What is biodynamic farming?
Founded in 1924, Biodynamic farming is the oldest 'green' farming movement, and forerunner of organics. All biodynamic farmers and growers practice organic methods of cultivation, are against genetic modification (GM), and share its ideals, but there are important differences. Biodynamics has metaphysical and spiritual roots that organics does not. Biodynamics thus embraces the mystery of all life processes, including the subtle and energetic realities that are not necessarily easy to measure or justify using current scientific methods.
How does biodynamic farming differ from organic farming?
All biodynamic farmers and growers practice organic methods of production, and share very similar certification standards. Both also share similar aims and ideals, but biodynamics has metaphysical and spiritual roots that organics does not.
It is this that makes biodynamics distinctively different in both its approach to agriculture, and its farming practices.
The main differences between biodynamic and organic farming standards are:
Whereas other forms of sustainable agriculture are primarily concerned with producing food sustainably, biodynamic farming aspires to be transformative and seeks to maximize health and vitality. It thus constantly strives to embrace all life’s processes, to understand them better, and to improve the way we farm through an ongoing dialogue with Nature.
This is why our farmers and growers use specially made herbal preparations to enhance and enliven their compost, soils, plants, animals and farm or smallholding. Just as wine growers use biodynamic techniques to ensure their grapes express the essence of their vineyards, and allow them to produce to their natural capacity, so biodynamic producers’ mission is realize the full potential of their holdings, and not to maximize production at the expense of the health of their lands , or the health and quality of the food they produce.
Demeter is the name of the ancient Greek goddess of fertility and abundance, and is the international certification logo which appears on packaging of certified biodynamic foods sold in shops and supermarkets.
The Demeter brand uniquely enjoys worldwide recognition. It is fast becoming the organic brand of choice in Europe. The brand stands for organic integrity and vitality; its authenticity is fiercely upheld by each member of Demeter International, and overseen by its board.
Scientific research into the health benefits of organic food - which applies to biodynamic food as well - is well documented; for the latest on this, click here. In addition, repeated experiments for many years by people who grow and eat biodynamic food, and by biodynamic research establishments, confirms biodynamics regularly produces high quality nutrient-rich foods, that keep fresh longer, store better, and have greater vitality. Anecdotal evidence suggests that eating biodynamic food reduces allergic reactions and contributes to improved general health; and that milk from horned cattle is more digestible.
Biodynamic farmers report that their livestock are more fertile, robust and healthy. During the BSE crisis no cases of BSE was reported.
Biodynamics is a worldwide movement, practiced in over 50 countries. There are approximately over 5000 farms worldwide; the latest statistics can be found here.
The UK is experiencing renewed interest in biodynamics, and more farms converting to Demeter (biodynamic) status every year. Currently there are 98 certified biodynamic enterprises (farmers and growers; vineyards; market gardens; processors and traders), though the total number of holdings practicing biodynamic methods is greater, especially among smallholders.
The biodynamic movement is adamantly opposed to genetic modification (GM) in agriculture, gardening, and in food processing. Demeter standards forbids the use of any GM organisms and ingredients, including animal feeds; and also forbid cyto and protoplasm fusion techniques for seed production.
Click here for more about GM myths and truths.
Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was the person who brought us biodynamic agriculture. He was an Austrian philosopher, scientist and social reformer who sought to extend scientific research beyond the existing parameters of natural science and investigate the non-physical, spiritual realities of life. The name given to this new branch of science is 'anthroposophy', a Greek word meaning 'human wisdom’, from the Greek 'anthro' (human) and 'sophia' (wisdom of man').
Steiner inspired new approaches to medicine, education, the arts, social reform and economics as well as agriculture. His agricultural lectures, given in 1924 to a group of over a 100 farmers and landowners, gave novel insights and suggestions on how to regenerate and improve agriculture, which led to the foundation of the Biodynamic movement, and lie at the heart of its ethos and farming practices.
More and more of the world’s best winemakers are converting to biodynamic methods in their vineyards. So much so, that currently there are over 600 Demeter certified biodynamic vineyards. These include over 250 in France and Italy, 75 in Germany, over 40 in Switzerland, 49 in New Zealand, and even as far as Brazil, which boasts 2 biodynamic vineyards. The UK currently has 7 vineyards including the aware winning Sedlescombe, East Sussex, Ancre Hills in Monouthshire & Albury, in Surrey p>
The reason is that winemakers interested in producing top quality wines, all share the same mission and ultimate challenge: to create wines that express what the French call terroir - a unique sense of place or ‘somewhereness’.
It is only when a wine expresses its terroir - the heart and soul - of its land and captures that magical and elusive sense of place that it becomes truly individual and truly great. One other essential ingredient is required: that of the deep connection between the winemaker and his/her grapes, a connection which goes far beyond its methods of production. As winemakers are discovering, biodynamic methods achieve all this and more.
Biodynamic preparations are uniquely fermented natural remedies and play a pivotal role in successful biodynamic farming and growing. There are 9 preparations in total, all with different properties, characteristics, and uses.
They are used to encourage humus forming processes in the soil; enliven and increase the microbial soil population; vitalise plant growth; and to harmonise life processes with that of its immediate and more distant surroundings. Their effects are primarily subtle and qualitative but profoundly important There are two main types:
The Lunar Calendar
Based on more than forty years of ongoing research by Maria and Matthias Thun into the influences of the moon, planets and constellations on plant growth, this astronomical calendar is now published annually by Matthias Thun. It is used to determine appropriate, planting, cultivating and harvesting times of crops, and is available to buy from our online shop. Click to learn more...
In depth articles
The future: beyond biodynamic
Biodynamics is constantly evolving. The development of the quantum sciences is providing a new generation of biodynamic thinkers and farmers with a powerful tool to better understand the complex web of connectivity between man, earth and beyond, and opens up new exciting possibilities for the agriculture of the future. Hugh Lovel, one of the foremost thinkers of the biodynamics, gives a glimpse:-
Biodynamic agriculture crosses scientific disciplines and expands the frontiers of science into realms where life processes and consciousness are generated. At one time this would have been dismissed as imponderable, mystical or, perhaps, delusional. Nonetheless the use of biodynamic methods - especially the biodynamic preparations - keeps increasing since biodynamics gets quality results.....
From Quantum Agriculture, Biodynamics and Beyond, Hugh Lovel,
To read more click here.