What is Biodynamics?
About the land that we tend to...
Light of Day farm is Michigan’s (and North America’s) only Demeter Certified
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. It also FEELS pretty special here. If you've ever been here...you know what we mean by this. 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 Demeter Certified Biodynamic® agricultural practices, please read this very informative overview of the process on the ATTRA website.
BIODYNAMIC® AGRICULTURE AT A GLANCE
(courtesy of Demeter USA-Facebook: Demeter USA | www.demeter-usa.org| Twitter: @DemeterUSA)
HISTORY OF BIODYNAMIC FARMING
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.
HISTORY OF DEMETER BIODYNAMIC® CERTIFICATION
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.
THE ORIGIN OF "ORGANIC"
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® PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES
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.
USE OF THE PREPARATIONS
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.
ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR CONSIDERATIONS
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.
DEMETER CERTIFIED CROPS VERSUS PRODUCTS
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 DEFINITION
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.
ORGANIC vs. BIODYNAMIC®
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.
CERTIFICATION SYSTEM VERSUS REGULATORY PROGRAM
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.
KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN NOP ORGANIC* AND DEMETER BIODYNAMIC®
- NOP established in the US in 2002
- Demeter established in Europe in 1928, and in the US in 1985
Use of imported materials
- NOP permits imported organic fertilizers and pesticides
- Biodynamic® reduces imported materials by addressing its needs from within the farming system
Fertility delivered via a nutrient rich soil component, called humus, created by the:
- Integration of livestock
- Intensive use of green manure (cover crops are grown to add nutrients to the soil) and legumes
- Rotation of crops
- Application of field/compost sprays
Pest and Disease Control
- Creation of biologically diverse habitat encourages balanced predator-prey relationships
- Humus development contributes to insect and disease resistance
- Increased humus levels result in soil’s ability to store water
- Preservation of riparian areas emphasized
Livestock feed source
- NOP allows for organic feed imported to the farm from anywhere in the world
- Biodynamic® requires 80% of livestock feed be grown on the farm
- No specific NOP requirement
- Biodynamic® requires a biodiversity set- aside of ten percent of the total farm acreage
- NOP is crop focused and allows for a designated parcel to be certified
- Biodynamic® is farm-focused and requires that the whole farm be certified
- NOP processing standard is applied across product types and focuses primarily on ingredients used
- 12 Biodynamic® processing standards, developed for specific product types, require minimal manipulation so that the agricultural ingredients used define the product
* 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:
- Biodynamic agriculture seeks to heal the earth and her people.
- Demeter Certified Biodynamic products are highly respected in the marketplace worldwide for their vitality and flavor profile.
- The Demeter trademarks reflect the high standards for purity and the rigorous efforts Demeter Certified Biodynamic® farmers and processors have taken to obtain certification. Look for the Demeter Certified Biodynamic® certification marks! The word Biodynamic®, the Demeter® name, and the Demeter® certification marks are legally registered trademarks that assure consumers that foods and beverages have been grown and produced according to the strict Demeter standards for Biodynamic agriculture.
The Biodynamic method is distinguished from organic and sustainable farming methods by four key attributes:
- A Paradigm Shift in Thinking: The Biodynamic farmer thinks in terms of forces and processes whereas organic and sustainable agriculture farmers think in terms of substances.
- The Biodynamic Farmer Uses All Nine of the Biodynamic Preparations: The preparations are made following very specific methods. They are numbered and are used in very small quantities to homeopathically treat compost, soil, and plants. They include #500 Horn Manure; #501 Horn Silica; #502 Yarrow; #503 Chamomile; #504 Stinging Nettles; #505 Oak Bark: #506 Dandelion Flowers; #507 Valerian; and #508 Horsetail.
- Understanding and Use of Earthly and Cosmic Rhythms/Cycles: The Biodynamic farmer is attuned to the daily, monthly and seasonal rhythms of nature, for example, the effects of the new and full moons on planting seeds and plant growth
- Creation of a Whole Farm Organism: The Biodynamic farmer strives for this ideal, as described below. The farm depends on a minimum of input nutrients from outside the farm and, ideally, generates its own fertility through cover-cropping and the use of manure from animals that live on the farm.
The following description of Biodynamic Agriculture was provided by the Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association:
WHAT IS BIODYNAMIC AGRICULTURE?
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.