Updated 2008-12-03 16:39:37 ID=209:0

© 2008 The Romantic Table

What is Biodynamic agriculture anyway?

Biodynamic Agriculture has been in the news a lot lately. But, is it real science or a religious experience?

In the last couple of days we posted two articles back to back about biodynamic agriculture. One was The State of California honoring Fetzer Vineyards which has made Organic and Biodynamic Agriculture a cornerstone of their corporate farming philosophy. The other was an article quoting actor, winemaker and restaurateur Gerard Depardieu calling biodynamics a "sect" and basically B.S., a commonly held opinion by many people in the agriculture world.

Now, we know the Fetzer people very well. Sure they are very environmentally conscious, but for Fetzer, it is a sound business practice. So was Depardieu just being himself or did he have point? For that matter what the heck is Biodynamic Agriculture anyway? I just thought it was a kind of farming on "organic steroids." True, the practitioners I have met seem pretty enthusiastic - maybe even missionary... But calling it a "sect?" Isn't that going a bit far?

So again, what is Biodynamic Agriculture?

The concept of biodynamic agriculture originated in Germany in the 1920's by Dr. Rudolf Steiner. Dr. Steiner was a noted researcher in the area of the forces that regulate life and growth. He was asked to study why soil production was declining. Dr. Steiner also was the originator of Anthroposophy which according to wikipedia " which postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world accessible to direct experience through inner development — more specifically through cultivating conscientiously a form of thinking independent of sensory experience."

In a series of lectures and conversations Dr. Steiner outlined the "fundamental principles of biodynamic farming and gardening, a unified approach to agriculture that relates the ecology of the earth-organism to that of the entire cosmos...Biodynamic farming and gardening combines common-sense agriculture, an understanding of ecology, and the specific environment of a given place with a new spiritual scientific approach to the concepts, principles, and practices of agriculture."

I get the common-sense agriculture, understanding of ecology and terroir. That's just farming. But the new spiritual scientific approach? That sounds suspiciously like a new Modernism in a post-Enlightenment wrapper. To me, "spiritual scientific" is a meaningless phrase. Does it mean the juxtaposition of the spiritual to the scientific, essentially each holding equal weight in decision making? Or is it a spiritual veneration of science?

Or is "spiritual scientific" a chimera of the spiritual with science? Considering the location and time of the origins of the term, Weimar Germany in the 1920's, that is probably closer to the original meaning. In this case "spiritual" probably meant what could not be measured or sensed. Although not a complete rejection of Kantian immanentism since the spiritual is "accessible to direct experience through inner development" - i.e. we just have to learn how to think about it.., at least it acknowledges that a spiritual exists.

That is probably where Depardieu sees the difficulty with the concept, not the practice. For some on the deep-end, biodynamics has taken on almost a religious overtone. Which is a shame. Practically speaking the practice of biodynamics agriculture is more or less just a holistic approach to farming, from germination of the plant to its composting and recycling back into earth, paying attention to site selection and replenishment through natural means what was taken out in production.

That is just common sense.

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A tip from Sue!

If rushed, prepare your ingredients in advance.

If you know you’ll be rushed at cooking time, pre-measure out as many of the ingredients as you can, and arrange them by the cooking order of the recipe.

If it’s going to be more than several minutes before you actually start making the dinner, be sure to cover the perishable ingredients with plastic wrap or place in containers and put them back in the refrigerator to hold until you are ready.