The information on this page will help you understand the background behind organics and biodynamics, how and why some businesses/farms claim to be organic or biodynamic, and some simple questions you can ask to determine if they are really biodynamic, or just “pretending“.
Organic certification is when an organic certifying group audits a farm to ensure that they comply with national or international standards. Basically, it sets the bar at a certain height on a range of things. Among other things, certifying bodies ban the use of artificial chemicals. They also prohibit bringing animals or feed that has not met the same standard onto the farm (or selling it as “organic”).
Biodynamics is organics taken to a higher level. It is a type of organic farming that produces food the way nature intended. Farmers use a range of methods including biological activator preparations to enliven the soil and plants, and do not use artificial chemicals on the animals, plants or the soil. Demeter is widely regarded as the premier certifying body for biodynamic farmers. A Demeter certified farm follows the national organic standard as well as the Demeter biodynamic standards.
Biodynamics takes all the influences on the plant into account. Farmers try to balance these influences so that the plants can grow naturally to their full potential. The health of the animals depends on the health of the plants on which they feed – just as our health is influenced by what we eat.
Biodynamics was first developed in the early 1920’s when a group of farmers, concerned with the decline of the soil, sought the advice of Dr Rudolf Steiner. Steiner was the founder of anthroposophy and had spent his life researching and investigating the forces that regulate life and growth. From a series of lectures and conversations held at Koberwitz, Germany, in June 1924, there emerged the fundamental principles of biodynamic farming, a unified approach to agriculture that relates the ecology of the earth-organism to that of the entire cosmos.
Biodynamic farming looks upon the soil and the farm as living organisms. It holds soil life as essential to sustainable farming. Biodynamics begins with the concept that all parts of the farm work together as a single entity, with farm development being largely driven by the life in the soil.
Enhancing soil life is also necessary to protect the soil from erosion and to increase the humus content. The result will be a fine, crumbly structure containing the necessary organic colloids. This leads to the production of high-quality crops, which in turn means better feed for livestock and better food for human beings.
Biodynamics stimulates healthy soil life and builds humus using a variety of methods. The most important of these is the application of BD500, a unique natural soil activator, which is sprayed on pastures and crops each Spring and Autumn under certain conditions that maximise soil uptake. See the photos of our BD500 spraying gear in operation in the photos of our farm section. Other biodynamic preparations (numbered BD501 to 508) are made for specific purposes. Other commonly used techniques include spreading organic manure and compost, crop and livestock rotation, by proper working of the soil, and protective measures such as wind protection. It also includes cover crops, green manure, and diversified crops rather than monocultures, and mixed cropping so that plants can aid and support each other.
Proper crop rotation is also necessary in order to preserve the fertility of the soil. The general rule is that soil-exhausting crops such as corn and potatoes in the paddock, and cabbage, cauliflower, etc., in the garden, should alternate with soil-restoring crops such as members of the leguminous family (peas, beans, clover, etc.). Furthermore, deep-rooting crops should alternate with shallow-rooting ones, and crops that require manure should alternate with those that can do without.
Proper working of the soil includes using the right implement at the right time at the right depth, whether it be ploughing, harrowing, or soil aeration. The ultimate goal is to improve soil structure and depth, and thus soil life and health.
Biodynamic agriculture is a way of living, working and relating to nature. It combines basic common-sense practices with a holistic consciousness of the landscape. Commonsense practices also include striving to be self-sufficient in energy, fertilizers, plants, and animals; working with nature’s rhythms; using diversity in plant, fertilizers, and animals as the building blocks of a healthy farm.
There are some who claim to be organic, or even biodynamic, but are not certified. To read more about this, as well as some questions to ask to help you spot a fake, please visit this page.