Definition of biodynamic
1 : of or relating to a system of farming that follows a sustainable, holistic approach which uses only organic, usually locally-sourced materials for fertilizing and soil conditioning, views the farm as a closed, diversified ecosystem, and often bases farming activities on lunar cycles Followers of biodynamic viticulture not only abstain from the use of chemicals, but also take a more holistic approach, viewing their environment—the soil, plants and animals—as a working unity that should be as self-sustaining as possible.— Alison Napjus biodynamic practices
2 : grown by or utilizing biodynamic farming biodynamic vegetables a biodynamic vineyard
Merriam Webster definition https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biodynamic
As the definition at the top says, this is about a holistic approach to farming that looks at the farm as a self-sustaining system. It takes organic a step further. These farms work without chemicals and adhere to a lunar calendar.
Biodynamic practices have been adapted to growing wine grapes and processing wine. Demeter International is the most recognized organization for official biodynamic certification. https://www.demeter-usa.org/
Biodynamics as we speak of it today, came from a series of lectures given by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in 1924. He was a philosopher and scientist, which really gives you insights into where his studies were going. Influenced by Goethe and he was the founder of “anthroposophy” which was a spiritual movement. He believed in the link between science and spiritualism.
There is a rabbit hole here. I could (and I expect I will) do quite a bit more digging on Mr. Steiner and not all of it will make me happy. But, his work in agriculture looked at the farm as one unit and looked at a farm’s health in this way, much like holistic/homeopathic medicine, where you look at the whole patient and not just one symptom. That I can wrap my head around.
The Farmers Almanac & The Gardeners Labyrinth
I was feeling a little concerned about my research, when I came across hawkwakawaka and her brilliant sketches. (WakawakaWineReviews.com) This filled in some gaps for me, and I highly recommend taking a look at her breakdown of biodynamics. It is easy to understand and her sketches make it quite entertaining.
I grew up planting the garden depending on the cycles of the moon as listed in the farmer almanac, as did many of the people my family knew. I took it as traditional farming, but it’s influence, as I learned from Elaine’s sketches, comes from Thomas Hill’s “The Gardeners Labyrinth”(I’ve included a link to a beautiful photo of a page on archive.com). The Farmer’s Almanac was first published in 1792 and is still published annually today. It gives annual schedules for planting according to the lunar cycles.
Stick with me here…this just makes sense. Calendars are a man made created thing. For early farmers the calendar was the seasons and the cycles of the moon.
A Biodynamic Farm Is treated as a Living Organism
the theory behind a biodynamic farm or garden is an integrated, whole, living ecosystem. This ecosystem(organism) is made up of many interdependent elements: fields, forests, plants, animals, soils, compost, people, and the spirit of the place. Biodynamic farmers and gardeners work to nurture and harmonize these elements, managing them in a “holistic and dynamic way” to support the health and vitality of the whole.
Biodynamic allows and supports listening to the land, to sense what may want to emerge through it, and to develop and evolve their farm as a unique part of the ecosytem.
Biodynamics Cultivates Biodiversity
Biodynamic farms and gardens are inspired by the biodiversity of natural ecosystems and the uniqueness of each landscape. Annual and perennial vegetables, herbs, flowers, berries, fruits, nuts, grains, pasture, forage, native plants, and pollinator hedgerows can all contribute to plant diversity, amplifying the health and resilience of the farm organism. Diversity in domestic animals is also beneficial, as each animal species brings a different relationship to the land and unique quality of manure. The diversity of plant and animal life can be developed over time, starting with a few primary crops and one or two species of animals (even as small as earthworms or honeybees), and adding more species as the farm organism matures.
BioDyamics was and is based on Agriculture. It really is meant at creating an eco system, to help the grapes and the land produce the best grapes in the enviroment that they grow in. In wine you don’t rotate crops per say with the grapes, but you do add cover crops and the case with Tablas creek, they have sheep that work as lawn mowers and fertilzer. Tablas Creek has been working on creating their own unique ecosystem with crops and animals to create a virtual cycle of organic and cooperative farming.
In our conversation with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estates, we asked him about biodynamics. The winery was Certified biodynamic in 2008. Rudy had set this process up while he was still working for the Montinore Estate as an employee. Pheloxera was what originally motivated him to look at biodynamics. They had so much vine loss and he was looking at how to combat this, instead of just ripping everything out. So he started studying soil microbiology. When he started out, he was more into organic farming. I would imagine his own garden informed this. But working with the wine distribution house on the east coast, he just kept finding that the biodynamic wines he sold in the French Portfolio, were the wines he liked the best.
Visiting Cowhorn Wines
Last July we had an opportunity to spend the morning with Bill Steele at his biodynamic vineyard in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley AVA. Bill walked us through the vineyard. It’s set in a valley and feels like it’s own world. The sound of birds in the trees that surround and dot the property, the buzz of bees as they wake up in the lavender patch, the sound of the water trickling over rocks from the pond…all are enough to make you want to move in and never leave.
The decision to go biodynamic
Bill and his wife Barb were living a homeopathic lifestyle, both of them working in the financial sector. They were ready to make a lifestyle change and get back to the land and found this property. As they explored options for farming techniques for their vineyard, Barb met with some biodynamic farmers in Sonoma. It was more than just the farming techniques, this was a group of like minded people who were open and willing to share. Barb felt they had found friends. These were people who held the same reverence for the earth and they were an inclusive group.
Receiving help and paying it forward
They had help getting started from Brickhouse in the Willamette and from Benzinger in Sonoma. Now as Troon (another vineyard in the Applegate Valley) works toward becoming biodynamic, they can pay it forward, helping as they were helped.