In the late 1960s, some dairy cows on the Birkemosegaard Farm in northwest Zealand wandered into an adjacent field and ate the tops of beets that had been sprayed with pesticides. Many of the cows fell sick, and several pregnancies were lost.
The incident prompted the farm to immediately reconsider its ethos, resulting in a decision to returning to organic and further upgrading to biodynamic principles. Birkemosegaard is now a self-sufficient and entirely chemical-free enterprise, producing enough grass to feed its cows, who in turn produce enough manure to feed its vegetables.
Similar to organic, biodynamic farming is an alternative type of farming where the emphasis is placed on improving the soil and nurturing the land, rather than just maximising output by any means necessary.
While some of its methods have been criticised for being closer to magic than science, Martin Mo Kvedéris, who has been working at the farm for four years, says he is convinced the approach works.
“In a biodynamic approach, your goal is to make the soil better and better year after year. So even though there may be a lot of brouhaha around the methods themselves – especially when it involves burying cow horns for a year – in practice, you see the sense in it. When you dig up the contents of the cow horn, and use it on the plants, they literally flex towards the sun and you see wow, it works, and those little things make a difference,” says Kvedéris.
He adds that while Birkemosegaard remains a traditional ‘cabbage and potatoes’ farm, it also seeks to educate and inspire chefs and Copenhageners alike with its successful application of biodynamic philosophy.
“The biodynamic farm is a closed system with its own biosphere – there are always a lot of people and a lot of animals, for social as well as practical purposes. We have ten or eleven people, one who’s been here for 40 years, one for three weeks. It’s all about biodiversity, from the soil to the farmhouse.”
According to Kvedéris, interest in this method of farming – which is based on the teachings of Rudolph Steiner – is no longer limited to elite chefs and niche restaurants.
“The New Nordic trend is over, but now the desire to eat fresh, to forage, and to eat locally is becoming mainstream which is what makes the real change. There are now many more households and organic restaurants who want to buy seasonal ingredients directly from Danish producers.”
Birkemosegaard is working to satisfy this demand by making its produce as widely available as possible through daily deliveries into the city. They are also participating in the Copenhagen Cooking and Food Festival this August – guests will be transported by bus from the heart of Vesterbro to the farm for a five-course tasting feast in the surroundings where the food has been harvested.
The dinner is being produced together with renowned chef Peter Nøhr and food historian and TV host Asmus Gamstrup from KOST. They recently closed their shop in Vesterbro, and have instead moved out to Refshaleøen where they hope to push Danish food culture and try and reach a wider audience through events, such as talks and workshops.
“It will give people the opportunity to see where their food is coming from. At the farm, you can eat a potato in the field where it was grown and see the water where the fish was caught. It’s a well-known saying that wine tastes best in its own terroir, and it’s the same for food. When you harvest food it doesn’t necessarily die, because it keeps breathing in a sense, like a tree, unless you wrap it. We believe you can really feel the difference. Some people call it energy, atmosphere, call it whatever you want – we don’t need to explain it, but it’s there.”
Events like this are also a window onto a more seasonal and slow-paced lifestyle. Kvedéris observes that people are increasingly stepping away from the high-stress city lifestyle in search of a life that makes more sense.
“For the first time in my life, I’m really looking forward to the autumn and the winter, the time of the year when you kind of hole yourself up. But instead of it being sad and grey, autumn makes sense, it’s necessary for the plants and for the humans too. On the farm there’s really nothing I do that doesn’t make sense, and you become part of a much bigger rhythm, from the church bells everyday at four – clichéd as it sounds – to the passing of the seasons. And here you can experience it rather than know it in theory, you experience it in your body.” M
Birkemosegaard and Kost invite you to dinner
August 18, 17:00 – 23:30
Sparkling apple cider on the bus
Five courses, served both plated and family-style
Drinks (with or without alcohol)
The bus leaves from Sønder Boulevard 52 in Vesterbro, and transports guests back after the meal.