Does Biodynamics Really Work?

From my experiences with biodynamic agriculture, as I now enter into my fourth year of being on biodynamic farms and gardens, I have to say I find this a difficult question to answer because it’s an answer that has many levels to it. How does society decide whether something really works or not? How long do we need in order to prove that something works or not? How many studies need to be undertaken to prove if something works or not? For me, the proof of the biodynamic method is in the feeling of a biodynamic farm. It’s about visiting a farm for the first time and experiencing the farm organism. I can see the farm as a living being, as an individuality. I can taste the produce. I can see the insects. I can hear the birds. I can see the growers and the farmers working with the land, and I can see how the biodynamic farm provides a therapeutic setting for education.

If you asked me, “Can we feed 8 billion people with biodynamics?” then I would find this a more difficult question to answer. As a society, we have become reliant on nitrogen fertilizers. These fertilizers have dramatically increased the population of the planet. They have allowed farmers to grow huge quantities of food cheaply and efficiently. I don’t think this is something that even as a biodynamic practitioner we can criticize without restraint, as it’s likely we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the synthesis of nitrogen. But there is a problem with nutrition, and there is a problem with the environment. That’s clear to see, and biodynamics has a role and, I believe, has earned its seat at the table to discuss how we move forward, as it’s clear that the status quo isn’t working. The nitrates that we put into the soil create plants that are less nutrient-dense and lacking the nutrition that we really need. Biodynamics has been proven on a small scale, but it is very labor-intensive, and today 98% of people don’t work on the land.

We have created a society where most elements of our lives are abstracted. One hundred years ago, most people had a connection to the land. From my experiences working in the garden, I’ve seen how it has influenced my well-being. It regulates my mood, gives me a sense of meaning, and allows me to participate in the rhythm of nature, which is often obscured or novelized in the world. I want to be a participant in nature, not an onlooker. So, I think as the majority of society lacks interest in the land, they also lack interest in where their food comes from, content with what they can get from the supermarket.

In my utopian vision, I see a world that is a patchwork of biodynamic farms, where most people are engaged with the land and are recreating and harmonizing with nature to create a new Eden. The real definition of wealth that I see is the garden of leisure and an abundance of fruits. All other forms of wealth that don’t reach the garden appear false to me, for the garden to me symbolizes the peak of culture, while technology symbolizes the march of civilization, which has departed from its culture. If everybody took up the spade and worked together, the world would transform, but that’s not going to happen, and I don’t think it’s part of the journey. Biodynamics represents something that is still ahead of its time, even though it predates organic agriculture. It’s regarded by onlookers as a regression, as a move back to the Middle Ages, as a rejection of technology, which at first seems like a fair judgment. But biodynamics is working onwards with ideas that are profound and answers questions that are key for our time: how we live together and how we work with nature. It’s about providing nutrition without compromising our connection with the natural world and the cosmos. It’s about living in the world with beauty, and it’s about finding solace on a biodynamic farm in this age of technology and screens. Maybe the biodynamic farm is a reminder of what is real in an age when it’s harder to know what’s real. A farm with soil, plants, animals, active farmers, compost piles, boundaries, and an abundance of life—that is what’s real and that’s a reminder to us all.

So I can say qualitatively that biodynamics does work. I know it works, and I’ve seen it work. I don’t think the world is ready for it. I hope that changes. Many of the questions the world is shouting out to me, I think, can be answered through biodynamics.

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