Farming That Heals
Biodynamic agriculture is “alternative medicine” for the Earth
Way back in 1924, philosopher Rudolph Steiner gave a series of eight lectures that were remarkably ahead of their time. Addressing farmers, Steiner expressed his concern about the long-term environmental impact of recent agricultural changes, which included the advent of chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides. According to Steiner, these chemicals would damage the Earth: depleting the soil, producing fruits and vegetables with diminished nutritional content and, ultimately, harming all life on the planet. Over 80 years later, it’s clear Steiner was on the right track.
In addition to recognizing this devastating biological potential, Steiner believed chemical agriculture would create an imbalance of the planet’s “life force” energies—a philosophy that resonates with today’s energy-based alternative health modalities and “living food” diet trends. His solution to the chemical conundrum? Biodynamic agriculture.
Bio refers to this system’s sound, proven biological processes, akin to organic farming; dynamic refers to the practice’s incorporation of more elusive energetic influences. Just as an acupuncturist works with the body’s intangible energies to establish health, a biodynamic farmer incorporates plant, animal, seasonal and even planetary energies to grow vibrant crops, reverse damage done by chemical farming and restore the Earth’s well-being.
In fact, in the biodynamic philosophy, the Earth itself is a living organism. The soil is alive as well, and its state of health directly correlates to the quality of plants grown in it. A proper biodynamic farm is a self-sufficient, sustainable entity—using no chemicals and generating its own fertilizer, life-stimulating homeopathic herbal preparations and natural pest control methods. The farmer is a vital part of this entity, living in communion with the farm—and is no greater than the plants and animals that share the land.
Biodynamics in Practice
Steven Storch runs a biodynamic farm (www.naturalscienceorganics.com) in Water Mill, New York, where he also builds biodynamic “tea brewers” that introduce herb mixtures known as “preparations” (and compost) to water for application to crops. The nine nourishing preparations, so essential to biodynamics, are derived from cow manure, ground silica, yarrow blossoms, chamomile blossoms, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion flowers, valerian flowers and horsetail.
Each of these organic substances undergoes a ritualistic fermentation process that incorporates both biology and spirituality.
“The oak bark, which is a healing force—think of an oak bark cream for poison ivy—goes into a domesticated animal skull,” explains Storch. “That will get placed either next to a stream or the downspout of a rain gutter, so that every time it rains it gets bathed with a lot of organic gunk: leaves, twigs, etc.”
The other biodynamic preparations undergo their own peculiar intensive fermentation processes, some hung from trees in the summer sun or buried under leaves in the fall. When the preparations are ready, they are churning with bio microbial life and dynamic seasonal, plant and animal energies. “I use a teaspoon of each of these preparations in 20 tons of compost,” says Storch. “It’s like homeopathy for nature.”
These biodynamic preparations have been proven to be extremely effective. Researchers at Washington State University found that compost infused with biodynamic preparations was a significantly better growing medium than compost mixed with regular soil—even when the preparations were used in minute homeopathic amounts.
Biodynamics’ energy-conscious philosophy is also applied to crop watering. Storch’s “tea brewers” send streams of water corkscrewing into a basin, creating a whirlpool, or “formative vortex” as Storch calls it. The spinning pattern oxygenates the water, “imprints” it with the homeopathic herb compounds and draws in various forms of energy.
According to Storch, this spiraling vortex is true to Nature’s energy, mimicking the random path of stream water over stones. Chemical farming’s approach of sending water through straight plastic pipes, on the other hand, has the opposite effect, distancing plants from the energy-infused natural water they seek. “The water is then deadened,” Storch comments. “Nature doesn’t like straight lines.”
Though biodynamic tenets may arouse skepticism in some, others—particularly those who have earnest conversations with their houseplants—find truth in its recognition of energies and plant intelligence.
But even skeptics who have sampled biodynamic produce would concede the results are undeniable; these fruits and vegetables are considered to be more fragrant, flavorful, nutritious and vital than their chemically grown counterparts, loaded with healthy life forces—just as nature intended.
“Chemical farming takes the taste and aroma out of plants,” says Storch. “Eating biodynamic food raises your vibration. You think clearer...you feel better.” And, as biodynamics breathes new vitality into chemically deadened soil, the Earth—and all its life forms, from the microbial to the massive—feel better, too.