Biodynamics meets this demand by offering an integral approach to agriculture and food production.
But what exactly does “renewable energy” mean, and how is it different than organic? Read on to gain more knowledge – the answers may surprise you!
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Demeter is a certification label that signifies products produced according to biodynamic principles. Demeter farmers strive to foster healthy soil, protect biodiversity and the environment while producing nutritious food products – creating life and vitality in all aspects of life for all involved!
Biodynamics draws its inspiration from Rudolph Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, visionary and clairvoyant who understood that the spiritual and physical are inextricably intertwined. Based on these beliefs he developed an agricultural management system to help cultivators create an ideal environment in sync with nature’s rhythms rather than trying to fight them off.
Biodynamic farming shares many similarities with organic practices, including forgoing synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides as well as GMO-free growing. Furthermore, biodynamic farmers utilize various preparations like mineral, plant or animal manure extracts that have been fermented before applying them directly onto plants to boost growth in an environment with varied environmental and cosmic influences.
Farmers seeking Demeter certification must adhere to stringent rules regarding the land on which they operate, including setting aside 10% for biodiversity conservation – this ensures the natural environment remains preserved and an ideal predator-prey relationship is preserved. Furthermore, biodynamic farmers must use their farm waste (compost or manure) as fertilizer on the farm itself.
Demeter USA, the sole certifier of Demeter farms and products in the US, conducts thorough audits on biodynamic farms to ensure compliance with its holistic standards for organic and sustainable agriculture. It has over 60 certified Demeter farms throughout North America.
Food labels may have introduced you to biodynamic agriculture on your grocery shopping trips. Biodynamic farms take an holistic approach, instead of simply taking from nature’s resources without giving anything back in return; their holistic practices promote sustainability while using natural methods of fertilization and pest control for maximum impact.
Rudolf Steiner is widely recognized as the pioneer of biodynamics. He developed an entire philosophy around biodynamics that involves farmers looking at the stars to determine when it was ideal to plant or harvest crops, along with compost preparations designed to increase soil health. However, Steiner was known as an outspoken racist in his lectures – biodynamic farmers now utilize an evolved version of his philosophy while distancing themselves from any racist biases present at his lectures.
Certified biodynamic growers must follow organic standards and set aside 10% of their land for biodiversity, using no synthetic chemicals and recycling animal and plant waste as on-farm fertilization sources. Biodynamic farms promote crop rotation and seed diversity as a preventative measure against pest infestation, using humanely raised livestock fed only organic feed.
Biodynamics also incorporates homeopathic preparations made of ingredients like cow horns, yarrow roots and horsetail tea that can be sprayed on plants to increase energy flow and help balance energy flows in the barn. Farmers may follow lunar calendars when planting and harvesting to maximize lunar effects on plant growth.
Demeter International organization established and continues to oversee this international standard since 1928. Their seal is often accompanied by organic certification marks to verify compliance with their standards of production and processing; also required is that at least 50% of animal feed must come from within their farm itself in order to avoid external pollution; plastic in greenhouses/hoop houses is forbidden altogether.
Biodynamic Soil Preparations
Biodynamic growing practice takes organic agriculture one step further by emphasizing biodiversity and intangible energies that pervade all living beings. Biodynamic farming also uses soil preparations that activate and balance crops with their environment and cosmic influences, so plants are able to absorb maximum nutrition while developing resilience against detrimental environmental influences.
The nine biodynamic preparations consisting of wild plant species combined with fresh cow manure are known as Horn manure 500, Horn silica 501, Yarrow 502, Chamomile 503 Stinging Nettle 504 Oak Bark 505 Dandelion 506 Valerian 507 and Equisetum arvense (Common Horsetail) 508. They may be added to compost heaps, field sprays or sprinkled on soil surfaces as part of an overall system for sustainable agriculture.
Preparations are aged underground in specific locations for an indefinite time before being diluted and applied directly to soil or compost pile. While horticultural academics dispute its efficacy, biodynamic farmers believe these techniques improve plant and soil health while strengthening natural organism defense mechanisms against disease and pests.
To prepare his preparations, a farmer assembles various raw ingredients, mixes them with animal manure and ground quartz, and packs the mixtures into various animal parts or shells. For instance, cow dung combined with crushed horns is packed into the inner cavities of a cow’s horn during fall fermentation for six months; once finished it can then be spread across fields as spring arrives for application to stimulate root growth.
Equisetum arvense (horsetail grass), collected a day prior to midsummer and boiled in water until its contents have formed a liquid called “horsetail tea”, is mixed and then applied directly onto fields as a spray solution.
Biodynamic agriculture relies on an enclosed loop system in which plants, livestock and soil all feed off each other to sustain life on the farm footprint – in contrast to industrial agriculture that depends on fossil fuels and synthetic fertilisers for fertilization. Biodynamic farmers strive to reduce their ecological impact through this approach while consumers can support this movement by opting for products from the Dirty Dozen list when shopping for produce.
With consumer demand for healthier, more nutritous food and an enhanced relationship between their food source and themselves growing stronger, biodynamic products have become more mainstream in stores. Not only are vegetables bearing this label showing up more often; also household and personal care items like soaps, shampoos, teas and wool have this designation. Biodynamic certification entails its own standards that complement organic certification – an inspection process from planting through processing as well as use of biodynamic soil preparations are all part of this certification system.
According to the Biodynamic Association, biodynamic farms in the US are experiencing exponential growth. According to their estimate, there are now around 300 biodynamic farms out of 21,781 certified organic farms. Biodynamic farms take an integrative approach to growing, which integrates agriculture with environment and culture while producing healthful crops rich in vitamins and minerals while enriching land with life. Furthermore, spirituality plays a central role in this movement with practitioners taking into account planet influences as well as spirits influencing plant development when making decisions regarding growth strategies.
Rudolf Steiner created biodynamic farming and food production philosophy during the 1920s with his agricultural lectures, which integrated scientific understanding with an appreciation of spirit within nature. He warned that failure to take into account cosmic influences could result in diminishing resources such as food crops. Therefore he proposed specific preparations designed to address this concern.
Though biodynamic preparations aren’t essential to crop production, they can certainly enhance its quality. A study published in 2005 in the American Journal of Ecology and Viticulture revealed that grapes grown with biodynamic preparations had higher Brix scores (a measure of sugar content) than those grown without them.
Biodynamic methods can enhance the flavor and nutrient density of fruits, vegetables, and other farm products, providing a way to combat an overall lack of interest for eating vegetables and fruit, which causes many adults and children to fall short on meeting daily intake requirements.