Biodynamic (bio: life; dynamic: pertaining to energy, force or power) agricultural methods were introduced by Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925) an Austrian scientist and philosopher. (Steiner is also the founder of Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education.) Through his research he was able to develop an understanding of how the unseen forces of the universe affect the health and growth of plants and animals and, most importantly, the vitality of the soil.
In 1920s Europe, the use of chemicals in agriculture was causing great concern for a number of farmers and soil scientists; especially with regard to its effects on seed viability, deterioration of food quality, and health related problems in both livestock and crops. In 1924, at the request of farmers, Steiner presented a series of eight lectures on these issues, which are now published as Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture. During this lecture series, Steiner gave indications for producing several different preparations to be used in agriculture which are now referred to as Biodynamic Preparations (BD preparations). In addition he gave indications for planting, cultivating and harvesting based on the cycles of the sun, moon, planets and stars. He also taught a practical means of pest control (called “ashing” or “pest peppering”).
A different viewpoint is required when approaching agriculture from the biodynamic perspective. Both in the “conventional chemical” and “organic” approaches to agriculture, we tend to think in terms of substances (or more specifically, chemical requirements that can be met by this or that substance). In chemical-based agriculture, we bring nitrogen to the soil via ammonia or urea, and in organic-based agriculture we bring nitrogen via manure. For phosphorous the substance of choice is super-phosphate or rock phosphate. We are thinking in terms of chemical substances or NPK, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the soil. With biodynamic agriculture and biodynamic preparations, we learn to think in terms of forces in addition to substances. This does not mean discarding all knowledge of soil chemistry; it means we need to go beyond solely the chemical point of view. Just as the effects of the force of gravity or the force of magnetism can be observed without actually being able to see these forces, so too can we recognize the forces that are released though biodynamic preparations.
From the biodynamic perspective, the earth is a living entity which engages in a dynamic relationship with the forces of the cosmos. In order to work effectively in agriculture and gardening, the grower must take these forces into consideration while working with soil, plants and animals. Our ancestors had an innate understanding of the interdependence of all life. They instinctively practiced agricultural methods that biodynamics seeks to bring to conscious understanding and active use in farming and gardening today.
Through the Industrial Age, people have gained greater and greater command of the physical aspects of life and have paid less and less attention to the unseen forces that bring vitality to the natural world. The result in agriculture has been large-scale factory farms and agri-businesses focused on manipulating genes of plants and animals in order to meet goals of increased food production and profits. Biodynamics provides an alternative, sustainable way to bring healing to the earth and vitality to all living things.