Already a recognised agricultural process in the world of wine, the reputation of biodynamic farming in producing high quality produce is growing worldwide. In 2008, Mercanta began sourcing coffees from two biodynamic certified farms – Balmaadi in India and Camocim in Brazil.
What is biodynamic agriculture?
Sometimes referred to as ‘super organic’, biodynamic was arguably the world’s first consciously organic farming system. It is founded on principles outlined in 1924 by Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner, who acted in response to farmers worried about the destructive effect of chemicals on their land. Like modern organic farming, biodynamic farming eliminates the use of agrochemicals. It also adheres to a further strict set of principles that distinguishes it from conventional organics. These can be summarised as follows:
Soil regeneration – healthy soil is central to biodynamic farming. Biodynamic farmers approach the soil as a living environment, whose wellbeing depends on the quality, quantity and variety of bio-organisms such as bacteria, mushrooms and worms existing within it.
Biodynamic preparations – in order to maintain the soil’s natural balance, farmers use nine specific preparations made from animal, vegetal and mineral extracts which are applied in homeopathic quantities (i.e. they are extremely diluted). This includes the practice of fermenting cow dung and powdered quartz inside a cow horn which is buried in the ground for six months.
Biodynamic sowing and planting calendar – biodynamic farmers adhere to a strict calendar which is produced each year and which is based on the cycles of the moon, planets and constellations. This highlights the best days for sowing, planting, digging and harvesting.
Self-sufficiency – a basic principle of biodynamics is to conceive of the farm as a self-contained, living entity. Each farm aims to function as a closed, balanced system, providing its own seeds, fertilisers and feeds.
Guiding philosophy – Rudolf Steiner believed that there was a spiritual dimension to agriculture that modern science ignored. He conceived biodynamic farming as part of a much broader spiritual philosophy, and it is often considered by its adherents to be not only a farming technique, but a way of life.
Biodynamic certification is regulated worldwide by Demeter (www.demeter.net). This means that, unlike conventional organic certification, the standards for biodynamic certification are the same in every country and biodynamic growing methods remain consistent worldwide.