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3/11/2009
Biodynamics®: beyond organic agriculture
Biodynamics<sup>®</sup>: beyond organic agriculture

Practiced and embraced in Europe since 1921, biodynamic® agriculture is buzzing anew throughout North America. Pouring from flavorful wines and baking from fresh-grain flour, this old-age turned new-age method of agriculture changes the way we see, smell, taste and experience the world.

Biodynamics® is beyond stereotypes such as “hippie” and “crunchy.” It’s even beyond organic. Some might say it’s the real deal—how farming is meant to be.

Where it all began:

In the early 20th century, the farmers themselves gave rise to biodynamic® agriculture. “The soil and the health of the animals had been degraded by chemical fertilizers,” says Gunther Hauk, program director of the Pfeiffer Center, a biodynamic® research and education center in Chestnut Ridge, N.Y. “The farmers saw this, so they approached Steiner [the natural scientist and renowned philosopher Dr. Rudolf Steiner] and asked him how they could remedy their farm situation. Alfalfa, they observed, only lasted for a few years on a field. However, years earlier it had lasted up to 15 years.” In response to their concerns, he gave a series of lectures to farmers in 1924—the official beginning of what is now known as biodynamic® agriculture.

Biodynamic® agriculture integrates the concept of “life supporting life” into agriculture. In biodynamic® farming, the farm is viewed as a living organism. This means that a farm should be able to support itself in near-entirety through its fertilizers and fodder.

Reduce, reuse and recycle:

Because the soil is seen as being “alive” in biodynamic® agriculture and because it must help give life to plants, it is stimulated with vital nutrients. Key practices such as composting, fertilizing and pest control are all done utilizing natural farm resources, including cow manure and herbs. According to the international biodynamic® certifying agency Demeter, even 80 percent of the certified livestock’s feed must come from the farm where they live. Carefully blended soil and photosynthesis fertilizer sprays stimulate and harmonize healthy growth in the plants.

As the original form of organized organic farming, this purist approach strictly bans chemical pesticides and growth hormones. According to Hauk, “The great difference between biodynamic® farming and other methods of agriculture is the preparations that are used [to enliven the compost material, the soil and plants] and the idea of a sustainable and thriving farm organism—with an emphasis on organism.”

The rhythm of life:

Centuries ago, the poet John Donne proclaimed, “No man is an island.” His prophetic words still ring true. All living organisms are connected to the soil, plants, animals and humans. But if we crane our necks beyond what immediately meets the eye, our worlds become much larger. “Steiner’s idea was one of a living farm organism,” says Jim Fullmer, executive director of Demeter’s U.S. division. “When one applies thought to that in practice, it becomes clear that the farm does not stop at the fence line, and it is in fact encompassed by the entire universe.”

The sun, the moon, the planets and stars bring light and rhythm to everything on earth. The biodynamic® farmer studies and inherently knows these rhythms—rotating crops, sowing, cultivating, feeding and harvesting the soil and plants accordingly. “If you grew wings and were able to fly up to a height where you could see the relation of the farm to the surrounding geography and related humanity, the direct relation of the land to the humanity is clear,” explains Fullmer. “They are one—even while many may not notice it.”

The life-infused soil and entire farm system bring plants that blossom life. When these vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs make their way to us—whether through our skin or our dinner plates—they come full of nutrients that can be smelled, felt and tasted. “Biodynamics® is the only form of agriculture that goes beyond sustainability,” declares Hauk. “We humans not only want to sustain ourselves. We also want to thrive.”

For more information about biodynamics® visit weleda.com/biodynamic or contact the Demeter Association at demeter-usa.org.