Williams and Hanna Bail are the proprietors of Threshold
Farms, a 45 acre spread in Upper Hudson Valley, New York.
Hugh started farming in 1961 on the family farm in
Australia where his mother, a devotee of anthroposophy and
biodynamic gardening, had quietly been using the
preparations on her home garden while Hugh was growing up.
college and some time spent traveling, Hugh discovered
Steiner’s Agricultural Lectures in a bookstore in New
His mother was able to put him in touch with Bob
Williams in Australia who became his real teacher of
been employing Steiner’s
farming methodology since 1973.
and Hanna grow vegetables, fruit (peaches, pears and
apples) and keep a small herd of cows with their calves,
pigs, sheep and a donkey.
The cows on Threshold Farm are a crossbreed of
Ayrshire and Shorthorn.
The first heifer born on the farm is now milking
and her brother, who Hugh describes in glowing terms, will
sire the herd this year.
The cows are grass-fed, which Hugh says is
“becoming a big thing,” and the calves are not
separated from their mothers.
“They are simply a part of the herd; they run
with the herd,” as Hugh puts it.
Their farm animal population also includes a cat to
keep the chipmunks out of the greenhouse and a dog “for
and Hanna make all of their own biodynamic preparations on
the farm and, as of this spring are 100% self-sufficient
in compost. Hugh
estimates that, after mucking out the barn, they found
themselves with about 70 tons of “beautiful biodynamic
compost” from their cows and their hay and grass.
The only aid they are not presently self-producing
is an organic potting mix. “This is going to be our next task,”
Hugh states, “to make our own.”
Farm is the sole source of support for Hugh and Hanna and
their ten-month-old baby, Christopher.
Except for cheeses, eggs grains, pasta and some
other things, it also produces almost 100% of what they
spring they started a small cheese production, about 4
lbs. a day.
the weather has presented some challenges of late, Hugh
accounts this to the Devic world being “very confused by
Hugh and Hanna deal with this by trying to be very
clear in their own intentions.
is where Hugh Williams has had both his biggest challenges
and his greatest successes as a farmer.
An obvious love for his work (“ I will farm for
as long as God wills it.”) has undoubtedly helped him to
persevere and, after thirty years of working with the
Steiner methodology, he has successfully developed a
totally non-toxic method for growing fruit.
“You have to know what you’re doing,” Hugh
states, “and not many people know, partly because so
much of it [the fruit we now eat] was developed on a
pesticide intensive regime.
I had to create new guidelines.”
asked what is the most amazing thing that he has
experienced in his farming career, Hugh states, “Every
Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual-scientific insights into
farming and their revelation in the nitty gritty.”
He is gratified to see that a peer group of
like-minded farmers are developing and encourages SFNM to
continue their supportive activities.
final question to Hugh was, “What is the most beautiful
thing on your farm right now?”
answer: “The young heifers just about to have their
first calves. Also
our new baby’s wonder at it all and my wife Hanna’s
abilities – without her, the farm, as it is, would
hardly be possible. We’re
both very hard workers and we have complimentary
has strong organizational skills; she’s good socially, a
good marketer. She
also has great ability with biodynamics.
I guess she has a great underlying anxiety about
what we’re doing to the earth.
She loves farming, animals, the earth.”