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.
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. For biodynamics, farming is not a means to maximum production, but an ongoing dialogue with Nature. We consider the land we steward to be an ecological web of biodiversity; our role is to nurture this and help it reach its full potential, whilst balancing the needs of farming and growing with those of the natural world.
In biodynamic agriculture each farm or holding has its own identity, and is a self-sustaining organism in its own right, where its diverse activities and habitats strengthen and balance each other. The goal therefore for any biodynamic farm is thus to minimise external inputs; not stretch the land beyond its natural capacity; and for human activity to put back more than is taken out. The aim is resilience and regeneration.
Organic and sustainable farming systems aim to sustain nature and agriculture. In contrast, biodynamics is regenerative and transformative - it seeks to maximize health and vitality of soils, crops, and livestock, and through this human health, and to transform agriculture in a spiritual and holistic way.
Biodynamic agriculture supports and nurtures natural processes and recognises their interdependence. The aim of a biodynamic farmer is not simply to maximize production at any cost, but to work like the conductor of an orchestra, allowing each element of the farm to both to thrive individually and to work in harmony with the others.
How Do I Know
Look out for the Demeter trademark logo (named for the ancient Greek goddess of agriculture, fertility and abundance), which is the legal guarantee to consumers that food has been produced to international biodynamic standards. These standards meet and exceed EU organic standards. The Demeter brand enjoys unique worldwide recognition, representing organic integrity and vitality, it is the organic brand of choice in Europe. The rigour of the standards and quality of the food is fiercely upheld by each member of Demeter International.
Biodynamics is a worldwide movement, practiced on every continent. There are currently more than 5000 farms worldwide on over 180,000 hectares in 54 countries. 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.
Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) 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 and philosophy was '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. Research in biodynamic practice has been ongoing ever since.