I'm still in Bavaria--these folks often think of themselves as separate from Germany--and conducting my 2-day masterclass outside of Munich.
The host farm where these 90 folks and I are learning together is owned by the Sepp Braun family. Like the traditional farmsteads here, the family house and barn are literally joined. The cows are in one end and the house is on the other end of a common roof.
Several years ago when Sepp was transitioning to organic production, he wanted to redesign his cow stable to be more cow-friendly. They don't call these cow barns "barns" here--they are cow stables.
Normally when a person begins this kind of transition they consult experts, academics, etc. But Sepp spent a week literally living with the cows. He observed them every minute of the day, how they moved, where and how they lay down, how they ate.
After the week, he redesigned his stable. I thought this was a beautiful illustration of thoughtful animal husbandry and a great example of "seek first to understand before being understood." I've been struck in the last couple of days by the feeling of fragmentation in Europe that is not unlike the fragmentation in the U.S.
How many of us, Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Socialist, would spend a week immersed in the other side before attempting to communicate? Name the fractious situation, from Brexit to Spain's fractious independence movement to the yellow shirt protests in France? There is a general feeling here in Europe that things are fracturing.
What a pleasant example Sepp offers to us as people and yes, as farmers, to stop and immerse in the ones we're trying to help. Too often our "help" does not actually help, but rather imposes a knee-jerk assumption on others. True help comes from a respectfully-considered appreciation for the true needs of others, not what the academics suggest, not what the experts suggest, not what the agenda-driven think tanks suggest.
Then when we apply the rule of "why", which is that you cannot get to the bottom of anything until you ask "why" 5 times, maybe we can create thoughtful bridges to real solutions. By the way, Sepp's observations led him toward deep bedding rather than concrete and little rubber mats. It led him toward dried hay rather than silage. It led him to run pigs in with his dairy cows to create multi-speciation.
I'm very much enjoying being with a man of his demeanor and hope to learn more from this innovative and humble leader of the Bavarian biological farming movement.
When is the last time you read a book you knew would challenge the very core of your assumptions?