Mountain Creek Farms are members of Biodynamic Agriculture Australia.
What is biodynamic farming?Our home farm of 200 acres, and the Travelling Stock Reserve of 50 acres that we lease, have been treated with the biodynamic preparations since 2002. The neighbours' properties of 1,200 acres, on which we agist our cattle, are 'organic by neglect'. This means nothing has been done to them for at least 5 years that we know of. We commenced spraying out the biodynamic preps (500 and Cow Pat Pit / Barrel Compost) on the neighbours' areas in 2006.
Incidentally Biodynamics, like all movements, comes with 'baggage'. Some of this baggage is dogmatic and prescriptive. The worst of it revolves around individual interpretations of what Dr. Rudolf Steiner meant with his 'spiritual scientific' observations. So we have various 'guru' interpretations of the 'truth', complete with competing acolytes and followers, and ne'er the twain shall meet. If you practice one gurus interpretation of 'true' or 'real biodynamics' you are fon the wrong path according to the others. If you are an independent thinker and practitioner, you have obviously lost your way and have strayed from the light! And so it has been suggested by certain gurus that I will most certainly compost in biodynamic hell !!
It should be remembered that Dr. Steiner was a scientist, and what he said about his observations and intuitions was in effect, "Do not take my word for this, go and prove it for yourselves in the fields and with science". He then instructed several of his best students to do the 'hard sciences' (PhD's in chemistry, physics and biology), so that they could conduct replicable experiments to verify or reject his claims. Some 80 years later many of his claims are being confirmed as correct, as the science catches up with his observations/intuitions. However, we are still don't know why or how biodynamics works. This is because we appear to be enhancing or facilitating life forces, and will we ever really know why life exists?
In short you don't have to be a 'believer' in biodynamics for the system to work - follow the recipes, do the work required, and observe the results. You will see the results and judge for yourself. Biodynamics is equally applicable to the home garden as it is the farm.
Anyway, I was searching for words to explain what biodynamic farming is all about and why we farm this way. I found better explanations than I have time to write and the two articles below offer different perspectives.
Article 1Thursday, February 16, 2006
From 'Ask Laura' - February 2006
The HistoryThe principals of Biodynamic farming were introduced by Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolph Steiner in 1924 through a series of eight lectures in response to a group of farmers' observations on the negative impacts of chemical fertilizers on soil and livestock health at the turn of the century.
Steiner's work is often referred to as anthroposophy - or a new approach to science that integrates keen observation of natural occurrences, reflection thereof and knowledge of the spirit. In Biodynamics, this philosophy translates agriculture into a science of life forces and a kind of stewardship that addresses the farm as an entity with biological, spiritual and social needs and impacts. Let's try and break that down a little, shall we?
The BiologyAccording to Steiner, agriculture should be based on the ideal of a mixed farm where the animals are fed from crops grown on the farm and in turn those crops, along with food crops, are fertilized with composted manure from the same animals. A Biodynamic farm, at its base, imitates the self-sufficiency of nature. Animals are treated with great respect for their role in strengthening food production and in turn benefit by being able to eat grain and grass that is of the highest quality.
The technical applications of the philosophy are fairly complex. Similar to homeopathic medicines, Biodynamic agriculture calls for nine highly diluted preparations based on plant extracts, composted manure or mineral powders, which are numbered BD500-508. Three of these applications are applied to the roots or foliage while the remaining six are used in compost and soil development. These solutions promote growth or foster resistance to weather or disease. For example, the first of these standard preparations, BD500, which is made from cow manure that is fermented in a cow's horn for exactly six months, when used as a soil application will stimulate root growth while BD508, which is based on the silica-richhorsetail plant, suppresses fungal diseases. Green composting (the integration of plant clippings, roots or other green matter into the soil), crop rotations and cover crops also enrich soils in Biodynamic agriculture.
The ultimate goal of this intense stewardship is to produce abundant and completely natural food in a way that has a
positive impact on the land, soil and people.
The SpiritualityBy spirituality, and I know this can be a loaded word, I mean the interaction of the farm as a unique entity with the rhythms and nature of the universe. Some of this is a little hard to grasp but if you suspend your disbelief for a moment I promise that there is some really interesting material here.
Practically speaking, Biodynamic farmers plow, plant and harvest on a schedule that reflects the natural rhythms of the earth's rotation as well as the regular patterns of the sun and moon. Farmers refer to a guide called the Stella Natura to help identify the optimum time for each step in the life cycle of each crop. Through this careful stewardship, a farmer can maximize the vitality of the land and in doing so give respect to the spirit, or intrinsic uniqueness of the farm itself.
The Social ImpactSteiner considered the farmer or farm family one part of the farm entity. Accordingly, the care of the farmer as steward is just as important to the success and health of the farm as is proper planting techniques or animal husbandry. According to Biodynamic theory, if a farmer is not properly supported by his community as a whole, if he or she is tired, sick or over worked, then he or she cannot produce the best quality food possible for the consumer. Following this logic, it is in the best interest of the community to support each farmer that they buy from as a matter of personal investment.
Since this notion of mutual benefit, between the farmer and the consumer, is so fundamental to this philosophy,Community Supported Agriculture programs, where people can buy a share of a farm's total harvest in advance of the growing season, are very popular among Biodynamic farmers. In this way, consumers become a part of the farm as a dynamic entity. Their financial support helps to get the seeds in the ground and ensure that the farmer has a stable income.
Community workdays add an extra labor force to the farm staff and, most importantly, CSA members have access to fresh, healthy food for the duration of the growing season.
Alright, at this point, I am surely over my word limit. This is just an introduction to a very complex topic but I hope that it has piqued your interest.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Article 2, personal transmission after a discussion discussion with Hugh Lovel - author and biodynamic farmer
Consider the difference between biodynamics and ordinary agriculture.
It is an old truism that matter follows energy, and energy follows patterns. Some say energy follows thought, as thought is basically little more than dynamic patterns. Or you could say energy follows organization, as it either falls into organized patterns or it disperses. In fact, many psychologists consider that intelligence amounts to pattern recognition, and most IQ tests involve little more than pattern recognition, which is a quantum thing that involves mere virtual mass. So . . .
If you were building a sky scraper, you could pile up a heap of steel and concrete. You could even use a higher grade of these materials. Many conventional chemical farmers do just this, more or less. Do the materials by themselves produce much more than a heap or a mess of matter?
On the other hand if you had heaps of steel and concrete, a crew of steel and cement workers could put it together with a fair bit of skill. Now you have matter following energy, and you get real assembly instead of the mess you get if all that went into the equation was matter. However, without an architect the steel and concrete workers pretty much wouldn't get many floors up before things started falling in a heap.
What does the architect do? The architect sets the patterns in an intelligent way so that the workers and materials can follow the pattern. The pattern is abstract and amounts to just a tracing on paper or some digital code on a computer disc. This is the level of biodynamic workings. Even when it is not the quantum/virtual level, it is pretty close.
The biodynamic preparations are like the architect's drawings that the energy and materials conform to in order to bring a very complex edifice into being. You still have to have the energy of the workers and the physical materials to construct the building, but the pattern guides the whole lot. That's what biodynamics has going for it that other farming methods tend to miss out on.
© 2007-2012 by Michael Croft and Mountain Creek Farm, All rights reserved.