Last July I had the great pleasure of visiting Germany and Austria as an organic ambassador with the Foreign Ag Service. As I interloped between embassies and ministries, I was able to savor the hearty cuisine and imbibe the most precious wines and beers. What I came to discover during my culinary indulgences was that almost all of the organic faire was Biodynamic. I soon learned that this wasn’t just another organic certification but an entire philosophy, one that beholds the farm as a healthy, living, breathing organism. The very nugget of Biodynamic is that the farm can be a self-contained and self-sustaining entity, responsible for creating and maintaining its own individual health and vitality.
The history of Biodynamic begins in the early 20th century, when the second industrial revolution, like a drove of bison, came stampeding across land. Throughout Europe and North America thundered iron and steel, railroads and coal. Hot blast, flue gas, blast furnace wrought iron, the world was a veritable factory—even farming was treated as such. Increase yields by outside manipulation; churn food out through mass production.
The notion of the factory farm had taken root with the goal of boosting production with chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. A few keen European farmers soon took note that something was amiss. A decline in seed fertility, crop vitality and animal health was manifesting at an alarming rate. They turned to Rudolph Steiner, a philosopher, reformer, mystic and the creator of Waldorf education; he sought to connect science and spirituality.
Rudolf Steiner believed that factory farming would fundamentally debilitate the soil, water, natural landscape and even humans themselves. He imagined an agrarian stewardship for future generations. In a series of lectures, named “The Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture”, Steiner outlined his eloquent theory connecting healthy farms and healthy food. He envisioned farms as vibrant living organisms—not factories—that were self-sustaining, responsible for creating their own health and vitality. The concept that healthy farms produce healthy food that contains essential energy will enable people to realize their full potential.
This small group of European farmers followed his lead. In 1928 the Demeter standard was created to ensure Steiner’s farming methods would be uniformly followed and monitored. Thus the very first organic standard was born, appropriately named for Demeter, the ancient goddess of grain and agriculture. It grew to 1000 farms by 1931 and today is the oldest and only ecological certification association celebrated in 61 countries.
In the US, Demeter USA certifies to the National Organic Program standards but brings Steiner’s brush of sanctity to the certification palette. The Biodynamic farm must recirculate all its green matter, clippings, shells and husks, intermingled with animal waste and microbial magic to foster its own fertility. Plantings may proceed with the moon cycle, and harvests are perfected by the same waxing and waning.
The entire farm is certified to the standard, not just one particular production area.
A bit of the wild side must be maintained in that at least 10 percent of the certified entity is set aside to behave and flourish in its natural state. Pests and weeds are not fended off with an arsenal of chemicals; they instead nurture the natural autoimmune system of the farm’s extended body. Its soil, water, leaves and fungi, native flora and fauna all play an integral part in this passionate play.
The notion of sacred balance inhabits the being that is the Biodynamic farm.
On the surface, this may appear to be just a flamboyance of agrarian peacock feathers, a throwback from a time of esoteric reactions to an ever-mechanized world.But the beauty of the process is reflected mightily in the taste of the food that comes from these farms.
If you dare to check my theory, seek out some of their brands that bear the Demeter-certified label. Sit down with the precious bag, with a whiff and a sigh open up and savor the flavor of vitality. Take a screw to the lid and dip into the nectar that a whole system organic farm can create.
It’s not just the farm that creates delicious Biodynamic products. The manufacturing and processing are also taken into measure with 16 unique and distinctive certifications in play. I dare say it can be a daunting journey to create a Biodynamic jam, juice, wine or coffee. Thus the cost in your purse is a bit more, but the dance of delight on the tongue is worth the extra shekel.
Perhaps the effect on our natural bodies is affected as well. Does the vibrancy and health of the soil, water and corporal being have a meaningful effect on our very cellular vibration? Rudolf Steiner would posit it does!
I once was a biodynamic neophyte. So too most consumers don’t understand what Biodynamic means, nor do they grasp the synergies of soil and human health. They may not understand that the practices lead to healthy vibrant soil that sequesters carbon helping to mitigate climate change.
But as they begin to explore and taste those exquisite murmurings, I believe Biodynamic has a bright future in the aisles and end caps of our markets.
Go on, give Biodynamics a try. Let me know how it tastes and makes you feel.
The moon is always right to savor the magic of Biodynamic.
Click here for a list of Biodynamic products.
Keep an eye out for the first online source for Biodynamic products that can be delivered to directly to your door.
3 thoughts on “The Rich History & Bright Future of Biodynamic”
Thanks Melody, excellent article. I was surprised to see on the map there appears to be only one Demeter certified farm in Santa Cruz County (Love Apple Farms), I was expecting to see more
Yes, that is a surprise. They are one of my neighbors and their produce is outstanding!