Light of Day farm is Michigan’s (and North America’s) only certified Demeter Biodynamic TEA farm. Biodynamic farming methods, in a nutshell, are based on recommendations made by Dr. Rudolf Steiner, using a Lunar calendar as a guide to planting and harvesting, the application of certain homeopathic preparations, positive intention, and a sincere dedication and devotion to healing the Earth by exhibiting a reverence for the life of every created thing. We have seen incredibly positive results in soil vitality, and in the quality and quantity of our yields here since incorporating these ancient methods of farming wisdom into our practice. Old and New Testament scripture references many of the formal Biodynamic principles that Dr. Rudolph Steiner highlights in his lectures and his book, Agriculture, written in the 1920s. “Biodynamics is a holistic, sustainable form of agriculture that dates all the way back to the 1920s. It takes into account everything from the cycles of the moon and stars to the soil, plants, animals, and people, with the ultimate goal of making each garden or farm a healthy self-sustaining ecosystem.”-ATTRA
To learn more about Biodynamics, please read this very informative overview of the process by following on the ATTRA website.
In 1924 a group of European farmers approached Dr. Rudolf Steiner (noted scientist, philosopher, and founder of the Waldorf School) after noticing a rapid decline in seed fertility, crop vitality and animal health. In response, Steiner held a series of lectures that presented the farm as a living organism: self-contained and self-sustaining, responsible for creating and maintaining its individual health and vitality. This was in sharp contrast to the view of the farm as factory, able to boast production by importing chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, which was largely responsible for the observations of depleted vitality noted by the farmers who sought Steiner’s guidance. Steiner was one of the first public figures to question the long-term benefits of this manufacturing view of agriculture, to warn of its environmentally destructive practices, and to propose an alternative to chemical agriculture.
In 1928, following Steiner’s agricultural lectures, Demeter (named for the Greek goddess of agriculture) was formed in Europe to promote Biodynamic farming, initiating the first publicly organized promotion of “sustainable” agriculture. A certification system, defined by rigorous farming and processing standards, was implemented, making Demeter the very first ecological label for organically produced foods. Today, Demeter International remains the only internationally recognized Biodynamic certifier and consists of a network of individual certification organizations in 45 countries around the world. In the U.S. Demeter Association, a non-profit was formed in 1985 to promote Biodynamic agriculture here and is the sole holder of the U.S. Patent Office certification marks DEMETER®, BIODYNAMIC®, and DEMETER CERTIFIED BIODYNAMIC®. In order for a commercial farm or product to legally use the term BIODYNAMIC, it must have obtained certification through Demeter. The Farming and Processing Standards underlying the certification enable Demeter to protect Biodynamic agriculture and in doing so, to pursue its vision of healing the planet through agriculture.
Rudolph Steiner’s concept of “the farm as organism” was adapted in the 1940s by the English Baron, Lord Northbourne, an agricultural science teacher at Oxford University, who, inspired by Steiner’swritings, first coined the term “organic farming.” In the 1950s, influenced by the rise of Biodynamic farming in Europe, the American J.I Rodale popularized the term “organic” in his publication “The Organic Farmer.” Like its Biodynamic forbearer, primary importance was placed on soil health, eschewing synthetic chemicals, and encouraging the use of compost, cover crops, and holistic pest and weed management. However, there was a divergence from the fundamental view of the farm as an organism. In 2002 the USDA implemented the National Organic Program (NOP), defining the standard for organic food by focusing on allowed and prohibited materials- including the prohibition of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers- instead of the farming system.
Biodynamic® agriculture views the farm as a self-contained, self- sustaining ecosystem responsible for creating and maintaining its individual health and vitality without any external or unnatural additions. It is an integrated farming system that addresses the health of the entire property and maximizes the unique characteristics of each farm.
