Written by Brittany Shenk
Biodynamic Farming: Nurturing the Natural World
Farming is a complex, climate-dependent system that requires an immense amount of dedication and attention. Most people are familiar with the difference between organic and conventional farming; to put it simply, organic farming embraces nature’s biological processes, whereas industrialized farming attempts to control these processes, working against the advantages the natural world has to offer.
It’s always odd to me when I have a conversation with someone who believes that organic is a fad, just a “hippie movement”, or somehow inferior to conventional farming. I try to politely point out that organic farming is actually the traditional method for farming- that conventional farming came about during the Industrial Revolution. Organic agriculture encompasses both modern and historical methods of farming that incorporates nature’s energy cycles. But organic farms are more than just a system of growing and distributing food. These farms support more wildlife, insect and bird species, and diverse plant-life than conventional farms.
I think we can all agree that supporting organic farming is an effective way to help preserve the planet. But did you know there is a method of farming that takes organics to a whole new level? A level that listens to the land, cultivates and supports biodiversity, takes into account the phases of the moon, utilizes the cosmos, respects animals, and considers the farm one entire ecosystem?
Biodynamic farming is probably the coolest, most inspiring methods of farming I’ve learned about so far.
While I was traveling in New Zealand last year, my older sister, Ashley, and I stumbled upon a winery in the Nelson region that used biodynamic methods to create their wine. This was the first time either of us had heard the term “biodynamic”. As soon as the woman behind the counter mentioned planting and harvesting based on the moon phases, Ashley and I looked at each other, eyes dancing with wonder, and immediately started asking the tasting staff as many questions as we could to understand this magic.
Since then, I’ve conducted research of my own to fully grasp the depth and soul behind biodynamic farming. Biodynamic farming has been practiced worldwide for over a century and is a holistic, ethical, and ecological approach to not only farming, but nutrition, food, and gardening as well. This method of farming was developed in 1924 by philosopher and scientist Dr. Rudolf Steiner. He inspired farmers to recognize the spirit of nature and combine that with scientific, practical understandings.
In order for a farm to be certified biodynamic, it must be a certified organic farm as well. The overall goal is for the farm to be a closed-loop, balanced, diverse system, meaning that all inputs used during the process are created on the farm, rather than bringing in outside sources. One entire ecosystem that supports itself.
“Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals, and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality, and flavor of the food being raised. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant, and animal health.” – Biodynamics Association
The Biodynamics Association is an awesome resource for learning the basics about biodynamics. I spent quite a bit of time studying their list of Principles and Practices, and I wanted to share it here to provide an overview of biodynamic methods. They go into much deeper descriptions on this page, so if you’d like to know more about each of the topics below, set aside some time and go poke around their site. It’s full of valuable, inspiring information.
Biodynamic Principles and Practices:
- A biodynamic farm is a living organism
- Biodynamics cultivates biodiversity
- Biodynamics brings plants and animals together
- Biodynamics generates on-farm fertility
- Compost is enlivened with biodynamic preparations
- Biodynamics supports integrity and diversity in seeds and breeds
- Biodynamic sprays enhance soil and plant health
- Biodynamics treats animals with respect
- Biodynamics works in rhythm with Earth and cosmos
- Biodynamic certification upholds agricultural integrity
- Biodynamics approaches pests and diseases holistically
- Biodynamics contributes to social and economic health
- Biodynamics offers regenerative solutions for the future
Any method of farming that includes all of these factors is a system I want to support and learn more about. These farms are working in unison with Mama Nature, both giving and receiving in the process. I strongly believe this is how we should be growing our food – with love, respect, integrity, connectedness, and holding the land and universe as sacred.
I hope you take some time to find farmers in your area that are dedicating their time, minds, energy, and love to grow food in biodynamic ecosystems. This type of farming regenerates the natural world and sends lovely, positive energy back into the universe. And as an added bonus, with all that love and spirit, it absolutely tastes better, too.