Bedford farm plays chants to help plants grow

Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy

The Journal News

Nov.22, 2010

BEDFORD — On a recent crisp fall morning, Liz Taggart played hostess to a steady stream of local chefs in her backyard.

As she shepherded them through rows of apple and peach trees and several varieties of lush salad greens, strains of mellow vedic chants enveloped her 2.5-acre organic farm.

The meditative music, dispersed from an iPod in the greenhouse, is played 18 hours a day for the plants on the farm.

“It nourishes and enlivens their intelligence, energy and creative growth,”said Taggart, a longtime student of Vedic literature. The Vedas are the earliest Sanskrit texts fro ancient India and contain the basis for
Hinduism.

The oral tradition of Vedic chanting (believed to be 3,500 years old) was inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2008.

“Consciousness underlies all of creation, and the reverberations of the Vedic chants are very beneficial for the immune system of the plants, said Taggart.

One of seven children, Taggrt, 56, grew up on a small family farm in Ohio. As a teenager, she, along wih her siblings, discovered transcendental meditation — founded by Maharisi Mahesh Yogi, famously known as the guru to The Beatles in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The meditation technique is based on Vedic knowledge and the belief that there is a field of pure consciousness , energy and creativity that underlies all of ature.

In 1974, a 19-year-old Tagart moved to the maharishi’s headquarters in Seelisberg, Switzerland, to study under him.

Eventually, as a teacher of meditation — which practitioners say helps them experience a deep state of restful alertness — Taggart traveled the world. She continues to teach TM in Katonah.

Profits from the 18-month-old farm, which is seeking a nonprofit status,will go to groups that promote world peace hrough meditation and the chanting of Vedic mantras (hymns), said Taggart.

Andy Nusser, chef partner at Pot Chester’s Tarry Lodge where Mario Batali is a partner, sad he was all for the intonations.

“I am from California, and I’m a believer. What’s bad about it?” said Nusser, as he toured Amba Farms, one o 10 farms in Westcheser County on the Farm to Chef Tour organized by the Wetchester Land Trust last month. “The
secret life o plants is that they are living. The plants sense who their owners re nd Liz is aware of this. She’s in tune.”

Taggart, who owns the Hollis Taggart Galleries in Manhattan with her husband, Hollis, moved to Bedford in2004. The couple has a 12-year-old son, and the family lives in a house buil according to the principals of Vedic
architecture or “vastu shastra.”

“Because your home is built n harmony with nature, it has the benefit that it aligns the individuals living in the house with their cosmic counterparts,” said aggart, who was raised a Catholic. Now she considers herself to be ona “spiritual path” with no religious affiliaton.

Her grandparents, Slovenian farmers who mgrated to the U.S. in the 1920s,instilled in her a passion for organic faming and sustainable ariculture.

“We grew almost all of our vegetables and herbs, and had poultry and basic fruit trees on our farm,” said Taggart. “And I learned a lot aout organic and sustainable gardening like using wood ash and chicken manure composting from gowing up there.”

Amba Farms, which featres four-season farming, also aims to be an educational tool for students interested in learning bout sustainable farming.

An internship program with ACES, Bedford Centra School District’salternative high school, is currently in session, and Taggart hopes to expand it to other districts as well.

ACES cordinator David Whalen aid the internship was a great fit for the school’s students who have strugled in the main building.

“These students don’t do well in the traditional environment and learn better in an alternative environment where there is more experimental learning and hands-on eperience,” said Whalen.

David Lakin, an ACES student interning at Amba Farm, said he had helped with putting up cold frames for the winter and was getting o experience everything from planting to organizing orders.

“I personally would ove a yard like that. It’s equipped with cold frames, a grenhouse, three beehives, and a bird coop,” said Lakin, 18, a Mout Kisco resident. “Organic farming is going to be the next revolution of
agiculture.”

Josh Tesser, a junior at Horace Greely High School in Chappaqua,spent the summer at the farm. Apart from learnin about the various aspects of organic farming, Tesser said he was a believer in the power of the Vedic chants.

“Apart from sunlight an water, plants can be affectd by sound, too,” said Tesser, a member of the Marlins Swim Team, who as been prcticing TM for more than a year. “You can see it in the abundant and lush produce at the
frm. And it tastes amazing.”

Among the restaurants that Amba Farms delivers to are Susan Lawrence in Chappaqua and Sweet Grass Grill in Tarrytown.

“We harvest in the morning an make our eliveries by noon so that the chefs can make their dinner at night,” said Taggart, standing by an open fire that produced soil-enhancing wood ash on  recent morning.

Tommy Lasley, th former chef at Sweet Grass Grill, said he planned his menu based on what wa beig harvested. The farm also plants based on what the chef needs.

“Amba Farms is one of our main suppliers and we have a very symbiotic relationship,” said Lasley, who was interviewed before his recent departure from the restaurant . “Ultimately, it all depends on the quality of the
produce.”

What about the music?

“It gets wo thumbs up from me,” said Lasley, 29, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. “Because it brings a smile to my face.”

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Published in: on February 22, 2011 at 12:48 am  Leave a Comment  

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