The Original Organic: Biodynamic Food and Farming on the Rise

Source: Presence Marketing Newsletter, December 2017
Author: Steven Hoffman

What’s old is new again. Biodynamic agriculture, the predecessor to organic farming
developed in 1924 and based on the ideas of Austrian philosopher and scientist Rudolf
Steiner, is growing in popularity among farmers who want to reduce their input costs, build
the health of their soil, and also follow organic farming principles.
The biodynamic label, too, is appearing on more products as discerning consumers demand
organic food that’s been grown in the soil using regenerative agriculture methods that help
sequester carbon out of the atmosphere, as concern for finding solutions to climate change
rises with the temperature.

The number of biodynamic farms in the U.S. is growing rapidly, Elizabeth Candelario, co-
director of Demeter USA, the nonprofit certifier of biodynamic farms and consumer products
in the U.S., told The Guardian. According to Demeter, there are approximately 250
biodynamic farms and wineries in the U.S. and total U.S. acreage under biodynamic
production increased 16% in the last year, totaling 21,791 acres. It is estimated that 350,000
acres worldwide are farmed using biodynamic methods in 47 countries.

“Biodynamic farmers manage their farms—including fields, woods, wetlands, plants, animals
and people—as a self-contained, self-sustaining organism. They don’t use GMOs, synthetic
chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides,” reported Whole Foods Market in its blog (the retailer is
offering a growing number of biodynamic certified products).

“We’re talking about crop rotation and the value of manures and soil fertility; and biodiversity
and how that provides habitat for predators that eat the bad insects,” said Jim Fullmer, co-
director of Demeter USA, the only biodynamic as well as organic certifier in the country.
“The biodynamic system is just the original idea of an organic system. That is what it was
supposed to be. Not a list of materials that are allowed or prohibited, [which] is what organic
has become,” Fullmer said in the Boulder Weekly.

Integrating livestock into the farming operation is essential in biodynamic agriculture,
Fullmer told the Boulder Weekly. “When you do that you’re addressing a lot of input
concerns. You’re generating fertility out of the manures, but also the pasture and the crop
rotations and everything that comes out of the presence of animals. When that starts
happening, you’re building soil humus and when you do that, the farm is able to hold onto
water, it’s able to hold onto crop nutrients and provide them in a living, balanced way, which
leads to pest control because you have healthy resilient crops,” he said.

Boulder, CO, restaurateur and certified biodynamic farmer Eric Skokan, owner of the Black
Cat Bistro
and Bramble & Hare Restaurant, grows over 250 different vegetables and raise
sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys and geese on 130 acres spread between three different plots
of land in Boulder County. At the lowest point of production in March, about 65% of the
Bistro’s menu comes directly from the farm, Skokan told the Boulder Weekly. At the height
in the fall, it hovers around 95%. Skokan recently became the first certified biodynamic farm
to table restaurant in the country, the Boulder Weekly reported.

While linked to some “spiritual” or astrological practices, biodynamic is a system of
agriculture in essence. According to Candelario, this is not required for Demeter
certification. “I’m so happy I’m not in the business of certifying people’s spirituality,”
Candelario said. “What we certify is people’s farming to this beautiful agronomic standard.
Learn more:
- Demeter USA,
- Biodynamic Association,