If you are an adventurous organic eater or farmer, you should know about biodynamics. This holistic approach to agriculture takes organic to a completely different level and has experienced a remarkable growth of interest in recent years.
Biodynamic agriculture is designed to restore the integrity of the natural environment and enhance the quality and health of food.
Biodynamic farmers manage their farms—including fields, woods, wetlands, plants, animals and people—as an interconnected whole, full of dignity and life. Each farm thus takes on the character of an “individuality” that reflects the unique qualities of a particular place, climate and community. This ecological, ethical and spiritual stewardship of the earth produces food with extraordinary flavor, quality and nutrition.
Biodynamics was developed in central Europe in the early 1920s by the Austrian philosopher and social reformer Rudolf Steiner; it is now practiced on more than 350,000 acres of farmland in 47 countries. Steiner was one of the pioneers of the organic farming movement, and biodynamics is considered by many to be the most advanced and holistic form of organic farming and gardening on the planet. Steiner’s insights have also led to innovative movements in a number of other fields such as education (Waldorf Schools), medicine, finance and social therapy.
Steiner developed biodynamics in partnership with a group of farmers who were concerned with the decline in soil and animal health that they were witnessing on their farms. This was just at the time when a highly mechanistic view of nature was beginning to take hold in agriculture, which led to the development and use of synthetically produced nitrogen fertilizers. Steiner was one of the first public figures to warn that the widespread use of chemical fertilizers would lead to the decline of soil, plant and animal health and the subsequent devitalization of food.
Biodynamics has an independent certification system managed worldwide by Demeter International and in the United States by Demeter USA.
Demeter certification in this country uses the USDA organic standards as a foundation but goes beyond them in several important ways. For example, the Demeter Biodynamic® Farm Standard requires the healthy integration of crops and livestock on the farm, as well as a certain amount of wild or uncultivated land as part of its biodiversity requirement. It also requires use of the biodynamic preparations described above. In addition, whereas organic certification can be applied to just one part of a farm, Demeter certification must encompass the whole farm.3
To counter the growing depletion of the vitality of our food, farms and communities by the modern industrial agricultural system, we need more than an alternative lifestyle movement. We need more than anti-GMO activism, and more than a big toolbox of alternative farming techniques. We need a revolutionary new way of understanding nature and the role of agriculture in the life of society. We need deep medicine for the land, for our communities and for ourselves. Biodynamics offers a pathway into deep agricultural renewal. It is a way of seeing, a way of farming, and a way of creating community that restores the very heart of what it means to be human on Earth.
For more information about biodynamics and how you can get involved, please contact the Biodynamic Association at www.biodynamics.com.