SAN ANDRES DE GILES, Argentina- Argentina’s economy was built on farming, on its famous beef, exported to Europe by the shipload. Since the Second World War, the industry has waned, leaving the country torn between its traditional methods and those brought over in the last fifty years.
Granja Las Ondinas offers you the best of both worlds. It’s a bio-dynamic farm, but one with workers who grew up on the country’s famous cattle ranches. The idea of Bio-dynamics dates back to 1924 and an Austrian, Rudolf Steiner. It’s amazing how far his ideas have spread, they are now used in over 50 countries worldwide. Las Ondinas is a very new farm, only five years old, and has been bio-dynamic since its inception. It produces milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt, dulce de leche, herbs and vegetables. Only a small amount of this is sold as the majority goes towards feeding the staff and volunteers. In order to make money, they are creating a name for themselves in the bio-dynamic community and in doing so, attract plenty of tourists.
Being bio-dynamic, their practices are for from what you’d expect at any farm. Fresh cow manure is mixed with cactus juice, flour, herbs, sand and ash and applied to all the trees. Moonwater is mixed with roasted ants and sprayed over the fields. Cow’s horns are filled with quartz and planted in the ground.
For more information on the biodynamic preparations: http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/biodynamic.html
In addition to the activities are all those you’d expect from a working farm; feeding the animals, putting them out to graze, cleaning the stables, plus in the dairy you can learn how to make award-winning cheese dip and dulce de leche.
Occasionally pigs and cows at the farm are killed for their meat and then used for lunches and barbecues. Watching an Argentine prepare a barbecue (or parrilla as they are known in Argentina) is seeing a man truly in their element. This is one tradition that definitely still lives on at the farm, but is one of few that remain for the workers. Raised on looking after cows in huge fields, with the sole purpose of providing good meat, it is interesting to hear their opinions on bio-dynamics and how it has affected their way of working. Preparing humus (which is an extremely fine and rich compost) takes a lot of time and effort. Manure from various different animals has to be collected individually, as well as leaves, sand, ash and soil, over a period of time. Upon the correct day in the biodynamic calendar, the variety of substances will be constructed into a compost heap, where it will be left for one year to completely decompose. Then it will be sieved, resulting in humus. For an old farm-hand used to just piling-up manure and waste whenever a large amount is accumulated this is a massive shift in attitude, especially considering the extra work that is required.
Las Ondinas is based in the province of Buenos Aires, between San Andres de Giles and Mercedes. For anyone interested in Biodynamic farming, dairy farming or farming practices in general, it is a really good place to stop. There are plenty of other WWOOFing options in Argentina, with farms in Mendoza, Chubut, Salta and Patagonia. There is huge diversity in Argentina’s landscape, and this is reflected in the farms. It is possible to volunteer in huge ranches as well as small organic gardens. More information on WWOOFing in Argentina can be found at http://www.wwoofargentina.com/.
Granja Las Ondina’s website can be found at .