Maria Thun's Gardening for Life
Hilary Wright's Biodynamic Gardening: For Health and Taste
At this point we actively and regularly practice and make use of:
In 2002, I finished the One Year Practical Training in Biodynamics Course at the Pfeiffer Center taught by Gunther Hawk and featuring a variety of other excellent lecturers and teachers.
I left that course inspired and and excited to start implementing what I learned and re-thinking and re-feeling what a farm actually is.
And now, in 2016, we are still farming using those Biodynamic Principles and Practices. And I feel like it is a good time to re-evaluate how we have been integrating Biodynamics. We have been asked by so many people questions like 'what is Biodynamics?' and 'how do you practice it?'. Hopefully this writing will help clarify what Biodynamics means to us, but truly the practice of Biodynamics is as individualized and as varied as each farm.
I've often heard people describe Biodynamics as a 'step beyond organics.' And I guess that's true, but it is not at all adequate.
I have also heard people say that organic growers are sustainable and thus put back into the land what they take away from it to grow food, and that biodynamic farmers are beyond sustainable and thus work to put back more than what they took while producing food. I like that description, but again there's more to it.
I think the definition of Biodynamics needs to be taken way beyond both of these interpretations. In regular, sustainable thinking, the 'stuff' being taken away from the land and then put back while producing food is usually considered to be obvious stuff like nutrients, minerals, etc. And replacing those things can be accomplished by simply buying a bag of fertilizer, or adding compost, or incorporating a cover crop, etc. But the Biodynamic farmer realizes there is more 'stuff' to be concerned about. A biodynamic farmer knows that the act of growing food, of creating a garden, or of developing a farm entity, changes the land, demands more from it on an intrinsic level, and requires special care.
Biodynamics began officially with the lectures on agriculture given by Rudolf Steiner in 1924. Steiner's views and insights on agriculture were a branching out of his philosophy/science called, Anthroposophy. Anthroposophy is a complex study, but one of its main tenets is that the aspects and forces of the life around us that might be considered spiritual are actually a part of the physical world. They are just not discovered through regular sensory perception.
Applying this idea to the plant world makes a lot of sense - biodynamic farmers are concerned with the stuff above and beyond the obvious. Biodynamic farmers want to nurture and develop the rhythms and life forces of all the parts of the food production garden. You might not see the life forces happening between layers of the soil, and we may not have the instruments and technology yet to physically study them, but in logically looking at cause and effect relationships, and opening your mind and perception to feeling the soil, you know that there are forces at work.
By layering on this extra layer of attention and consciousness, Biodynamic farmers feel that the food they produce is even more nutrient dense and tasty than organic food. A Biodynamic farm strives to be an entity unto itself, a sustainable closed loop system, as much as possible. Biodynamic farmers work toward reorganizing and addressing the various levels of natural rhythms and forces. One may call this spiritual in essence, but I think much of what many people may feel is spiritual in Biodynamics is actually in-touch-ness and simply being aware of rhythms and connections that are not obvious. And then again, maybe that is spiritual.
Embracing this type of thought process is what we consider makes us a Biodynamic Farm. It is something that evolves and changes hour to hour and year to year ... we also actively participate in more specific Biodynamic practices that have been developed and specified over the years since Steiner's Agriculture Lectures.