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The Biodynamic Agriculture approach is the oldest green farming movement as a response to the Industrial and Mechanised practices. This holistic method was created based on the theories of Rudolf Steiner, the philosopher and father of Anthroposophy with the goal of achieving nutritional food quality without using any kind of; synthetic chemicals, artificial fertilizers, growth hormones or genetically modified crops, as well as focusing on overall soil health (Steve Diver, 1999).

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A flowering cannabis plant
A flowering cannabis plant

How did it come about?

The European economy completely shifted in less than two centuries, what once was  Agricultural lands rapidly shifted into becoming part of the Industrial rush. The First World War devastated more than families and homes, it severely affected the local Biodiversity. In 1924, farmers and researchers gathered together with Rudolf Steiner in Koberwitz to start what would become the book Agriculture:Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture (with eight lectures and five discussions that would guide the way for the development of Biodynamic practices. 

Many farmers were worried about soil depletion, the use of chemical fertilizers and how those practices played a role in the deterioration of the crops and livestock. This new approach brought the idea of recognizing the farm as a living resource and a self sustainable organism through different biological and dynamic practices, like: the use of green manures, cover cropping, composting, companion planting, integration of crops and livestock, tillage and cultivation as well as special compost preparations, foliar spray, planting by calendar, peppering for pest control, homeopathy and radionics (Steve Diver, 1999).

Organic tomatoes
Organic tomatoes

In 1924 the Biodynamic Movement was established, after a long period of War. This method made it possible to reconnect with Mother Nature and its cycles through sustainable gardening practices. A few methods might cause the impression it seems like witchcraft, taking into account the sun, moon and star cycles (zodiac). Even so, this sustainable approach is recognized and practiced worldwide being adapted to the rhythms of nature of any specific land and culture.

The Biodynamic way is often seen as organic farming, as much as it happens in parallel with it, this approach  brings the spiritual science that Rudolf Steiner developed and along with the holistic comprehension of the farm. Biodynamic farming works to achieve a balance between the physical and  the spiritual world (Steve Diver, 1999). While organic gardening does align with many of the practices of biodynamic agriculture, but fails to include the interconnected relationship between the individual and the plant, the planet, and the outside universe. By integrating not only the ‘spatial’ but also the ‘temporal’ facets of agriculture.(Maria Thun, 2000) Biodynamic practices includes both of these factors in its system. Biodynamic agriculture takes the implications of our practices further by asking us to recognize agriculture as a part of our natural system as a whole, and not apart from it.

Giant fan leaf
Giant fan leaf

Connection with cultivation

Steiners ideas to start healthy practices in the farm were based in keeping as self- sufficient as possible and empowering the individual farmers and their connection to the land.  He was the pioneer behind the philosophies that recognize the farm as a self sustaining living organism; holding space for cultivating biodiversity, bringing humans and animals together, while also making it possible to  create a regenerative and sustainable system of agriculture for future generations to come. According to Steiner the best way of healing damaged soil was with a special compost made using six medicinal herbs that are commonly used as a medicine to humans, animals, or both: yarrow, chamomile, dandelion and valerian flowers, stinging nettles, and crushed oak bark.

Organic carrots
Organic carrots

Another important person in the Biodynamic approach is Maria Thun (1922-2012), a German woman that dedicated a big part of her life to investigate and write about the connection between cosmic forces and the growth of plants. Thun did many experiments to develop what soon would become her calendar, dividing her cycle into 4 aspects: leaf, fruit, flower and root days. The simplicity of this system can be practiced either by experienced or beginner gardeners (Maria Thun, 2000). On her calendar she shows the optimal days for pruning, sowing and harvesting different plant crops. Her planting and sowing calendar has been published annually for more than 50 years. 

Scientific evidence

Happy lhamas
Happy lhamas

As much as the Biodynamic Approach is considered highly sustainable and effective, there is a lack of scientific evidence that makes this practice harder to be integrated, however it must not be forgotten that Steiner is bringing together the worlds of science and spirituality so a lack of empirical scientific evidence could be somewhat expected.

Some critics may also point to the metrics, citing other agricultural practices that produce more output per acre, more returns on investment, or more consistent crop yields. However these metrics fail to take into account the negative externalities that are not easily accounted for in their models. Because of this these models fail to account for exactly what biodynamic gardening is asking us to do. 

We must remember that everything we do is connected and the decisions we make have not only wide reaching physical implications but ethical, and spiritual ones as well. Biodynamic agriculture brings a recognition to this fact through its practices and the use of the lunar cycle exemplifies this perfectly. 

Through asking the farmer to look to the moon for guidance it illuminates our connection between things seemingly disconnected. The philosophies of biodynamic agriculture bring us to take our perspective wider and realize the interconnected nature of our universe in relation to our place in it. At its core practices biodynamic agricultural is not only science, but also a spiritual philosophy surrounding the ethical choices and implications behind our agricultural practices.

SOURCES:

John Paull. Ernesto Genoni — Australia’s pioneer of biodynamic agriculture. Journal of Organics, 2014 (pp.57-81).

Steve Diver — NCAT Agriculture Specialist February 1999. (n.d.).

Maria Thun  — Gardening for Life: The Biodynamic Way (Art and Science), 2000.

Biodynamic Gardening  — BK Publisher, 2015.

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