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Biodynamic Agriculture

About Biodynamic® Agriculture

  • Biodynamic agriculture seeks to heal the earth and her people.
  • Demeter Certified Biodynamic products are highly respected in the marketplace worldwide for their vitality and flavor profile.
  • The Demeter trademarks reflect the high standards for purity and the rigorous efforts Demeter Certified Biodynamic® farmers and processors have taken to obtain certification. Look for the Demeter Certified Biodynamic® certification marks! The word Biodynamic®, the Demeter® name, and the Demeter® certification marks are legally registered trademarks that assure consumers that foods and beverages have been grown and produced according to the strict Demeter standards for Biodynamic agriculture.

The Biodynamic method is distinguished from organic and sustainable farming methods by four key attributes:

  1. A Paradigm Shift in Thinking: The Biodynamic farmer thinks in terms of forces and processes whereas organic and sustainable agriculture farmers think in terms of substances.
  2. The Biodynamic Farmer Uses All Nine of the Biodynamic Preparations:  The preparations are made following very specific methods. They are numbered, and are used in very small quantities to homeopathically treat compost, soil and plants. They include #500 Horn Manure; #501 Horn Silica; #502 Yarrow; #503 Chamomile; #504 Stinging Nettles; #505 Oak Bark: #506 Dandelion Flowers; #507 Valerian; and #508 Horsetail.
  3. Understanding and Use of Earthly and Cosmic Rhythms/Cycles:  The Biodynamic farmer is attuned to the daily, monthly and seasonal rhythms of nature, for example, the affects of the new and full moons on planting seeds and plant growth
  4. Creation of a Whole Farm Organism: The Biodynamic farmer strives for this ideal, as described below. The farm depends on a minimum of input nutrients from outside the farm and, ideally, generates its own fertility through cover-cropping and the use of manure from animals that live on the farm.

The following description of Biodynamic Agriculture was provided by the Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association:

What is Biodynamic Agriculture?

The concept of the “agricultural individuality,” or farm organism was introduced in the teachings of an Austrian by the name of Rudolf Steiner in 1924. In a series of lectures, he introduced an idea for a farming system based upon on-farm biological cycling through mixing crops and livestock. While the mixed-farming approach predates Steiner’s ideas, it was his idea of the farm as an organism that helped to create a new system of agriculture. The information presented in these lectures, while new in its recommendations for agriculture, contained cosmological underpinnings, which were part of a philosophy he referred to as Anthroposophy, or spiritual science. Steiner’s philosophy is also connected to ideas practiced in education, art, economics, medicine, dance therapy, and work with the handicapped and mentally ill.

In relation to its practical application in farming, this philosophy suggest that humans, animals, plans, minerals and the cosmic periphery form a whole system, or organism. The farm organism forms a unity in regard to the workings of both human and natural systems. The root of the Biodynamic system is the relationship of the farmer and his or her practices to the local ecosystem, which in Biodynamics reaches the extent of including the influence of the cosmos and subtle life forces on local habitats.

It is also acknowledged that any time we till soil or remove a crop, the land is being exploited in several ways. Land is exploited through the breakdown of organic substances and the removal of minerals. Commonly recognized organic practices and fertilizers are used to correct this problem. However, what is more important and often overlooked is the depletion of the subtle life forces that are also needed to sustain biological functioning. These forces need to be replenished in the soil and in the air above the earth’s surface.

There are several ways to strengthen these life forces. In Biodynamic agriculture, preparations are made from herbs, mineral substances and animal manures to be applied to soil and plants at very small rates, measured in parts per million. Timely applications revitalize the weakened life forces and stimulate root growth, soil microorganism production and humus formation.
 
The foundation of Steiner’s theories focused on blending prescriptive, wholistic practices with the farmer’s own experimental methods. The observance and integration of astronomical phenomenon in agricultural activities, including careful timing of the application or production of certain Biodynamic amendments, as well as the organizing of the farm as an independent unit in regard to nutrients and feed stocks, can all be considered to an extent, a prescriptive approach. However, Steiner placed critical importance on the fact that nature could be understood only through studying and integrating natural cyclical rhythms. He was deeply critical of reductionism and agricultural science’s emphasis on inputs from outside the farm. While he acknowledged the contribution of empirical science, Steiner emphasized from the beginning the necessity of farmers’ further participation in the development of this method of farming. His suggestions on the qualitative importance of observing natural rhythms and patterns in nature rather than relying solely upon quantified data, is an important wholistic contribution to the field of sustainable agriculture.