Transitioning to Biodynamic Agriculture
April 14, 2013
What is Biodynamic® Agriculture?
Dr. Rudolph Steiner (scientist and philosopher), in 1924 gave a series of lectures to a group of European farmers after they noticed a decline in the health of their farming systems. During the lectures, Steiner presented the farm as a living organism: self-contained and self-sustaining, maintaining its individual health and vitality. This view was very different from the view of a farm as a factory, which relied on chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
Biodynamic® agriculture views the farm as a self-contained, self-sustaining ecosystem. It is an integrated farming system that addresses the health of the entire property and maximizes the unique characteristics of each farm such as the integration of animals, animal feeds, perennial plants, flowers, trees, water features, and on farm composting. Biodynamic farmers strictly avoid all synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms. Biodynamic farmers instead look for solutions within their farm and promote farm-generated, living solutions to pest control and fertility and set aside a minimum of 10% of their acreage for biodiversity. The health of all parts of the farm, including animal health, the health of the farmer, the farm, and the Earth are all parts of the “farm as a whole organism.”
Unique to Biodynamic® agriculture is the use of nine preparations made from herbs, minerals, and animal manures are used in field sprays and compost inoculants applied in homeopathic like doses. Applications of the preparations stimulate root growth, enhance the development of microorganisms and humus formation, and aid in photosynthetic activity among other things.
Many Biodynamic® farmers refer to the astrological calendar when planning sowing, transplanting, harvesting, pruning, and spraying the preparations.
What are the differences between Organic Certified and Certified Biodynamic® (Demeter)?
In addition to the basic requirements for organic certification set by the NOP (National Organic Program) there are other requirements set forth by Demeter, the Biodynamic certifier.
- On farm fertility from the integration of livestock, green manures, cover crops, crop rotation, preparations and field sprays.
- Pest and disease management through the creation of biologically diverse habitats to encourage healthy predator/prey relationships. Healthy soil and humus are developed to help with disease and insect resistance.
- Water retention is encouraged through healthy soil and preservation of riparian areas.
- 50% of livestock feed must be produced on farm.
- 10% of total farm acreage must be set aside for biodiversity requirements.
- Biodynamic® requires the whole farm to be certified as opposed to designated sections.