Biodynamics is the oldest so-called green agriculture movement. It was devised by Rudolf Steiner of Steiner-Waldorf school fame in 1924, twenty years before the organic agriculture movement began. Steiner first described biodynamics in a course called Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture, or Agriculture for short. A hundred-strong group of farmers, vetinarians and others whose livelihoods depended on the land attended, because it was they who’d asked Steiner to help stop a decline in the health of their soils, crops and livestock.
Steiner said the real problem was recent industrial advances like man-made fertilizers and the replacement of farm animals by machines. It was as if farmers had lost contact with their farms, that rather than improving things technology was getting in the way, making farmer harder than it need be.
Steiner said that as farms, farm animals and the food farmers produced became weaker and more disease-prone, inevitably society as a whole was become weaker too, not just in body but in mind or spirit too. In short, what Steiner was saying we are what we eat, so if humans want to survive and prosper it makes sense to keep our farms and food healthy, not de-nature or poison them with quick-fix technologies we may live to regret.
Steiner said science and technology were good things, but that said a change in the mindset which held science and technology alone had all the answers was needed.
To get ourselves back in good physical and mental shape we needed to produce and eat food which was more vital, more forceful. That meant making our soils, crops and animals more vital and forceful too. In his Agriculture course Steiner devised a Biodynamic roadmap for this change and which has three main pillars:
- Steiner explained that unhealthy crops were a natural result of farming becoming more mechanised and monocultural as farms specialised in just a single crop. He said farms should be more polycultural, growing a mix of several types of field crops, fruits and livestock with enough wild habitat for a natural balance. With the right balance of crop plants and animals (livestock), all green waste and animal manure could be recycled as compost. Putting this home-made compost back on the soil made environmental and economic sense, and would keep the farm and its crops healthy, balanced and vital. The result, said Steiner, would be each farm becoming its own self-sufficient, self-sustaining living organism.
- Biodynamic farmers should think of their farms as part of a much larger eco-system, as part of the wider universe, said Steiner. Timing tasks like vine pruning, soil tilling, grape harvesting, and even bottling wine according to lunar and other celestial cycles would produce crops more in tune with both their surroundings and the celestial forces that shape them.
- Finally Steiner suggested biodynamic farmers keep their crops vital, healthy and well formed by imbuing them with what he called natural “life forces”. For this Steiner suggested farmers use nine preparations unique to biodynamics. These are based on cow manure, the mineral silica (quartz), and seven medicinal plants: yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion, valerian and common horsetail (Equisetum arvense).
The methods used to make some of the preparations may seem strange initially but are neither hi-tech, expensive, costly environmentally nor potentially harmful. Anyone, even children can (and do) make these preparations. The biodynamic preparations are not patented so they can never realistically be made purely for profit; and they seem to get good results, both for farms and for farmers. This may be why Agri-Business which relies on selling products to farmers sees Biodynamics not just as Muck and Magic, but a real threat to their sales because it is so geared to making farmers self-sufficient, self-reliant and self-sustaining. Greater detail on how the biodynamic preparations are made and used appears below.