Whether for foodstuffs, beverages, personal care products, textiles and the like, the biodynamic choice is becoming a much more prevalent and sought-out one. Now, as choices go, it’s not a matter of biodynamic versus organic, but rather biodynamic and organic. Both are tremendous choices for the sustainability and well-being of the earth and ourselves. The organic and biodynamic farmer/gardener both have a love for the earth and seek to nurture vital soil and plants. Neither system uses toxic, synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Nor do they include the use of irradiation, genetically modified organisms, or sewage sludge.
Biodynamic agriculture is based on a series of lectures delivered in 1924 (“Toward a spiritual renewal in agriculture”) by Rudolph Steiner, noted scientist, philosopher, and iconic founder of the spiritual science called Anthroposophy, which means “the wisdom of humanity” (www.anthroposophy.org). It’s important to note, that whereas in the USA, organic agriculture is certified according to the National Organic Program (NOP) put forth by the USDA, Demeter USA is the only certification agent for Biodynamic farms, processors and products (great info at www.demeter-usa.org).
What distinguishes biodynamic from organic agriculture is the way the earth is seen as a living, breathing, metabolizing entity. There’s a deep consciousness of the interconnectedness of all living things. Water provides the circulation system, the movement of the seasons acts as a pulse—expanding in spring and summer; contracting in autumn and winter, the soil and plants blanketing the landscape act as the skin. So it can be said that biodynamics honors the cosmic rhythms, the natural rhythms of the earth. These cyclical rhythms — circadian, seasonal, lunar and tidal—are reflected in the universe, the earth, and within our own mind-body physiology. Humans and plants evolve with an intimate connection to their environment, including the movement of the sun, the seasons, and the lunar cycles. In biodynamic agriculture or gardening, cultivation is done in accordance with these rhythms (I love my Stella Natura biodynamic agricultural calendar, which includes lovely essays, www.stellanatura.com). Aligned with this, the biodynamic approach harnesses the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water by classifying plants according to which part of them is most developed and harvested: fruit (fire), flower (air), leaf (water) or root (earth). Thus, as the moon passes through each of the 12 constellations each month, plants are worked on according to which ones the moon is currently governing. I am oversimplifying given space constraints; however, you’re getting a small flavor of the approach, which I hope inspires you toward further study.
As romantic as the biodynamic approach may sound, the “proof is in the pudding,” as my dear dad (and life-long farmer) would say. It must produce. And that it does. A biodynamic farm is self-contained and self-sustaining, totally responsible for creating and maintaining its individual health and vitality, free of any external and unnatural additions. The highly efficient use of the natural resources on a site makes for a tremendously cost-effective system of farming. Studies have shown that biodynamic farms have superior financial performance, for the single reason that inputs are much lower, so net profit is higher. The biodynamic approach is extremely productive and practically borne of the five universal or organizing principles: crop rotation, integration of animals, a highly defined system of recycling organic matter, the use of very specific biodynamic preparations (homeopathic “medicines” that feed the soil and plants), and the conservation of all natural renewable and nonrenewable resources. Combined, this forms a “closed system” in reference to the cycles of substances utilized on the farm. Many consider biodynamic farming the highest paradigm of sustainable farming, offering one of the smallest carbon footprints of any other agricultural method.
So, as water, minerals, and the natural successions of plants that grow are organized to receive maximum energy flow coming into a piece of property, the ultimate goal of biodynamic farming is realized. The individualness or uniqueness of that property—that highly vitalized piece of earth—is recognized in the quality of the product that comes from it. If you have not done so already, I encourage you to try a glass of biodynamic wine, or a salad made with biodynamic vegetables, a steaming cup of biodynamic tea, a biodynamic skin or body lotion. The quality is simply (yet outrageously!) stellar.
Please search the Internet for biodynamic products and visit the resources mentioned in this column, as well as the Biodynamic farming and gardening association (www.biodynamics.com) for more in-depth info.
Mary Beth Janssen is a highly respected beauty and wellness educator and a certified mind-body health educator for Deepak Chopra’s Chopra Center for Well-Being. She has authored five books, including Pleasure Healing: Mindful Practices and Sacred Spa Rituals for Self-Nurturing. To send her your questions, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.