The Pfeiffer Center’s gardens and fields are our classrooms and our laboratories. Located at the site of the first biodynamic farm in North America, the Pfeiffer Center encompasses a variety of spaces that support our teaching and research in biodynamic food production, adult education, children’s programs, and draft horse work.
In 1926, on the site of the present-day Pfeiffer Center garden, the founders of Threefold Farm began growing biodynamic produce for Manhattan's Threefold Vegetarian Restaurant. For decades thereafter, the garden's produce fed attendees of Threefold's popular Summer Conferences, and Ehrenfried Pfeiffer conducted his research here from the 1940s until his death in 1961. Today, the Pfeiffer Center garden comprises 70 beds where we raise vegetables, herbs and flowers; also on the property are a small orchard (apples, pears, peaches and quince), berry bushes, a greenhouse, a wood-fired bread oven, the dye garden of the Fiber Craft Studio, compost piles, a self-serve seasonal farm stand, and our apiary.
Just up the hill, across from Green Meadow Waldorf School, is the Children’s Garden, where we raise vegetables and conduct many of our programs with children. As in the Pfeiffer Center garden, work in the Children’s Garden is done with hand tools; in our work and our teaching, we emphasize the value of agricultural handwork, which can serve as an excellent foundation for farming and gardening on any scale.
Less than a half mile from the gardens, we raise field vegetables, hay, grains and bee forage on Molina Field, Pine Field and Horse Field. It is on these four acres of fields that we work with and pasture Captain and Eva, our team of Haflinger draft horses.
In our field and garden work, we strive to balance the goals of production, enhancing soil fertility, and creating spaces that support our educational work. Along with neighboring Duryea Farm of the Fellowship Community, we use our work with land and animals to create a farm individuality in a suburban setting.
Mac Mead, Program Director
Mac Mead has farmed and gardened biodynamically for more than thirty years. As a co-worker at the Fellowship Community beginning in 1975, Mac had the "privilege and good fortune" to learn biodynamic methods directly from former co-workers of Ehrenfried Pfeiffer.
Mac was raised in the Connecticut River Valley and graduated from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania with a degree in psychology. After college he was a co-worker at the Camphill Village in Copake, New York, from 1972 to 1974, where he did therapeutic community work and also taught nature and games at the fledgling Waldorf school there. As a co-worker in the Fellowship Community, Mac helped start the Third Grade farming block at Green Meadow Waldorf School, and taught that block for fifteen years; he also helped initiate the Pfeiffer Center's public school outreach program, The Outdoor Lesson. Over the years, Mac has gardened and farmed on every scale, from handwork to field-scale vegetables, tended an orchard, and managed dairy cows. Mac was the resident farmer at the Fellowship Community's Duryea Farm from 1997 until 2005. Mac has directed the Pfeiffer Center since 2007.
Megan Durney, Head Gardener
Megan was born and raised in the Chicago area. She began on her farming path as a WWOOFer after graduating with a teaching degree and two years of community service with AmeriCorps in the southeast before and after Hurricane Katrina. WOOFing taught her basic farming skills, but also led her to ask, “Is there an even more conscious way to grow food?” She came to the Pfeiffer Center as an intern in 2007, and took on growing responsibilities under the direction of Mac Mead. Following a one-year stint at Raphael Garden in Sacramento, CA, where she studied intensive production gardening and biodynamic seed saving under Harald Hoven, we are delighted to welcome Megan back as the Pfeiffer Center's Head Gardener in the summer of 2015.
Peter Alexanian, Farm & Garden Educator
Peter’s path to the Pfeiffer Center began with five years as a Waldorf class teacher in Michigan. Feeling drawn to working with soil and plants, Peter apprenticed with Gunther Hauk, learning biodynamic farming and beekeeping. “Working with Gunther was a valuable experience, but even more dynamic was the experience of just being in the landscape, on the land, and in all of these amazing elements: earth, water, air, and warmth. I can recall a particular moment when I knew, with absolute certainty, that this was what I wanted to be doing.” A stint at the Hartsbrook Waldorf School gave valuable experience in both farm work and gardening with children. Of his second year as a Pfeiffer Center intern, Peter says: “I’m looking to deepen my roots and my senses, working towards developing those capacities that will allow me to participate in the healing of the earth and humanity.”
Christine Zinky, Intern
Christine grew up surrounded by Rudolf Steiner’s work, in school and at home, as her mother was a waldorf teacher. Living in suburban Wisconsin, she didn’t get many chances to try farming or gardening — let alone biodynamics — until she took the agriculture course offered at her high school. After graduating from Youth Initiative she did a bit of farming while traveling, while continuing to search for agricultural learning opportunities. Her sister found the Pfeiffer Center's internship page, and so began the adventure that led her here. By the end of her internship, Christine hopes to have learned how to feed herself off the land and heal the earth.
Andrew Toothacker, Intern
Andrew grew up in Portland, Oregon, without an agricultural background. At the age of 17 he began a two-year apprenticeship at the Portland restaurant "Luce" — named by Bon Appétit the 4th Best New Restaurant in America for 2012. A developing interest in wine took Andrew to Domaine Léon Barral in France's Languedoc region for an apprenticeship under Didier Barral. It was here that Andrew was given a copy of Rudolf Steiner's lectures on Agriculture. Coming to the Pfeiffer Center is the beginning of a journey in response to present and future food supply crises and the unique questions raised by modern agriculture. In his free time, Andrew writes, draws, reads, and thinks about living in the world today.
Courtney Ryan, Intern
Originally from Santa Rosa, California, Courtney has always loved the outdoors, and farming and gardening have intrigued her since childhood. After a life-changing event, she applied to apprentice under Harald Hoven at Raphael Garden in Fair Oaks, California, where she completed the first year of the North American Biodynamic Apprenticeship Program (NABDAP). While at Raphael Garden, Courtney also met Megan Durney and learned about the Pfeiffer Center, where she's now continuing her journey to learn about sustainable agriculture and biodynamics. In her spare time, Courtney enjoys reading, ceramics, swimming, and photography.