How do you tell from a cow pie that its owner is a healthy cow living according to its instincts and in harmony with nature and the people around it?
"The cow pie should have a firm shape and resemble a cream puff."
Niels Stokholm, the 80-year-old protagonist of Phie Ambo's Good Things Await, will tell you that the cow pie should have a healthy, dark colour. That's a sign that the cow has had access to a lot of grass. The cow pie should have a firm shape and resemble a cream puff. If you hold your hand close, you should be able to feel a slight heat arising from it – and you shouldn't have to hold your nose.
Stokholm and his wife Rita run their biodynamic farm Thorshøjgaard, 50 km north of Copenhagen, based on 40 years of observing their animals and the nature around them.
To Stokholm, biodynamic farming is about engaging in dialogue with your surroundings and striving to understand how everything thrives. His daily routines are based on observing the animals' well-being – for instance by ascertaining the quality of a cow pie. You might even call it research of a kind.
"Good Things Await" Framegrab
"Everything can't be measured and weighed. I can't measure the impulses that go from humans to animals. But I know they're there, and I can tell that it matters to the animals that they have human contact. It makes them calm and secure," Niels Stokholm says.
Another significant observation Stokholm has made over his many years as a biodynamic farmer is that the more the animals live in accordance with their instincts, the better their meat tastes – and the better it is for us.
Not surprisingly, as Ambo shows in Good Things Await, this idealistic farmer with his far-reaching ideas is a thorn in the eye of the authorities. The food and agriculture department is threatening to deprive Stokholm of his right to farm livestock.
But Stokholm is not alone in contending that biodynamic farming is important to the quality and taste of foods. Thorshøjgaard supplies produce to some of the best restaurants in Denmark, including Copenhagen's Noma. Chef and co-founder René Redzepi regularly buys beef from Thorshøjgaard because, as director Phie Ambo puts it, "it simply tastes exceptionally well."
Good Things Await is produced by Malene Flindt Pedersen for Danish Documentary Production.