that the organic gardening movement has gone from having a fringe
following to being mainstream, advocates of biodynamic farming,
the eccentric cousin of the organic approach, are adopting the
fringe. Like organic gardeners, biodynamic agriculturists avoid
the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides
in favor of natural methods of encouraging plant growth and
discouraging plant and animal pests. However, the biodynamic
philosophy encompasses much more than just production methods.
In the 1920s, Dr. Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian writer, editor
and philosopher interested in the linkages between spirituality
and the life forces in nature, established the principles of
biodynamics (though not the name) based on a series of lectures
he gave to local farmers. His work was devoted to spiritual
development rather than agriculture per se, but his lectures
established a viewpoint of the farm as a living, self-enclosed
As with traditional organic cultivation, nurturing the soil
is a key focus of biodynamic gardening. But according to the
principles of biodynamics, soil nurturing is based on the application
of nine compost and field supplements. These are peculiar mixtures
involving various wild plants that are often buried to ferment before
use (for example, stinging nettle buried for a year surrounded
by peat) and applied in minute amountsa dosage philosophy similar
to that found in the homeopathic treatment of humans. In fact,
like homeopathy, the idea is to make small adjustments to assist
natural biological processes.
Another distinguishing factor of biodynamic agriculture is the
timing of seeding, composting and other tasks, which is done
according to lunar and other celestial patterns. Biodynamic
planting calendars are exact, listing specific dates and time
periods for seeding and other chores.
While the use of unconventional mixtures in the preparation
of compost and field amendments is subject to ridicule, as is
to a lesser extent the use of solar and lunar indicators, at
the root of biodynamics is an intense respect for the land.
Every farm or parcel of land is considered to be unique, with
its own individual personality. Each elementplants (cultivated
and wild), animals (livestock, wild and human) and soilis
interrelated and influenced by the others and by the movements
of the celestial bodies. The health of each element is nurtured
to further the health of the whole.