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by Kellie Gordon
Biodynamic® farming is receiving more attention every day and for good reason. As a sustainable practice with the smallest carbon footprint of any agricultural method, this farming method is also producing lush, robust, nutrient-rich plants whose health and vitality are surprising even the farmers growing them. "It's really remarkable," says Randy Buresh, founder of Oregon's Wild Harvest in Sandy, Oregon. "We've been certified organic for more than fifteen years, but it's only in the process of becoming Certified Biodynamic® that I've seen plants the size of these. The roots are strong; the soil is richer than ever, and crops are easily 20% bigger than ever before. It's amazing."
The term "biodynamic" is a combination of "bio" meaning life and "dyn" meaning force. It can be understood as "biological dynamic" agriculture practices. "Biological" practices include a series of well-known organic farming techniques that improve soil health. "Dynamic" practices are intended to influence biological as well as metaphysical aspects of the farm (such as increasing vital life force), or to adapt the farm to natural rhythms (such as planting seeds during certain lunar phases). The entire farm is a life force, and every part of it, from the animals to the soil, to the farmer , represents a segment of a closed-loop eco-system that operates optimally when the seasons and other natural forces guide the day to day operations.Like organic farming, Biodynamic® farms stress biological methods in regard to humane treatment of animals, soil health, and food quality. The use of green manures, cover crops and composting are all essential. But many organic farms have incorporated industrialized methods to keep up with demand, such as importing fertilizers and other materials. The philosophy of Biodynamic farming emphasizes a holistic approach to farming -- where the soil and the quality of the produce and farm are the goal, rather than the quantities they produce.
A guiding principle of Biodynamic® farming is that the key to good health for people and for the planet is total sustainability in agriculture. Nutrient-rich soil is the foundation for this sustainability and for the superlative quality of the produce. These nutrients, like everything else needed to sustain the plants, come from the farm itself. Nowhere else.
Another distinguishing feature of biodynamic farming is the use of nine biodynamic preparations for the purpose of enhancing soil quality and stimulating plant life. They consist of mineral, plant, or animal manure extracts, usually fermented and applied in small proportions to compost, manures, the soil, or directly onto plants, after dilution and stirring procedures called dynamizations. These preparations are intended to help moderate and regulate biological processes as well as enhance and strengthen the life (etheric) forces on the farm. The preparations are used in homeopathic quantities, meaning they produce an effect in extremely diluted amounts. As an example, just 1/16th ounce -- a level teaspoon -- of each compost preparation is added to seven- to ten-ton piles of compost.
Biodynamic® certification is offered through the Demeter® Association and the process is similar to becoming certified organic. After being certified organic, the farmer submits an application for Biodynamic® certification and the farm is inspected and evaluated. Based on the evaluation, a farm may be certified as Demeter® Certified Biodynamic, In-conversion to Demeter® Biodynamic®, Aurora Certified Organic and/or Stellar NOP Organic (for when a farm is on its way toward becoming Biodynamic®).On a yearly basis the farm must file a lengthy report, describing all of their farming practices. They document and show all seed sources, soil additives, mixes used in the green house, BD sprays and dates of application, planting times, harvest times, and fields harvested. Soil and water tests must also be provided. They must be able to track plant material back to the seed, and the field that it was harvested from including the people involved in that process.Record keeping is very much the same as what is expected for an organic certification, through the Oregon Tilth. All aspects of the farm are looked at--- planting methods, cultivation, and, in the case of biodynamic farming, making sure that at least 10% of the farm is left to and for natural habitat.
What does all this mean to the consumer?
Nutrient-rich soil means nutrient-rich plants, which translates to higher quality produce for the people who are buying and consuming the products. The food that results is very true to its essence and provides deeply penetrating nutrition that is medicinal as well as delicious. (Demeter® Association)
Research at Washington State University (WSU) by Dr. Lynn Carpenter-Boggs and Dr. John Reaganold found that Biodynamic® compost preparations have a significant effect on compost and the composting process. The treated composts had higher temperatures, matured faster, and had higher nitrates than control compost piles inoculated with field soil instead of the preparations.The WSU research is unique for two reasons: it was the first Biodynamic® compost research undertaken at a land-grant university, and it demonstrated that Biodynamic® preparations are not only effective, but also effective in homeopathic quantities. In a day and age when the term "organic" has become rather diluted, it's reassuring to know that there is an alternative -- one that will ensure, by mere definition, that the produce is pure, nutritious, and ecologically sustainable. As good for the earth as it is for the body.
Key differences between NOP (National Organic Program) Organic and BiodynamicTM Certified
Kellie Gordon is a writer, mother of two, user of herbs, and lives in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon's Wild Harvest recently completed the second full growing season using Biodynamic® methods, and the results are quite convincing: crops of Ashwagandha, Echinacea, and Astragalus harvests were the most plentiful and healthy ever! Plants were bigger, had stronger roots, and the flowers and seeds were much more bountiful than they've ever been before. "If our goal is to produce the highest degree of quality, purity, and efficacy available with our herbs, it just makes sense to grow them using the Biodynamic® methods." says Randy Buresh. For more on Oregon's Wild Harvest go to www.oregonswildharvest.com
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