A Biodynamic Farm Is a Living Organism
Each biodynamic farm or garden is an integrated, whole, living organism. This 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 practitioners also endeavor to listen to the land, to sense what may want to emerge through it, and to develop and evolve their farm as a unique individuality.
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.
Biodynamics Brings Plants and Animals Together
Natural ecosystems include both plants and animals, which work together to fill complementary roles in the web of life. Many conventional and organic farms only grow crops or only raise livestock, which may be more efficient by some measures, but creates imbalances such as nutrient deficiency (if only growing plants) or pollution from excess manure (if only raising animals). Biodynamic farms and gardens work to bring plants, animals, and soil together through living, conscious relationships, so that they each support and balance the whole.
The top five principles of regenerative agriculture
- Minimizing soil disturbances: Regenerative agriculture uses farming practices such as limited or no-tilling that minimize physical, biological, and chemical soil disturbances.
- Soil coverage: Instead of relying on tilling, regenerative farming practices focus on keeping the soil covered with vegetation and natural materials through mulching, cover crops, and pastures.
- Increased plant diversity: Diversity is an essential component in building healthy soils that retain excess water and nutrients. It can help farmers obtain revenue from other sources and it’s beneficial to other wildlife and pollinators.
- Keeping living roots in the soil as much as possible: Having living roots in the soil ensures that fields are never bare. It can be done by farming practices such as planting winter cover crops or having land in permanent pasture. Keeping living roots in the soil helps stabilize the soil, retaining excess water and nutrient runoff.
- Integrate animals into the farm as much as possible: Manure produced by livestock can add valuable nutrients to the soil, reducing the need for fertilizers, and increasing soil organic matter. Healthy soils capture large amounts of carbon and water and reduce the amount of polluted runoff.
Regenerative farming practices include
- Diverse crop rotation: Through crop rotation, farmers interrupt pests’ reproductive cycles, reduce the need for pest control, and can reduce the need for added fertilizer. Above ground plant diversity leads to below ground diversity of the soil microbial community—the key to healthy soils.
- Multi-species cover crops: Planting cover crops improves soil quality, prevents soil erosion, and minimizes weed growth. Planting multiple species can help improve soil health.
- No-till and low-till farming: These farming systems minimize physical disturbances to the soil increasing water retention, nutrient cycling, and retaining topsoil.
- Soil management: Managing all aspects of soil including its chemical, biologic, and physical properties.
- Rotational grazing: Continuously moving animals to different grazing areas prevents soil erosion, saves on feed costs, averts the manure buildup of concentrated animal feeding operations, and contributes to soil fertility.
Regenerative agriculture systems offer societal, economic, and environmental benefits
- Increases farming productivity
- Builds and improves soil health and fertility
- Increases the production of nutrient-dense foods
- Increases the land’s ability to filter and retain water
- Decreases the amount of soil, water, and air pollution caused by agricultural practices
- Improves habitat and biodiversity in wildlife and plants
- Diminishes the effects of climate change
- Decreases the amount of carbon in the air
- Helps sustain Earth’s remaining natural resources
- Helps achieve food security and food equity