In 1924, a man named Rudolf Steiner delivered an eight-lecture series called the "Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture." Steiner specialized in a number of spiritual and intellectual fields -- although not one that involved actual fields or farms -- but still, it was from these humble beginnings that an entire agricultural movement sprang to life. Many of those privy to the lecture series quickly worked to adopt the method of biodynamic agriculture that Steiner suggested.
Biodynamic agriculture involves a number of techniques that encompass understanding how the land functions and discovering ways to allow it to operate as a self-contained, living organism. Like the closely related concept of organic farming, practices such as composting, animal and plant diversity, and crop rotation are usually a part of the program. However, biodynamics takes it one step further.
Along with considering farms as self-sustaining entities that don't benefit from or require the application of unnatural and artificial treatments, biodynamic farmers believe in factors that most other farmers consider of little importance or value. For example, biodynamic practitioners time practices such as planting, fertilizing and harvesting according to lunar and cosmic cycles, not just seasonal changes. They make special concoctions that at times sound downright bizarre in order to maintain rich, healthy soil that's teeming with beneficial little microbes. It gets downright spiritual the way they care for and nurture their land, focusing on the living forces that need to be balanced if they fall out of alignment.
This may seem a little strange to people who for all intents and purposes could very well believe food grows in grocery store aisles. But for those who live closer to the earth, it might be starting to resonate. Biodynamics does, however, have some critics on the sciencey side of things, which is why some practitioners believe the future of biodynamics lies in a blending of scientific knowhow with celestial signposts and earthly intuition to give it a little more street cred. For a more in-depth understanding of the history and practice of biodynamics, read How Biodynamic Agriculture Works.
On the next page, we'll drill down a little deeper into how biodynamics can be applied specifically to viticulture: the cultivation of grapevines.