What is bio-dynamic farming?

By Kelly Newton-Wordsworth          BJuris LLB(BLaws)

(Housewife, mother, international performing and recording artist, composer,

author, environmental and humanitarian activist) With thanks to William Newton-

Wordsworth, for his valuable assistance in the writing of this article.

 

What is “biodynamic farming?”

For any person who has never heard of “Biodynamic” agriculture, I would love

to give you an introduction in a “nutshell”, so that you can become a passionate

‘biodynamic’ enthusiast after reading this article! Biodynamic agriculture is a

huge passion for myself my husband and our family. It is also becoming a

passion for a growing number of people throughout the world. Probably the main

reason for our great enthusiasm, is that we have been able to bring “life” to the

soil and grow food without poisons for around 30 years. Also it is a truly

sustainable way of farming, not just with small areas of land but it can be done on

a much larger scale. We are now the longest running broad acre biodynamic

farmers in Western Australia farming around 3,000 acres since 1987.

Biodynamic farming was developed by the Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner

and introduced to the world in 1924. It was the foundation of the “organic

movement” in agriculture internationally. Prior to the 20 th century, all food was

grown “organically”, without artificial inputs and chemicals for controlling pests

and weeds. With the introduction of the methods used in modern conventional

farming, biodynamic and organic methods became known as “alternative

agriculture”.

Having been a biodynamic farmer now, since the late 80’s, I would say the “nut

shell” description of what we do, is that we gather cow manure (from only our

own cows) and pour the manure into empty cow-horns. We then bury the horns

under the ground for a few months during the winter. When we remove the

manure from the horns, the substance that once was ‘simply’ cow manure has

transformed into what is known as “500”. (It is called “500” because there are 500

million living bacteria in one gram of this material. Many agronomists are now

speaking about the importance of “microbes” leading to much healthier soil. The

application of 500, results in a quantum leap in microbe activity in the soil. This in

turn leads to a major increase in the health and vitality of the soil, which of course

leads to the same in the foods grown in this soil.)

The cow manure after it has become ‘500’ changes and smells sweet. It is no

longer like cow manure and more like compost. However, it is also not like

compost. You can hold it in your hand, and it feels spongy. It is black in colour

and you can roll it to form it into a ball.

One hand full of this “500” mixed with a quantity of water and stirred in a

container in a specific way for one hour is enough “activator” to spray one acre of

land. The results we are achieving in many ways are astonishing from the

perspective of not only the health and vigour of our pastures and the animals, but

also the profitability of our farming operation.

From the consumer’s point of view though, I know people who are looking to eat

‘clean’ food would be very interested to know a lot more about what is happening

in the production of their food and also what is happening in the environment in

which they live. How “clean” is the food being purchased by people all over the

world?

Would you choose to eat ‘Biodynamic food’ as opposed to conventionally

grown food ?

Please humour me for a moment, and ask your self a simple question. If you

were given the choice between eating foods, which were grown in the following

two completely different ways, which would you choose for the health of yourself

and your family?(If you are interested in letting us know, and perhaps being

interviewed, please email us. We would be very grateful for your answers)

 Choice 1

Eat food that was grown with a cocktail of poisons (herbicides, pesticides,

fungicides), chemicals, “potentially” Genetically modified organisms (there

is almost no labelling so far of these foods in international markets) and

artificial toxic fertilisers potentially containing heavy metals.

 Choice 2

Eat food that was grown with a life-giving bacteria, derived only from cow

manure collected from a biodynamic/organic farm. This food has been

produced with NO poisons, chemicals or toxic fertilisers, only a substance

which brings life to the soils in which the food is grown and therefore brings life

to the foods to be consumed. Biodynamic foods are also grown with natural

fertilisers as required.

I imagine that if you are a sane human being and truly care about your health in

the short and long term, you would choose to eat Biodynamic/Organic food.

Do consumers really have the choice?

The difference between having this opportunity to “choose” in this hypothetical

situation, and what is happening out in the real world, is that most people have

no idea of the way in which their food is being grown. There is no labelling of

what farmers are using to grow their produce, on produce and products, except

when the label states that food is grown, “biodynamically” or “organically”. I have

not so far found produce in most shops that state which chemicals or fertilisers

were used to grow the products I am buying in any shops I have been to around

the world!

Therefore effectively people have little or NO real choice as to the products they

are buying and therefore eating, unless they buy “biodynamic or organic” foods. If

anyone can help me to find produce that is stating the chemicals, drenches,

hormones or fertilisers that have been used in the production of any product from

conventional agriculture, please contact me and let me know.

