A Holistic Way of Understanding the Natural World
Biodynamics is a holistic approach to farming and gardening that takes organic principles to a whole new level. It is about much more than simply not using things like chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. While biodynamic farmers do follow organic practices, they expand upon these by managing their farms (including fields, woods, wetlands, plants, animals, and people) as an interconnected whole. A biodynamic farm is an “individuality” that reflects the unique qualities of its particular place, climate, and community.
Biodynamics is agriculture as stewardship, working with the ecological, ethical, and spiritual aspects of farms and gardens to restore the integrity of the natural environment to enhance the quality, flavor, and nutrition of food. Initiated 90 years ago through the work of Austrian philosopher and social reformer Rudolf Steiner, biodynamics is practices all over the world. Since the 1930’s, biodynamic practitioners have played a key role in the renewal of agriculture in North America — from helping to pioneer the early organic movement, to inspiring the work of Silent Spring author Rachel Carson, to starting the first community supported agriculture (CSA) programs in the U.S. in the 1980’s.
Biodynamic methods are designed to stimulate the farm’s inherent fertility, health, and terroir through the integration of crops and livestock, the restoration of on-farm biodiversity, and thoughtful cooperation with the influences of the sun, moon, and plants on the earth. Biodynamic farmers strive for a balance and diversity of crops and livestock so that the farm may become as self-sustaining as possible. In addition, they incorporate nine preparations made from fermented manure, herbs (yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion, valerian, and horsetail), and the mineral silica. They also learn from and adopt the lessons of alternative farming techniques from the wider sustainable and ecological agriculture community.
Beyond these practices, biodynamics is ultimately about a new way of seeing, understanding, and working with both the material and non-material aspects of our world. Toward this end, biodynamic farmers also work to develop their capacity to sense and observe the subtle forces at work in nature and to use their own insights to enhance the vitality of their farms. For this reason, biodynamic methods are not set in stone, but rather are in a continuous state of evolution and individualization.
To counter the growing depletion of the vitality of our food, farms, and communities by the modern industrial agricultural system, we need more than an alternative lifestyle movement. We need more than anti-GMO activism and a big toolbox of alternative farming techniques, valuable as those are. We need a revolutionary new way of understanding nature and the role of agriculture in the life of society. We need deep medicine for the land, for our communities, and for ourselves. Biodynamics offers a pathway into deep agricultural renewal. It is a way of seeing, a way of farming, and a way of creating community that restores the very heart of what it means to be human on earth.