In practice, soil, plants, animals, and humans together create this image of a holistic living organism. On-farm recycling improves the individualizing character of the farm and includes the integration of animals and animal feeds, perennial plants, flowers and trees, water features, and composting. Farms reduce dependence on imported materials for fertility and pest control. Water conservation is emphasized. Specially prepared medicinal plants, minerals, and composted animal manures help increase the vitality of the products grown and further anchor each individual farm in time and place. Biodynamic farms are required to maintain at least 10 percent of total acreage as a biodiversity set-aside. Riparian zones, wetlands, grasslands, and forests: all are considered an integral part of the life of the farm. Biodynamic farming is a holistic land stewardship at its best. It is the highest paradigm of sustainable farming, offering one of the smallest carbon footprints of any agricultural method.
A distinguishing feature of Biodynamic agriculture is the use of nine preparations made from herbs, mineral substances and animal manures that are utilized in field sprays and compost inoculants applied in minute doses, much like homeopathic remedies are for humans. Timely applications revitalize the soil and stimulate root growth, enhance the development of microorganisms and humus formation, and aid in photosynthetic activity.
Farmers throughout time have realized that nature can be more fully understood by studying and integrating natural, cyclical rhythms as well as the gravitational pull of the moon on the earth’s moisture. Many Biodynamic farmers refer to the astronomical calendar when planning activities such as pruning, cultivating, harvesting, and spraying the preparations. This emphasis on the importance of qualitative observation rather than relying solely upon quantified data is an important holistic contribution to the field of sustainable agriculture.
The crop (for example, a tomato) that results from a certified farm is Biodynamic, but in order for a processed product (for example, tomato sauce) to be called “Biodynamic”, it must have been made with Biodynamic ingredients and processed in accordance with the Demeter Processing Standard. The intent of the Processing Standard is to protect against manipulation of the product as much as possible to allow for the identity of the Biodynamic agricultural ingredients used to come through. Although the number of Demeter certified products in the US market is growing quickly, worldwide Demeter has been recognized as a quality seal for many decades. Demeter’s product list includes produce, dairy, grains, wine, and distilled spirits, oils, coffee and tea, body care products, medicinal herbs, meats, and bread.
Biodynamic® agriculture is an ecological farming system that views the farm as a self-contained and self-sustaining organism. Emphasis is placed on the integration of crops and livestock, recycling of nutrients, soil maintenance, and the health and well-being of the animals, the farmer, the farm, and the earth: all are integral parts that make up the whole.
Following Rudolf Steiner’s agricultural lectures of 1924, Biodynamic farming took hold in Europe. In the 1940s, English Baron Lord Northbourne, agricultural professor at Oxford and Biodynamic farmer at his family’s estate in Kent, coined the term “organic” from Steiner’s view of “the farm as an organism.” In the 1950s, influenced by the rise of Biodynamic farming in Europe, the American J.I Rodale popularized the term organic in his publication “Organic Gardening.” Because of their allied history, both methods shared a focus on soil health, condemned the use of synthetic chemicals, and encouraged the use of compost, cover crops, and holistic pest and weed management.
Demeter was formed in Europe soon after Steiner’s lectures to promote Biodynamic agriculture in Europe through education and certification. In the US Demeter was founded in 1985 as a non-profit, and obtained the certification mark “Biodynamic®” soon after. In order for a farm or agriculturally based product to refer to itself as “Biodynamic”, it must have obtained certification through Demeter. This certification system has maintained, as its underlying philosophy, Steiner’s view of the farm as a living organism.
In 2002, with the growth of organic labeling in products across the country, the USDA ruled that a base market definition was needed, and launched the National Organic Program (NOP) to define organic standards and enforce them through federal law. There are national organic regulatory programs in Europe, Japan, Canada and other countries around the world.
* We recognize that many organic farmers embrace many of these practices and exceed the NOP standard.
For more information, contact Demeter’s Marketing Director Elizabeth Candelario by calling 707.529.4412 or by email at Elizabeth@demeter-usa.org
The following description was provided by the Biodynamic Trade Association:
The following description of Biodynamic Agriculture was provided by the Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association:
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 suggests 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, holistic 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 feedstocks, 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 holistic contribution to the field of sustainable agriculture.