Biodynamic farming: You plant your carrots before the full moon, bury manure in a cow horn, and spray crops with a preparation of ground quartz. It sounds esoteric, to say the least, but a comprehensive article in Ode Magazine describes how biodynamic methods are catching on with small-scale food producers disenchanted by the increasingly corporate culture of organic farming. The author, Jay Walljasper, traces the origins of the movement back to one Rudolf Steiner, an early-20th-century philosopher and founder of the Waldorf education method. Steiner wasn’t a farmer, but like many he reacted against the mechanization of food production. To organic fans, his rhetoric may sound familiar, if a little “spiritual.” From a UK biodynamics website:
At the heart of biodynamics is the ideal of the farm as a self-contained, mixed farm providing its own seeds, fertility and feed for a wide range of different animals and a range of environments from ponds and hedges to orchards, woods and pasture. It is the art of the farmer to develop the right blend of animals, crops and environments to encourage bird and insect life and to provide a harmonious and sustainable balance for each particular holding. In this sense each farm becomes an ‘individuality’ shaped by the inter-relationship of the farmer and the land.
Biodynamic farming eschews monocrops, advocates planting on a lunar cycle, and is centered around soil management through a series of seven composts that incorporate medicinal herbs such as yarrow, nettle, or chamomile, mixed with water, peat, deer bladders, or cattle intestines. To a biodynamic farmer, the farm “isn’t just a place to produce food; it is a convergence zone for cosmic forces that work on the plants, animals, soil, microbes, and—maybe most importantly—the farmer,” journalist Novella Carpenter wrote in a November 2007 article about biodynamic farming for Mother Jones. Carpenter put in a stint at Live Power Community Farm, which has been biodynamic for 30 years. According to the article, there are 102 biodynamic farms in the United States and 40 biodynamic wineries, and the number is steadily growing.
Aside from discontent with organics, one reason for the increase may be that the food grown on biodynamic farms is reportedly astonishingly tasty (“more intense, complex,” writes Walljasper; “richer,” says Carpenter), and chefs are taking notice. David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos, California, gets all his produce from the biodynamic Love Apple Farm, and Jean-Luc Rabanel of L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel in Arles, France, runs a biodynamic farm to supply his restaurant.
Have you tasted any biodynamically grown produce, and if so, did it strike you as different?