For those of you who aren’t familiar with My Organic Market, it is a great shop for all your organic needs and it is conveniently located right in the center of Sofia. This a plus if you are on foot, but parking is a bit of a nightmare, but a bit better with the new parking zones and increase in the tariff.
The freezer section is filled with beverages, tofu and other protein substitutes, dairy products and more…
As far as I know this was one of the first organic shops in Sofia. It was formerly part of Sun & Moon that includes many shops and restaurants all keeping with the same philosophy as My Organic Market, which you can read about in detail on their website, where you can also shop online.
Some of their offering include sesame seeds, amaranth, whole quinoa and quinoa flour, hemp, millet, buckwheat, and brown basmati rice just to name a few. The majority of these seeds and grains come from outside Bulgaria, but most of them are organic.
These ideas are the zeigist of the company which has been a work in progress for nearly 3 years. Zelena Zemia opened its doors a mere two weeks ago. The shelves have some gaps for new products, but the owners are careful in selecting what they sell. It is a small shop area-wise, so they need to be picky.
This event was not my first exposure to the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, the father of biodynamic agricultural practices… I first became aware of biodynamics at The Culinary Institute of America. It was one of our last classes in Gastronomy. We were learning about food production methods and the coverage of biodynamics was a mere dot on a map. The only things that I took away from the description was that they bury horns in cow manure and use a special calendar. Being that I am interested in farming and agriculture, I was determined to find out more. Through my involvement with Slow Food on Campus CIA, I managed to arrange a lecture and a visit to the Pfeiffer Center in Chestnut Ridge, NY.
When I first visited the center, it was for an Intro to Organic Beekeeping course with Chris Harp and Ross Conrad. The center reminded me of a summer camp, complete with mess hall and sleeping quarters. The grounds were impressive and filled with life, but my weekend at the center still didn’t give me a clue as to what made the plants grow so well. I then arranged for Mac Mead the head of the Pfeiffer Center to speak at the CIA and explain biodynamics. The turnout for the event was low because we were competing with a host of other events including Gabrielle Hamilton, chef and author of Blood, Bones and Butter, but the smaller group made absorbing the information a bit easier.
The principal ideas of biodynamic farming make sense, it focuses on the interrelationships and holistic development of the soil, plants and animals in a self-sustaining system. The results seem like overwhelming proof in the system, but there is a lot of dispute and discord about whether or not the same results can be achieved though similar organic farming principals. In my opinion, the difference in organic farming and biodynamic farming is this sense of spiritual awareness to all the different elements in the equation, and that is the key, “different” elements. The farm needs to be a diverse ecosystem.
|Red House Cultural Center|
This weekends event was hosted by the Red House Cultural Center in Sofia and Foundation “Zaedno“. The lecture was led by Dimitar Stoyanov or “Chicho Mitko” a biodynamic farmer, whose farm House of Bamboo uses the biodynamic principals. I was fortunate to have a good understanding of the principals of biodynamics because the language barrier was a bit of a challenge, but I got the gist of the discussion. The visual slide show images helped.
The day started with a presentation from Foundation “Zaedno”, who organized an edible schoolyard in the Lozentez district of Sofia. The project turned out nice and the children in the kindergarden seemed to enjoy the extra time digging in the dirt. It all seemed very similar to what Alice Waters is doing with the Edible Schoolyard, but what I like about Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyard is that the children are a bit older and better able to really participate in garden. I have a 6 & 8 year old and getting them in the garden is a difficult feat. What can you really get out of kids that are 3 – 7? It will be the adults that do most of the work, but don’t get me wrong, this sort of awareness is a step in the right direction. Maya asked if her school in Kyustendil could do something similar, which honestly, would be a perfect place for and school garden/biological teaching device. Her school goes from 1st to 8th grade, so the student’s comprehension towards a project like this would be extremely beneficial. I wouldn’t even know where to begin or who to make the suggestion to, but knowing Bulgaria…. I can already hear the laughter and head shaking… meaning are you kidding… Not that negativity would dissuade me.
The turn out was pretty good, after lunch that is… I guess people don’t like to get up for a 9:30 event on a Saturday. The crowd seemed to be a mix of young hipsters, farmers and urbanites. I think I was the only foreigner, but after lunch Maya was not to only child in attendance.
Chicho Mitko, a very passionate and dynamic speaker offered a great introduction to the principals of biodynamic farming. He delved into its history and talked about Rudolf Steiner and the Maria Thun’s calendar, which I bought. He went into detail about the interactions and relationships that exist in the garden and that effect on ecosystem. He talked about one of my favorite topics, which was compost and its necessity in not only biodynamic farming, but all natural endeavors. Then he went through and gave the steps necessary to set up your own small scale home garden using these principals. He talked about ways to germinate seedlings that was approachable and biodynamic, buying seeds and all other elements to get your ready for you agricultural adventure.
Personally, I like some of the ideas that are associated with biodynamic farming, but I can’t move past the spirituality aspect, which is vital if you are to become a disciple of biodynamics. If not for nothing else, I like the calendar and will try to plant my garden to its rhythms, when possible.
The House of Bamboo, Chicho Mitko’s farm has a room to rent if you are interested in visiting. I would love to visit during the summer or fall. It seems like a nice little weekend getaway… that is if we arent’ too busy with baby and working on our own land.
I first became aware of the Здравословен Живот or Healthy Living shop while driving around on Bogatitza Street trying to avoid the Chern Vrach traffic. I made a mental note of its location, which is easy to remember because it is situated behind
Skank South Park Bar and Dinner. While I forgot about this place for a while, I was reminded to check them out when I saw their booth set up at Sofia’s Green Days.
I had a bit of a funny incident while trying to find parking for this place, which is a big problem. The parking situation is awful. I managed to find a spot which was tight and on a hill so, it needed my insane parallel parking skills, but I happened to be multitasking
talking on the phone and I forgot to keep my car in gear and put on the parking break… oops! So as I am leaving the car, hanging up my phone, I see my car starting to roll down the hill… headed for a large, expensive, black SUV (a.k.a Mutri mobile), so I open the car, jump in and yank the hand break as hard as I could… narrowly avoiding and sticky situation. I felt like I was in a movie and I was pumped with adrenaline. Anyway… back to the shop!
The entrance to the shop is situated a little below street level, but there are plenty of signs.
You can find the Healthy Living shop in Lozenetz, Jilishtna Group “South Park” Bldg. 27 Kozyak Street (Behind South Park Bar and Dinner) Tel: +359 882 828 828. They host events at the shop like wine tasting, so Become a fan on Facebook to keep up to date.
Moving on! I did try all of the samples that I received: Hemp and Meadow foam Shampoo, Conditioner and Lavender and Geranium Body Wash. Overall, I was happy with everything, but I missed the lathery, foamy feeling of the shampoo. You can find there product in many organic, bio-shops in through out Sofia. I have a list, but they are over 20 shops. For those of you who aren’t Bulgarian or live in Bulgaria, feel free to skim through the rest.
Slow Food products were represented, such as Smilyan Beans and Meurche.
Enza Zaden, a seed breeding company had a booth that had live bees, which have been breed to pollinate green house vegetables. They are located at: Tzalapitza, m. Cherhota № 135 А Tel: +359 314 92 117/ +359 32 94 20 99 (с. Цалапица м. “Чернота” № 135 А Тел: +359 314 92 117/ +359 32 94 20 99)