I get to meet a lot of really cool people in my day job (Eco Expert for The Marilyn Denis Show), I recently met a lovely woman, Leanne Monaghan, she was chatting to me about life on a biodynamic farm, I was very intrigued and asked her to write about what is the Difference Between Organic And Biodynamic Farming?
Most people these days are somewhat familiar with Organic Farming but may not have heard about Biodynamic Farming. Essentially Organic Farming is the practice of producing food without the use of pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). Biodynamic Farming is a step above Organic Farming by working with the “life force” of Mother Nature to heal the earth and grow nutrient-dense foods without the use of chemicals.
It’s a holistic approach that combines the connection between the farmer, soil, plants, animals and the cosmos. BD farmers strive to reduce the volume of imported materials to the farm in favour of working with the farm's own resources which include water and biodiversity.
Biodynamics, in theory, creates an environment so full of vitality that plants and animals are better equipped to protect themselves from disease and predatory insects. It’s like building your health – are you interested in popping pills for your cure or are you invested in living well to prevent illness?
Biodynamic Farming was developed in the early 1920s by Rudolph Steiner – most famous for his contribution to the Waldorf schools. The premise behind BD’s is the interconnection between all elements of the farm.
Each aspect of the farm is dependent on the other. The farm animal’s manure, green matter, and even weeds are carefully composted, heated and fed BD preparations to produce nutritious soil that is then spread back on the fields as a fertilizer. This enriched soil then provides food for the plants, the animals, the orchards, the vineyards, and people. The BD farm’s pastures, fields, forests, and wetlands then give a healthy home for beneficial insects, birds, bees and other wildlife.
Another unique aspect of a BD farm is that they sow seeds, transplant, cultivate and harvest by the phases of the moon. A special calendar is used to guide and instruct the farmer as to plan and work the garden fields so that plant growth is supported by the power of the moon. On the flip side, there are times indicated on the BD calendar when the planets, the moon, and the sun are crossing orbital paths and it’s during these times it’s unfavourable for planting.
Each month these unfavourable times are indicated by grey. BD farmers claim that by avoiding these “grey” times for planting has eliminated the occasional crop failure even though the weather seems favourable! For the home gardeners out there, you can download a free Biodynamic Calendar for your planting pleasure.
What is Demeter Certification?
Firstly, all BD farms must be organic, but the Demeter requirements exceed Organic and Government-mandated regulations. Demeter certification examines the volume of imported materials to the farm and requires every farm to adhere to specific procedures to strengthen the life processes in the soil and foodstuffs.
BD farms must set aside at least 10% of their land for biodiversity, which means more variety of forage for the bees and other pollinators. It’s these pollinators that help grow crops.
In Canada, we have 30 Demeter Certified Biodynamic Farms. Many farms listed in the Society for Biodynamic Farming and Gardening are Organic Farms transitioning to BD farming. Southbrook Vineyards from Niagra-on-the- Lake is the first winery in Canada to have its vineyard certified by Demeter.
Why Does it Matter?
These days there is a movement to know where our food comes from and how it’s grown. When you source out Biodynamic products you know you’re supporting farmers who grow food with the big picture in mind: environment, animals, plants, and people.
Biodynamic Farmers are holistic practitioners whose sole purpose is to heal the earth.
On a Personal Note:
Over 20 years ago I lived on an organic farm that used biodynamic practices. The Biodynamic portion of the farming practice was foreign to me. It was strange to see cow horns being buried in the ground, the BD preparations that would be added to the compost, stirring water for hours and during the “grey” times according to the BD calendar how the farm would go silent.
I often would poke fun at these odd practices but truly the vitality and quality of the food produced were superior. In hindsight, it was a privilege to witness the passion and dedication of those special people who lovingly tended the land. Biodynamic products will always have my consumer dollar vote!
Thanks for sharing Leanne.