Biodynamic Farming

| May 12, 2012 | Reply

Because my son, Will, attended a Steiner school for five years, I was familiar with Rudolf Steiner, but, not being a gardener, I never looked into biodynamics. Here is some basic information, that I was interested to learn as well. – Kaye

“Biodynamics is a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, food production and nutrition. Biodynamics was first developed in the early 1920s based on the spiritual insights and practical suggestions of the Austrian writer, educator and social activist Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), whose philosophy is called “anthroposophy.” Today, the biodynamic movement encompasses thousands of successful gardens, farms, vineyards and agricultural operations of all kinds and sizes on all continents, in a wide variety of ecological and economic settings.

Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being raised. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health.

Most biodynamic initiatives seek to embody triple bottom line approaches (ecological, social and economic sustainability), taking inspiration from Steiner’s insights into social and economic life as well as agriculture. Community supported agriculture (CSA), for example, was pioneered by biodynamic farmers, and many biodynamic practitioners work in creative partnerships with other farms and with schools, medical and wellness facilities, restaurants, hotels, homes for social therapy and other organizations.

Biodynamics is thus not just a holistic agricultural system but also a potent movement for new thinking and practices in all aspects of life connected to food and agriculture.” – Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association.

Pliny the Elder, the first-century Roman naturalist, stated in his Natural History that the Moon “replenishes the earth; when she approaches it, she fills all bodies, while, when she recedes, she empties them.”

According to the Demeter Biodynamic® Principles, “a foundation of the Biodynamic method of farming is a Goethean observation of nature and its application to a farming system. This encourages a view of nature as an interconnected whole, a totality, an organism endowed with archetypal rhythm.

Biodynamic farming involves managing a farm utilizing the principles of a living organism. The view of the farm organism extends beyond the fence line and includes the tangible and intangible forces that work through it.  Examples include the climate, inherent wildlife of the earth (above and below the ground), the light and warmth from the sun and the more distant astronomical influences.  Biodynamic agriculture attempts to harmonize all of these factors within a holistic, living farm system.  The food that results is very pure and true to its essence and provides deeply penetrating nutrition that is essential to an increasingly unhealthy human population.

In day-to-day practice, the goal is to create a farm system that is minimally dependent on imported materials, and instead meets its needs from the living dynamics of the farm itself.  It is the biodiversity of the farm, organized so that the waste of one part of the farm becomes the energy for another, that results in an increase in the farm’s capacity for self-renewal and ultimately makes the farm sustainable. This requires that, as much as possible, a farm be regenerative rather than degenerative.

Animals are a crucial element of a Biodynamic farm, and in addition to their obvious contribution to a farm’s fertility, their care and welfare are given extensive consideration.  Housing must allow animals to move freely and protect them from heat, dust, excess humidity, and harmful gasses such as ammonia.  Poultry cages are prohibited, every animal must be given a dry, soft and insulated spot where it can lie down and rest, and access to free range forage and the outdoors is required.  De-horning, de-beaking, and wing clipping of poultry are prohibited, as is tail cutting of piglets and docking of lambs.  Homeopathic remedies in place of vaccines are strongly recommended, and the use of antibiotics is prohibited.  If an animal is being raised for the sale of meat, eggs or milk, a minimum of one- half of its feed must come from the farm, and the remainder must be Demeter certified (minimum of 80% of the total ration) or NOP certified organic (no more than 20% of the ration).” – Demeter Association, Inc.

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