Those who are very conscious of the foods they are eating for themselves and

their families, tend to discover the power and uniqueness of biodynamic produce

after a time. It is still a method of growing food that is not so well known

throughout the world, but the awareness of the benefits of eating this produce is

growing exponentially internationally.

The practice of biodynamic agriculture is allowing consumers to eat foods that

are ‘life enhancing’, therefore helping to bring increased health and wellbeing to

the consumers who buy and eat biodynamically grown foods. Organically grown

foods are also grown without the use of artificial fertilisers, hormones, chemical

drenches, chemicals and so on.

In this way, biodynamic agriculture is similar to organic farming. In another way

though, biodynamic agriculture is completely different to organic farming. Organic

farmers tend to use more composted manures, both animal and plant.

Biodynamic farmers are using the preparations such as ‘500’ to spray out over

the land and the living bacteria, does the work to bring life to the soil. Natural

rock phosphates and minerals tend to be used in places where particularly in

Western Australia our soils tend to be very mineral deficient.

When anyone really looks at the implications of the fact that we can grow

amazingly healthy and tasty foods, from one handful of ‘500’ to the acre, together

with occasional natural organic inputs, biodynamic agriculture can only be

described as a miraculous, life-enhancing, world changing, precious blessing to

humanity.

The fact that this method of looking after the land has not spread world wide very

quickly, can perhaps be attributed to the possibility that it stands as a major

threat to modern conventional practices of agriculture, where huge multi-national

companies market and promote to farmers world wide, that poisons and artificial

fertilisers are essential in the production of food and falsely claim that they are

safe.

The modern pretext that it is ‘impossible to grow food without chemicals and

artificial fertilisers’ has been promoted for more than fifty years throughout

schools, universities and agricultural colleges. These words have been spoken

and promoted for a long enough time that many farmers quote this saying as a

fact, instead of a theory.

The theory of modern conventional chemical based agriculture, was founded by

a German scientist Dr Liebig. This can of course be turned around to Dr “big lie”.

The chemical companies grabbed his theories of the advantages of growing food

with chemically processed water-soluble fertilisers and ran with them.

He said this way of farming would lead to farmers having bigger yields. By the

time he was realising that his theory was faulty, in that while there were

increased yields unfortunately the application of the artificial chemically

processed fertilisers (which are made with substances like sulphuric acid) lead to

more acidic and unhealthy soils.

The plants and animals grown on these soils were not as healthy and the food

did not taste as good. By this time, it was too late to stop the movement of multi-

national companies who were producing and marketing these products to

farmers in the pursuit of ever increasing profits.

We now know many farmers who have told us that they will not let their wives

and families go anywhere near the canola paddocks. Why? We have met

beekeepers whose hives have been wiped out after farmers have sprayed the

canola. We know canola growers who use a chemical that they have told us is

banned all over the world but still used here in Western Australia. We have met

fruit growers who have told us they will not let their families go near their packing

sheds and they have an organic orchard for their families. What is going on

here?

Biodynamic agriculture is seen to be a very “alternative” method of farming in the

modern world. My husband William and I have been growing food in a successful

commercial way on an almost 3,000 acre property in Williams Western Australia

since 1987.

Many farmers have said to us that it is not possible to grow food without

chemicals and artificial fertilisers. Almost 30 years ago, one of these farmers said

to us, that our farm would be “barren” in ten years. That farmer has now sold his

farm due to increased debt and decreased productivity along with others who

made similar comments.

On our land, “Boraning”, (which in the local indigenous dialect, means “place of

spiritual wisdom”), we grow biodynamic beef, lamb, oats, olive oil, table olives,

pistachios, many fruits and vegetables, breed horses for horse sports and live a

life that people probably don’t even know is possible to live in the modern world.

We have an eco-tourism business, a music business, a Christian community and

now a church that meets every Sunday in our Café.

We live a “biodynamic” life full of amazing surprises, travel internationally to take

part in concerts, speaking engagements, events and have a wide variety of

exciting activities every day. Biodynamic agriculture is caring for the land on

which we live. We can eat the food we grow with happiness knowing the way in

which it has been grown, and walk across the land with a feeling of warmth that

is even ‘beyond’ the light of the sun.

The passion for living that comes from knowing that the way we are growing food

is right for ourselves, our family, friends and all of the people who buy our

produce is the one of the main answers to “WHY” we farm biodynamically.

Something money can’t buy is the happiness that comes from this lifestyle.