Biodynamic agriculture is a form of alternative farming that brings many traditional, eco-friendly, and holistic farming strategies into one inclusive method. The main focus of biodynamic farming is to view the farm as a living organism. Treating the farm as one organism, or in today's words—an ecosystem, helps create symbiotic relationships that both increase outputs and regenerate the environment.(1) This form of agriculture has been adopted worldwide and is considered organic in most places around the globe.
Rudolph Steiner, a philosopher and scientist, born in 1861, created many theories around the idea of biodynamics. His earliest theory was known as biological-dynamic, and this name was given to the practice not by Steiner, but the people he taught.(1) The first English-translated copy of Steiner's book became available in 1938, about fourteen years after Steiner first started publicly speaking about his theories. The first course he delivered was in 1924, but he sadly passed away the next year. After his short run of courses, the only recorded information was from those who attended his lectures, so they banded together and created a group called the Experimental Circle to keep the knowledge alive.(1)
Steiner’s theory came from both a scientific and spiritual point of view. It stemmed from the holistic idea that everything is connected, encouraging farmers to utilize all aspects of nature, including plants, animals, soil, waste, and even the cycles of the cosmos, believing each element of this unique farming ecosystem has something to gain from the other. Scientific best practices, such as increased biodiversity, crop rotation, and cover cropping are also utilized in this regenerative cycle.
The goal of this interdependence is that the farm will become self-sufficient, needing no outside synthetic products, like pesticides and fertilizers. For example, a biodynamic farmer might produce their own kind of natural fertilizer. Cow manure can be collected in late autumn, then placed inside a cow horn and buried for about six months. When it is dug up, it will have transformed into a black, crusty substance called BD500.(2) This substance is then mixed with water and sprayed onto soil in order to keep it healthy and full of nutrients. Likewise, horn silica (BD501) is created by grinding up quartz, combining it with a paste, and then mixing it with water to spray onto plants. This is believed to enhance photosynthesis by helping the plants draw in light.(3)
The biodiversity of biodynamic farms is created by including many different types of plants and animals, which help keep the land healthy and plentiful. It creates habitats for natural predators of pests and prevents diseases common to a single type of plant from spreading.(4) It also invites a variety of pollinators to increase plant production. Healthy crops and pastures, can in turn, provide nutrients to animals.
Being self-sufficient also comes with the added benefit of carrying an organic label. The certified organic label is given to products that meet certain standards; they must contain at least 95 per cent organic ingredients to be labelled as such.(5) They typically fetch higher prices and demand, as people like to know where their food comes from and how it was made. Biodynamics meets these qualifications as it uses natural resources provided by the farm, from biodiversity, to self-produced fertilizer, to quart-aided photosynthesis. Since the farm is self-sustaining and no outside chemicals or processes are used, it is considered organic.
There are many alternative farming methods that are sustainable and viable, some use cutting-edge technology, while others return to more barebones farming techniques like biodynamics. However, people who use older techniques can still be competitive in one of the world’s largest consumer-driven markets. Biodynamics has a lot of knowledge and tested theories that encourage best practices that are safe for consumers while also carrying a certified organic label. As a result, biodynamics has seen a rise in use in Europe, where it originated, as well as a massive increase in the US. In 2017, there was a recorded increase of 16 per cent or 21,791 acres of biodynamic farming.(6) Alternate methods of agriculture are paving the way for a more sustainable and eco-friendly future, and biodynamics is no exception for creating clean, healthy produce for consumers.