Love Apple Farms has been using biodynamic practices since early 2006, after farmer Cynthia Sandberg witnessed phenomenal health and vigor in a biodynamic garden and wanted similar results in her own. Chef David Kinch of Manresa is also committed to this distinctive method of growing, and regularly participates in the creation and application of the biodynamic treatments, known as "preparations." Love Apple is proud to be a Demeter-certified biodynamic farm.
Biodynamic agriculture is a method of organic farming that treats farms as unified and individual organisms, with an emphasis toward balancing the holistic development and interrelationship of the soil, plants, and animals as a closed, self-nourishing system. Regarded by some proponents as the first modern ecological farming system, biodynamic farming includes organic agriculture's emphasis on manures and composts and exclusion of the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants.
Methods unique to the biodynamic approach include the use of fermented herbal and mineral preparations as compost additives and field sprays and the use of an astronomical calendar to determine times of planting and harvesting. Biodynamic agriculture has its basis in a spiritual world-view known as anthroposophy as propounded by founder Rudolf Steiner.
Biodynamic agriculture conceives of the farm as an organism, a self-contained entity with its own individuality. Emphasis is placed on the integration of crops and livestock, recycling of nutrients, maintenance of soil, and the health and well being of crops and animals; the farmer too is part of the whole. Cover crops, green manures and crop rotations are used extensively. The approach also attempts to consider celestial influences on soil and plant development and to revitalize the farm, its products, and its inhabitants.
Steiner prescribed nine different preparations to aid fertilization which are the cornerstone of biodynamic agriculture, and described how these were to be prepared. The prepared substances are numbered 500 through 508 The first two are used for preparing fields, whereas the latter seven are used for making compost.
Prep 500 (also called horn manure) is a humus mixture prepared by filling the horn of a cow with cow manure and burying it in the ground in the autumn. It is left to decompose during the winter and recovered the following spring. A small amount is mixed with water for an hour, and then applied to the ground in the fall, at dusk.
Prep 501(also called horn silica ) is crushed powdered quartz prepared by stuffing it into a horn of a cow and burying it in the ground in spring and taken out in autumn. It too is mixed with water for an hour, and then sprayed under very low pressure over the crop in the srping to prevent fungal diseases. It should be sprayed on an overcast day or early in the morning to prevent burning of the leaves.
Compost preparations, used for preparing compost, employ herbs which are frequently used in medicinal remedies:
* 502: Yarrow blossoms (Achillea millefolium) are stuffed into urinary bladders from Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), placed in the sun during summer, buried in earth during winter and retrieved in the spring.
* 503: Chamomile blossoms (Matricaria recutita) are stuffed into small intestines from cattle, and buried in humus-rich earth in the autumn and retrieved in the spring.
* 504: Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) plants in full bloom are stuffed together underground surrounded on all sides by peat for a year.
* 505: Oak bark (Quercus robur) is chopped in small pieces, placed inside the skull of a domesticated animal, surrounded by peat and buried in earth in a place where lots of rain water runs by.
* 506: Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinale) is stuffed into the peritoneum of cattle and buried in earth during winter and retrieved in the spring.
* 507: Valerian flowers (Valeriana officinalis) are extracted into water.
* 508: Horsetail (Equisetum)
A teaspoon of each preparation is added to a properly prepared compost pile, except for the 507 preparation, which is stirred into a gallon of water and sprinkled over the entire compost surface. All preparations are thus used in homeopathic quantities, and the only intent is to strengthen the life forces of the farm.
Biodynamic agriculture sees the basis of pest and disease control arising from a strong healthy balanced farm organism. Where this is not yet achieved, it uses techniques analogous to fertilization for pest control and weed control. Most of these techniques include using the ashes of a pest or weed that has been trapped or picked from the fields and burned. The resultant ash is then sprinkled on the field, with the theory being that the presence of the ash will deter pests.
Farms that demonstrate proper conformance to the standards of biodynamic culture as prescribed by appropriate national governing boards, can be certified with the Demeter label. Although biodynamic agriculture has been around for almost 100 years, it is enjoying a resurgence of interest, particularly in the winery industry, as more and more vintners are switching to biodynamic practices to grow better grapes.
Interesting articles about biodynamics:
All photos courtesy of Pim Techamuanvivit.