor soil management (healthy soil = healthy plant).
And again, why aren’t there ladybug larvae? They are greedy for aphids that eat, clean the plant and work for free for us… but we killed them with insecticides, even if they are of natural origin!
It’s difficult to find biodynamic in supermarkets.
Unfortunately it is true, it is only present in some specialized shops.
We are lucky because in Rome there is a biodynamic livestock farm, for non-vegetarians, one of the largest in Italy, called Agricola Boccea. Here they raise beef cows and make home deliveries in Rome. A great fortune for those who eat meat and buy from them because it is a healthy product. If the meat is not good there is no point in eating it, on the contrary…
For example, there are those who are intolerant to one or more vegetables. Then they ate those same vegetables grown by me and had no problems.
This is because some pesticides that are given to the vegetable modify the biology of the plant and therefore can alter the vitamin or protein that that plant has, increasing its toxicity, even if the pesticide has a natural, biological origin. Even worse if the animal eats poisoned grass, because the animal gets sick just like humans do and we then eat that “sick” meat or cheese.
A curiosity of my own: what relationship do you have with plants, can you tell us about it?
I can feel the plant but I don’t talk to it. But many of my friends do it. When I see a plant I feel and see if it is not well.
The plant has micro vibrations which however we must not confuse with what feeling is for us. The same animal has a different feeling from that of man, the evolutionary paths are different.
20 Feb 2019