What is Biodynamics? Here I have collected information to help understand the practice.
Biodynamics is a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, food production and nutrition. Biodynamics was first developed in the early 1920s based on the spiritual insights and practical suggestions of the Austrian writer, educator and social activist Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), whose philosophy is called “anthroposophy.” Today, the biodynamic movement encompasses thousands of successful gardens, farms, vineyards and agricultural operations of all kinds and sizes on all continents, in a wide variety of ecological and economic settings.
Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being raised. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health.
Most biodynamic initiatives seek to embody triple bottom line approaches (ecological, social and economic sustainability), taking inspiration from Steiner’s insights into social and economic life as well as agriculture. Community supported agriculture (CSA), for example, was pioneered by biodynamic farmers, and many biodynamic practitioners work in creative partnerships with other farms and with schools, medical and wellness facilities, restaurants, hotels, homes for social therapy and other organizations. Biodynamics is thus not just a holistic agricultural system but also a potent movement for new thinking and practices in all aspects of life connected to food and agriculture.
All things practical, have, if they are to be fruitful, a solid foundation in thought. Some might simply say that we need common sense. Good farming, good gardening - has always had a strong mental component. Farmers and gardeners need to think through what they are doing, as things take time to ripen, things take good timing to turn out well. Biodynamics has a strong mental, philosophical framework. It is flexible, adaptable, but certainly, the principles are what make it distinct and successful.
Since 1924 and the founding of biodynamics, approaches to explaining biodynamics have varied. In the context of trying to define biodynamics (as a system of agriculture) - at least initially - we might use the following, developing levels of potential understanding as a starting point of discussion. They may seem too theoretical at first, but, dear Reader, venture into them - and you will find an excellent basis for your practical work.
Biodynamics can be understood conceptually as:
1. an agro-ecological renewal of agriculture, using various natural methods, stemming from Rudolf Steiner and his anthroposophical spiritual science;
2. a holistic, ecological philosophy of farming and gardening, of nutrition, of land-stewardship and of living and working successfully with nature;
3. an awakening of one's consciousness as a farmer and gardener to the many levels of life in nature, including a new, conceptually expanded understanding of physical phenomena, energies and beings at work in nature;
4. a recognition of biodynamics as a kind of complementary medicine (anthroposophical medicine) for agriculture, for farms, for the earth - with a specific, learnable, systematic approach;
5. the realization - at the heart of biodynamics - of the sacredness of all things and beings and the necessity for increasingly selfless participation (to the degree on can) in the search for health, healing and harmony, in other words biodynamics not only in the sense of 1-4 but also in the sense of a path of service;
6. experiencing biodynamics as a school for training one's mind, one's heart and one's sensibilities towards spiritual awakening to improve one's capacities as a farmer and to improve one's abilities to serve and to see nature as she is;
7. becoming acquainted with the earth as a physical, living, sentient and conscious being.
There are many, significant biodynamic principles, both philosophical and conceptual (as above) as well as very practical. Biodynamics is not meant to just be a new way of thinking, but it is meant to be a new way of thinking!!! It is also meant to touch the heart of each practitioner, but in such a way that it really inspires to work ethically, with a healing (diagnostic-therapeutic), helping approach for ultimate health and productivity in practice.
Some of the most basic principles of biodynamics can be summarized as follows:
1. The Earth is physically complex, physiologically alive, sentient and conscious (self-aware) organism embedded in a living, sentient, conscious universe;
2. Each and every unique farm and garden is an integrated part of this physically complex, physiologically alive, sentient and conscious Earth organism and is of course smaller and differentiated, but equally physically complex, physiologically alive, sentient and conscious.
3. Developing and managing healthy, productive and successful farms and gardens (however large or small) is primarily (primarily, means "at first" and in terms of priorities!) a medical question, like taking care of a patient. What is healthy? What is not healthy? and What can be done to return health and productivity where it is no longer? are the three key questions to a medical approach to agricultural management. We can call this a diagnostic-therapeutic approach.
4. Biodynamics as a philosophy and as a practice stem from Rudolf Steiner and his anthroposophical spiritual science. Understanding biodynamics as anthroposophical medicine for the earth, for farms allows the practitioner to become increasingly independent in his/her diagnosis of health and illness on farm and to become equally increasingly capable of proscribing and applying effective measures (medicine, therapies) to the farm towards health and productivity.
5. In oder to come to terms with how to diagnose health and illness on farm in the context of anthroposophical medicine, one must learn step by step how anthroposophical science views the whole individual (and the individual farm) and how health and illness is understood and how medicines and therapies are used to rebalance imbalances, to invigorate organs, organ systems and indeed the whole immunological system of an individual - including in our case the individual farm.
Such lofty thoughts - such concerns about health and illness and finding optimum productivity naturally - are something that we think about, that shows itself in how, what, when we do things in our gardens and farms. Our daily work is informed consciously or less so, with the management system we choose. If we choose a management system focused on primarily health building measures - as the basis of true, sustainable productivity - then it is something quite different, than if we are only concerned with maximum production for the moment we are in - regardless of what negative side effects or long term effects such a total focus just on the moment might bring with it.
What we do, day for day, both outwardly and in terms of our thoughts and feelings (which are just as real as what we do with out hands) is of consequence. One thing builds on another. We are constantly building our gardens and farms in a certain direction. Hopefully not in a chaotic, short-term, abusive manner, but in a harmonious, long-term, healthy fashion. Our daily work matters. Recognizing that our philosophy determines our management system and our management system our daily work - we realize the significance of thinking, philosophizing, conceptualizing, meditating over our work, what it is about, what meaning it should have and how to develop methods that match our values.
Biodynamics offers practical methods, but not methods for methods-sake or to be somehow cool, spiritual, ecological - but because it is deeply, genuinely concerned about the health and productivity of our gardens and farms - for the sake of our soils, animals and people - and the long term well-being of humanity and the earth. Spirituality in this context is not just a fashionable word to throw around, but signifies a real effort to connect one's authentic self with the authentic substances, forces and beings in nature and in the cosmos. It is the disconnect that is part of our modern world, is part of so many of our lives, that leads to the abuses that we all seek to remediate. Our daily practice, however modest, can help us reconnect ourselves and our soils, plants and animals with the living, sentient and conscious earth / universe. This in the end in the source of vitality and quality - our essential goals.