Farm Photos

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Burying a cows horn in the fall is a common biodynamic practice.
Sometimes at the supermarket or farmers market you come across products that say “Demeter Certified” or “Certified Biodynamic.” Biodynamics is a method of farming coined in the late 19th century by Rudolph Steiner. Steiner was one of those ‘outside the box’ type of people. Not only did he found biodynamic farming, along with some other visionaries Steiner founded the Waldorf Schools, he founded series of natural pharmaceutical companies which distribute natural medicines, he founded the Anthroposophical Society, he also contributed popular works in the areas of science and philosophy including: Truth and Knowledge (1892), The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World-Conception (1886) and Goethe's Conception of the World (1897).

At first glance I wondered, “how did this guy do it all?” It came clearer upon realizing his strong ties to Annie Besant and the Theosophical society. After writing an article about the philosophies behind Goethe’s fairytale, Steiner was invited to speak at the German Theosophical Society and soon after became very involved with them. Later he wrote a book titled Theosophy,

“This book, subtitled An Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge of the World and the Destination of Man, is a good starting point among the hundreds of books written by Rudolf Steiner. He sees a tripartate model of the individual here: body, soul and spirit, cautioning us that these are only approximate terms. In the course of this short two hundred page book we explore higher realities which have eluded the scientific method: planes of seething elemental spirits, zones wandered by reincarnating entities, and more abstract 'places' where Platonic Archetypes dwell. He explains how auras are one modality of these higher existences which we can view in our present form.”

Obviously Steiner was pretty esoteric… trained in the ways of thinking esoterically. So, it follows that biodynamics is a very holistic and esoteric method of farming. The main working idea behind biodynamic gardening is ‘the farm as an organism’ and ‘the organism as an interconnected network of other organisms.’ 

You are a network of organisms; “The number of bacteria living within the body of the average healthy adult human are estimated to outnumber human cells 10 to 1” – Science Daily, June 5th (2008). All of these other life forms colonize within us and they are essential to our well-being. The Earth, if thought of as an individual living being, is actually a network of interconnected organisms and ecosystems of which we are a part. And the garden, all of the insects, microbes, animals and plants are essential to its well-being as a whole.

Biodynamic Farmers follow organic principles: no pesticides, no chemical fertilizers. They use many well-known methods of organic food production like companion planting, cover cropping, legume nitrogen fixation and mulching. Biodynamic farmers take it farther than simply organic:

“Biodynamic farming involves managing a farm utilizing the principles of a living organism. A concise model of a living organism ideal would be a wilderness forest. In such a system there is a high degree of self-sufficiency in all realms of biological survival.  Fertility and feed arise out of the recycling of the organic material the system generates.  Avoidance of pest species is based on biological vigor and its intrinsic biological and genetic diversity. Water is efficiently cycled through the system.

While agriculture takes nature to a state that is one step removed from wilderness, the wisdom of the farmer that guides its course can reflect these ancient principles of sustainability.  The view of the farm organism extends beyond the fence line and includes the tangible and intangible forces that work through it.  Examples include the climate, inherent wildlife of the earth (above and below the ground), the light and warmth from the sun and the more distant astronomical influences.  Biodynamic agriculture attempts to harmonize all of these factors within a holistic, living farm system.  The food that results is very pure and true to its essence and provides deeply penetrating nutrition that is essential to an increasingly unhealthy human population.” –

Similar to Permaculture, these Biodynamic activists are saying that they use the forest as a model for designing the farm. However, I think that biodynamics commands more of a reverence for Nature as a spiritual entity than Permaculture ever attempted to. 

There are some very specific practices associated with Biodynamic farming, and in order to become Biodynamic Certified one must comply with the Demeter Biodynamic® Processing Standard. Demeter being the Greek goddess of agriculture, the very name of the certification reflects the ideologies of biodynamics. 

The Use of Preparations: 

A Biodynamic preparation being stirred.
“The use of the preparations is a requirement of the Farm Standard.  There are nine in all, made from herbs, mineral substances and animal manures, that are utilized in field sprays and compost inoculants applied in minute doses, much like homeopathic remedies are for humans.  Timely applications revitalize the soil and stimulate root growth, enhance the development of microorganisms and humus formation, and aid in photosynthetic activity.”

Where the Fertility Comes From: Must be produced on-site. This practice ensures that farmers aren’t depleting Natural resources but actually contributing to them.

“The Farm Standardinstructs that the foundation of the fertility system, and strategies for disease, insect, and weed control, must originate from the farm itself.  Fertility is generated via the integration of livestock, compost and green manure, nutrient catch crops, and careful crop rotation.  Disease and insect control are addressed through botanical species diversity, predator habitat, balanced crop nutrition, and attention to light penetration and airflow.   Weed control emphasizes prevention, including timing of planting, mulching, and identifying and avoiding the spread of invasive weed species."

In addition, farmers must set aside at least ten percent of their farm acreage as a ‘biodiversity preserve.’ This preserve might be natural wetlands, forest, riparian corridors and intentional insectaries. Now, just growing the food this way is one step,

“The crops resulting from a certified Biodynamic farm are themselves certified (for example Biodynamic tomatoes), but in order to produce a certified processed product  (for example pasta sauce) the product must be produced in accordance with the Demeter Biodynamic® Processing Standard.  There are fourteen different processing standard categories (compared to one for the entire National Organic Program), including wine, cheese, olive oil, dairy and body care.  The Processing Standard is very important because it guarantees an unbroken chain of accountability from the farm to the finished product, and delivers a product that allows for the integrity and purity of the agricultural ingredients to define it.”

The esoteric philosophies of Biodynamics founder, Steiner, ring throughout the practices and methods of the system. Biodynamic farmers have a spiritual connection with their land, their farm, their crops and animals. Each pile of compost is artfully crafted using methods akin to that of homeopathy. Each preparation is prepared with a meditative state of mind, and it is applied at a specific moment in astronomical time. Each crop is planted with respect to the positions and phases of the moon, planets and other astrological bodies in the heavens.  As above so below.

Further Reading:

Petherick, Tom. Biodynamics in Practice: Life on a Community Owned Farm: Impressions of Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch, Sussex, England. Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011.


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