People and Places

A biodynamically farmed apple a day keeps the doctor away

Plucking perfectly crisp, rosy-hued Olympics or sweet yellow Bright Golds on a cool fall day is the quintessential autumn moment. But the road to this ideal farm setting was paved out of necessity, not romanticism — and with a little help from astrology.

“We operate according to the lunar cycle,” says Gilles Dagenais, owner of the family-run farm, Ferme Dagenais, which gained biodynamic designation in 1998. Biodynamic practices at the farm, located near Embrun, are not unlike organic: both methods rely on natural elements, as opposed to conventional pesticides, to support crops and livestock.

But that is where the two methods diverge: the biodynamic approach sees animals, crops, and soil as a single system of interconnected relationships. When one struggles, they all do: soil fertility affects plant growth, which affects livestock feed, which affects manure production, and so forth. 

apple-Dagenais-kids-Photo by David Trattles
The farm’s children collect biodynamic apples. Photo by David Trattles

Biodynamic agriculture also looks to lunar phases. The rhythms of the moon and its gravitational pull are believed by some, like Dagenais, to affect moisture in the soil, making certain days more suitable for treating and handling crops.

But Dagenais wasn’t always committed to biodynamic farming. Things changed when one of his daughters was diagnosed with a crippling autoimmune disease for which, at the time, there was no lasting treatment. A book by a Swiss doctor who focuses on immune support and the benefits of a purely organic diet guided the entire family’s dietary shift. Eventually his daughter, whose disease was thought incurable, was cured.

Although the pick-your-own apple and pear orchard is the main draw, the farm’s general store also sells apple cider, honey, eggs, Thanksgiving turkeys, and heirloom garlic.

Like a true biodynamic farmer, Dagenais attributes his farm’s bounty to the complimentary cycles. “All of our cows have their horns. We never cut them. When you cut a cow’s horns, they lose their ability to create and circulate energy between them. When that energy is lost, they can’t focus it into the soil below. It all counts.” fermedagenais.com