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C-Dar shares bio-dynamic farming

Knowledge spread through strong sense of community

Paradise Valley's C-Dar Farm attracts people from all over the world interested in learning about bio-dynamic farming, and yet it's considered by its owner to be one of Squamish's "best kept secrets."

Ferdinand Vondruska has been implementing the agricultural method developed by Rudolf Steiner, which is based on a holistic approach of restoring the health of soil for organic growth, on 30 acres for two decades. And he hosts about 3,500 people per year through conferences, school trips and work opportunities, he said.

Yet most visitors are not local.

"Squamish is almost oblivious to our existence. It's amazing," said Vondruska.

Part of the farm's success is due to its affiliation with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), which is an exchange program. International workers, or "WWOOFers", work and learn on the farm in exchange for room and board. WWOOFers are responsible for such duties as collecting healing ingredients like chamomile and yarrow, collecting compost and planting seed.

"This is a very important aspect of the healing of the earth, to give these people an opportunity to come here, work and enjoy farm life," said Vondruska.

About eight WWOOFers have passed through C-Dar Farm so far this year, from as far away as Israel.

Roland Mueller is a 36-year-old from Germany who is currently in charge of planting a field of garlic. Although some WWOOFers stay longer, Mueller will work on the farm for two weeks before returning home with new knowledge of bio-dynamic farming. He hopes to produce his own food when he returns.

"All the food you get at the supermarket is not good quality and under the control of big companies. There's going to be a problem in the future so it's good to be prepared," said Mueller.

Bio-dynamic farming differs from standard organic farming in that it employs herbs, many if which are used as medicinal remedies, for compost and field preparations. The belief is that, after decades of contamination and damage due to pollutions and misuse, the soil must be repaired.

"We believe that there's no health before the soil is healed," said Vondruska.

Bio-dynamic farmers consider a farm to be a unified and individual organism, requiring a nourishing balance between its animals, plants and soil. A strong sense of community has been developed as a result.

Virginie Leverrier of France, for example, is no longer a WWOOFer, yet she contributes to the farm through the health of its horses.

Leverrier moved to Squamish last winter after spending time WWOOFing in Canada and the United States. The 30-year-old horse trainer yearned to return to her passion yet lacked the resources. Soon she met Vondruska and both realized they had something to give.

Since March, Leverrier has been running La Cavale horseback riding school along with the four horses living at C-Dar Farm. Leverrier takes care of the horses for Vondruska in exchange for rights to use the horses for her classes. According to Vondruska, healthy horses contribute to the overall health of the farm.

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