An Idiots Guide to Biodynamic Farming
If you are on the outside looking in, a lot of the terms used in farming are rather confusing. I popped to Farmacy restaurant in London a couple of weeks ago (farmacylondon.com) where the menu contained organic, practicing organic, biodynamic, sulphur free (this was wine of course, straight to the important things), low intensive….
But what does it all mean Basil?
The word that seems to be on everyone’s lips at the moment is biodynamic. I’ve been told and read all sorts. The farmers harvest with the moon, quartz is buried in the ground, rituals, magic, dancing starkers round holes in the ground (my kind of farming?)….
And if like myself you are any self-respecting member of society you type the word into Wikipedia, with the intention of referencing a well reputable source afterwards.
And that's exactly what I did.
“Biodynamic agriculture is a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but which includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). Initially developed in the 1920s, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements. (I take it this is the reputable source). It treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks, emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives.” – Wikipedia, about 5 minutes ago.
Ecological interrelation? Esoteric concepts? Mystical perspectives!? As a scientist I was left questioning, but my inner hippie was intrigued...
So on a trip to Plaw Hatch biodynamic farm a few weeks later I thought I would clear this up once and for all.
Sat round the fire one evening I plucked up the courage…..”Ummm sorry what does biodynamic actually mean?”
I thought I may be given dirty looks, booted out and blacklisted for uttering the words. But actually the guys were all rather helpful and gave me the low down.
Essentially biodynamic is organic but one step further. No pesticides, no chemicals, no GM but also viewing the agricultural land as a whole ecosystem. To compare against organic (as I was thinking they were the same thing), in organic you may grow, say, wheat. But you can still fertilize that wheat using components brought in from outside your farming ecosystem, even if they are still organic.
Biodynamic for example, would have their own animals fertilizing the land with their poop, pigs may plough and snuffle and dig, composts made on the farm nourish the land. Emphasis is on native and local breeds and varieties of animals, grains and vegetables. Basically you are working with and mimicking a native ecosystem, plus limiting inputs from outside your ecosystem. Thus increasing self sufficiency and cycling of nutrients.
One of the guys even said to me “it’s like organic+”, another said the cows are treated like kings, their poop is pure gold and paramount for the soil and land health.
Sounds pretty good to me. And I have to admit Plaw Hatch's food is utterly delicious.
Yes there are some farmers that put on loincloths and dance round pits filled with bones. But not all. Just the ones that grow a lot of their own hops ;)
It’s funny that we now have to gives funky names to what really should be just, well, normal farming. That’s how we always used to farm right? A variety of native plants and animals as they just grew best in that environment. After seeing how this farms runs and learning more about what they do, you can't help but feel this is the way forward for sustainable agriculture. Plus those cows are so damn happy.