Reaching new consciousness through baking

Koenraad Van Der Meer doesn’t just bake bread; he is a bread philosopher with beliefs that are rooted in biodynamic principles, the intrinsic connection between the natural and spiritual worlds, and an approach to baking that produces not only a more nutritious and flavorful product but also fosters a new consciousness.

Originally from Holland, Van Der Meer has been making bread for over 40 years. He had two bakeries in Holland before moving to New Hampshire where he had a bakery on a farm. He worked for a bagel shop for another 10 years until, he said: “I woke up. In 2012, I decided that this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.” 

The waking up he is referring to was the realization of the shortcomings of modern agricultural practices, notably the use of chemical fertilizers. He noticed that these practices were resulting in less vitality and flavor, a reduced nutritional value and, perhaps most importantly, a depletion in a spiritual connection. 

He began to search for alternatives which led him to spelt and einkorn, ancient grains that thrive in nutrient-poor soils and maintain a closer connection to their original, wild state. “Every plant grows because it likes to grow there,” says Van Der Meer. “We just need to observe and then we start to really learn things, if you open your eyes and see what’s happening.”

Van Der Meer’s philosophy extends beyond just the choice of grains. He is a firm believer in Rudolf Steiner’s teachings, particularly the concept of the group soul that links plants, animals, and humans to the cosmos. He views modern genetic manipulation, especially in the case of GMOs, as a disruption of this sacred connection. 

In his quest to restore this bond, Van Der Meer incorporates unique practices such as using dew drops collected on specific days to imbue his bread with positive, cosmic energy. “Well, on certain days in the spring, like 40 days after Easter,” explained Van Der Meer, “there’s this rising force in nature. And of course, that would be very beneficial to put it in bread. And so Ascension Day, that’s when you see these rising forces both in the natural world and the spiritual world. This is also the day when the body of Christ is taken up into heaven.” 

On Ascension Day, Van Der Meer goes into the field with a bottle of spring water and a dropper. “We marry the dewdrop with the spring water homeopathically,” he explained. “I discovered that there’s some ionization going on. So negative ions are healthy for us. When the dewdrops are very fine, there’s negative ions there. I actually observed a group of grass sprigs together and I didn’t even touch them, but they started moving. There’s some magnetism going on there, it’s really magical. It’s a healing force that goes into the bread homeopathically.”

Van Der Meer uses natural yeast cultures grown on sprouted barley, avoiding the sourness often associated with sourdough and producing bread that is both nourishing and easily digestible. He sees his work as part of a larger mission to foster a new consciousness, one that rejects the materialism and greed of the modern world in favor of a community-oriented, spiritually aware approach. 

This New Age Consciousness, a term attributed to Steiner, emphasizes intuition, clairvoyance, tolerance and love. “Ignorance and corruption and greed, that’s a dead-end road,” said Van Der Meer. “But there is an economy that’s community-based. He continued, “If you do something and you do it for the community’s interest, then the community is going to support you.”

A member of the Philmont Market and Cafe Cooperative’s processing kitchen — a shared-use, fully licensed commercial kitchen facility — Van Der Meer does indeed have the support of the community, as his Holy Grain breads have become a popular staple at farmers markets, the Berkshire Food Coop in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and multiple farm stands and stores in the region. Lately his attention has turned to education: “My next chapter is to do workshops and to inspire others to make this bread.” 

The New Year will find Van Der Meer traveling and leading workshops, teaching others about his spiritual approach to bread baking. “We shouldn’t be dominating nature, we are the guardians,” he explained. “We need to lift nature up, to advance evolution. By doing that we advance our own evolution.” 

This reciprocity is the very basis of his mission and commitment to the transformative power of bread. “Bread is a symbol of peace,” he said. “When you go somewhere, you need to come with a gift. Same with a plant. You need to come with something, and it responds.” He added: “There’s a saying in Dutch. It says, ‘Whose bread one eats, whose word one speaks.’ So, I better put out a good mission because that’s going into the bread and that nourishes people.”

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Koenraad Van Der Meer and his bread displayed on a table at a recent Millerton Farmers Market. Photo by Natalia Zukerman

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