biodynamicWhat is Biodynamic Agriculture?

One of the core beliefs and practices of biodynamics is to help heal the Earth

The principles of biodynamic agriculture are outlined in a series of eight agricultural lectures given by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in Koberwitz, Silesia, June 7–16, 1924. Dr. Steiner agreed to lecture on agriculture after a group of farmers approached him for advice regarding the diminished viability of their seeds and decreased vitality of their livestock—observations that coincided with the end of World War I when left-over munitions were beginning to be used as agricultural chemicals. The farmers who came to Steiner were familiar with Steiner’s spiritual philosophy known as Anthroposophy (anthropo = “human being,” sophia =“wisdom, the inherent wisdom of humanity”), a philosophy influenced by his own clairvoyant view into spiritual realms—realms beyond the physical world. The eight agricultural lectures Steiner  presented in 1924 are rooted in Anthroposophy.

Steiner viewed Earth as a living organism and believed that the environmental damages caused by chemical fertilizers, toxic pesticides, and intensive farming methods could not be easily remedied. His ideas for helping heal the Earth were influenced by his early life in rural Austria, where he grew up around people who followed the rhythms of nature and relied upon herbal medicine for healing. Steiner’s formal education included philosophy and the scientific work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Though Dr. Steiner passed away in 1925, the seeds of biodynamic agriculture had been planted and since that time people around the world have been studying and experimenting with the biodynamic preparations.

In 1938, the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association (BDA) was formed, becoming the first organic farming organization in the United States. www.bda.org

Avena Botanicals is the first farm in Maine to be certified biodynamic by Demeter. We are excited and honored to be part of a growing number of biodynamic farms in North America. In 1997 we began using various biodynamic preparations, created by Rudolf Steiner in the early part of the twentieth century, to further enhance our soil fertility and the vitality of our herbs. We attribute the fullness, beauty, and health of our gardens to the biodynamic preparations, our home-made compost, and our hard work and love of gardening. We have been making the biodynamic soil preparation, BD 500, for several years, and have joined with other local biodynamic farmers to prepare the six biodynamic compost preparations. The compost preparations help our compost be more receptive to the larger cosmic forces radiating towards Earth and help regulate the mineral processes important for enlivening compost.  We have been following the Stella Nature Biodynamic Planting Calendar since 1986. This calendar guides our yearly seeding, transplanting, and harvesting activities and strengthens our connection to the lunar, solar, and seasonal rhythms.

Practices

The following biodynamic practices are ones I have incorporated into my gardening and farming activities for restoring the Earth’s vitality. These practices have enhanced my inner capacity for understanding and valuing the natural processes that support Earth’s life. The creation and use of the biodynamic preparations may seem odd until one understands and honors how integral the mineral, plant, and animal realms are in enhancing the ecological and spiritual health of Earth. Biodynamic farming offers humans a path to develop our inner capacities for helping our planet to be a place for life to flourish.

1. Regularly applying the biodynamic preparations, including BD 500 (horn manure) and BD 501 (horn silica), the six compost preparations (BD 502-507), horsetail (BD 508), barrel compost, the Three Kings prep, and the clay and cow dung prep for trees. I call these preparations Medicines for the Earth.

1. Using the biodynamic planting calendar as a guide for seeding, transplanting, and harvesting activities. Consciously working with the lunar, solar, and seasonal rhythms, the movement of the planets, and the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water.

2. Attending to soil health through the use of biodynamically prepared compost, BD 500, crop rotation, cover cropping, and mulching.

1. Recognizing and communicating with the spiritual presences and unseen life forces active in the garden, farm, forests, and wilderness. Honoring the ancestors and the nature spirits and elemental beings associated with place, plants, trees, birds, pollinators, and the four elements.

1. Closely observing the natural world.

1. Viewing the farm as a living organism and the gardener and farmer as an integral part of the farm organism. The gardener aims to bring together the varied cosmic forces, natural rhythms, and enlivening soil practices so that the plants can reach their full potential in flavor, fragrance, nutrition, beauty, medicinal strength, and spirit. Ideally a biodynamic farm is diversified and operates as much as possible as a closed system— meaning that the farm generates most of what it needs to function: seeds, seedlings, manure, straw, and hay. On Avena’s farm we do not have enough open farmland to graze cows or sheep or to make straw. The best we can do is purchase certified organic cow manure and certified organic straw from within 60 miles of our farm.

Helping each plant establish a relationship to the Earth and to the larger cosmos, which in turn supports the plant’s expression of its healing gifts

Bibliography

Berrevoets, Erik. Wisdom of the Bees: Principles of Biodynamic Beekeeping. Great Barrington, MA: Steiner Books, 2009.

Bockemuhl, Jochen and Kari Jarvinen. Extraordinary Plant Qualities for Biodynamics.

Edinburgh, Scotland: Floris Books, 2006.

Gunther, Hauk. Toward Saving the Honeybee. The Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association. 2002.

Klocek, Dennis. Sacred Agriculture: The Alchemy of Biodynamics. Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Press. 2013.

The Birth of a New Agriculture. Compiled and edited by Adalbert Graf von Keyserlingk. Forest Row, UK: Temple Lodge Publishing. Reprinted 2009.  

Lovel, Hugh. A Biodynamic Farm. Austin, TX: Acres U.S.A., 2000.

Masson, Pierre. A Biodynamic Manual.  Edinburgh, Scotland: Floris Books, 2011.
A book I refer to often.

Pogacnik, Marko. Nature Spirits & Elemental Beings. Forres, Scotland: Findhorn Press, 2009.
A book I refer to often.

Pfeiffer, Ehrenfried. Pfeiffer’s Introduction to Biodynamics. Edinburgh, Scotland: Floris Books, 2011.
Using the Biodynamic Compost Preparations and Sprays in Garden, Orchard, and Farm. Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 2002.

Proctor, Peter. Grasp The Nettle: Making Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Work. Auckland, NZ: Random House, 1997.
A good basic book.

Schilthuis, Willy. Biodynamic Agriculture. Edinburgh, Scotland: Floris Books, 2003.

Smith, Richard Thornton. Cosmos, Earth and Nutrition: The Biodynamic Approach to Agriculture. Forest Row, UK: Sophia Books, 2009.
A book I refer to often.

Soule, Deb. How To Move Like a Gardener: Planting and Preparing Medicines from Plants. Rockport, ME: Under the Willow Press. 2013.

Stella Natura.  (yearly biodynamic planting calendar) Published by Camphill Village, Kimberton, PA.

Steiner, Rudolf. Agriculture. Translated from German by Catherine E. Creeger and Malcolm Gardner. Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 1993.

Steiner, Rudolf.  Rudolf Steiner Agriculture: An Introductory Reader. Forest Row, UK: Sophia Books, 2009.

Steiner, Rudolf. What Is Biodynamics? A Way to Heal and Revitalize the Earth. Great Barrington, MA: Steiner Books, 2005.

Storl, Wolf., Culture and Horticulture: A Philosophy of Gardening. 1979. A classic that is still available and worth reading.

Wright, Hilary., Biodynamic Gardening: For Health and Taste. Edinburgh, Scotland: Floris Books, 2009. Beautiful photographs. A good book for someone completely new to biodynamics. 


Useful Links

Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association www.biodynamics.com,

Josephine Porter Institute  www.jpibiodynamics.org

Steiner Books  www.steinerbooks.org