Thursday, 13 August 2009

Organic Tip # 4: What is biodynamic farming?

I like to think of biodynamic farming as organic +. It encompasses the same principles as organic farming - no synthetic or artificial pesticides, no genetic modifying, no antibiotics and humane treatment of farm animals. However, biodynamic farms go one step further. It uses a holistic philosophy that believes everything is interconnected, plants, animals and the solar system. Makes sense right?

Founded in the 1920's by Rudolph Steiner, biodynamics (biology + dynamic) differ from other farms in the use of 9 homeopathic preparations that are applied to the soil, plants or compost. Some of these preparations include manure fermented in a cow's horn over the winter and then applied to the soil in the spring, Silica (often used in homeopathy) also fermented in a cow's horn over the summer months, or to control disease, a mixture made from horsetail is applied to the plants. Other common ingredients used are: chamomile, yarrow, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion or valerian flowers.

Importance is put on the quality of the soil, biodiversity (not mono-culture as seen on large factory farms. Thus you will never see a biodynamic farm that just grows one crop), and crop rotations to control pests and eliminate fertilizers. Biodynamics strives to create healthy plants by replenishing the soil, adding vitality to the plants and enlivening animals.

Astrology is also an important aspect of biodynamic farming. Steiner believed that nature's rhythms (such as the phases of the moon) affects planting, growing and harvesting. Calendula, for instance, according to biodynamics, must be harvested by hand in the early morning. This is when the energy of the plant is at its peak. Biodynamic farmers have complex astrological charts which indicate when is best to plant and harvest each crop.

Intrigued? I hope so. Biodynamic farming not only reduces environmental degradation, but also incorporates spirituality and the cosmos in farming and its products. The video above is a quick shot of my local biodynamic farm. Do an EcoSearch for a local biodynamic farm near you. If you're not fortunate enough to have a biodynamic farm near you, there are a few products available online (and maybe in your health food store) that follow biodynamic philosophies.

Weleda is probably the best known biodynamic product. It's widely available in Canada, and I really like their products. I use Weleda's calendula lotion (it's actually in their baby product line). It's great for healing wounds and it's gentle on my skin. My local biodynamic farm sells Weleda products.

Zhena's Gypsy Tea is also another certified biodynamic product I've seen popping up in health food stores. I haven't personally tried any of these teas yet, but I like the reusable tins they come in and the flavours sound delicious.

"But how will I know it's biodynamic?" I can hear you all asking. In Canada and the US Demeter is the only certifier of biodynamic products. Look for their logo!

To read more about biodynamic philosophy and farming visit the Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association, a US-based non-profit organization that promotes and provides education on biodynamics.

My info source: Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada


Mary Mo said...

Very cool. I wish I had a farm here near me :(

Shanghai Monkey said...

Hopefully one will 'sprout' up near you ^_^

earthmother said...

When I lived in upstate NY, I used to enjoy visiting the Hawthorne Valley Farm and School. I love that the Waldorf curriculum helps to foster a healthy relationship with the earth, its cycles and seasons.

Shanghai Monkey said...

I know - aren't Waldorf schools totally awesome! I'm just beginning to learn about their curriculum ... I love that they teach knitting and the students make their own textbooks. The school was started by Rudolph Steiner, so biodynamics is a big part of their classes.

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