What is Biodynamic?

Pop quiz: what is Biodynamic?

This is a word that’s had the food and farming world all a-buzz in recent years, and though it’s used frequently and with implication in a bit of a “who’s who” of agricultural pursuit, it’s not one that all of us come across daily.  As writer Jane Macdougall joked in a National Post article, “If you want to impress someone in the wine world today, just mention the word biodynamic.”

Biodynamic takes organic to a whole new level, and, though it’s experienced a growing boon of popularity and exposure as the organic movement has gained momentum, it is not a new concept.  Biodynamic agriculture was developed in the 1920s by Austrian philosopher and social reformist Rudolf Steiner (Steiner was also a literary critic and theologian, whose contributions also include Waldorf education).  It’s not easy to encapsulate the philosophies in just a few words, but this article from Dark Rye Magazine offered one of the best explanations:

Biodynamics is based on a view of nature as a living, self-sustaining organism that unites material, biological and spiritual elements. Biodynamic methods are designed to stimulate and sustain the farm’s inherent fertility, health and terroir through the integration of crops and livestock, the restoration of on-farm biodiversity, and thoughtful cooperation with the influences of the sun, moon and planets on the earth.

Recycling kitchen scraps into nutritious compost at the girl & the fig.

Recycling kitchen scraps into nutritious compost at the girl & the fig.

In other words, the farm itself is the living organism, and the guiding principle is to create a self-sustaining and nurturing system of inter-dependent relationships.  I like to think of Biodynamic agriculture as creating natural relationships that do the work of farming for you.  Companion plantings for fertilization, weed control, and pest management can reduce the “hands-on” toil when compared to fighting against these elements by hand! Jane Macdougall wrote (of Benziger Winery‘s Biodynamic ecosystem), “It’s all about beneficial bugs, lower yield expectations, and sustainability. The success of biodynamic winemaking may be Sonoma’s greatest gift to the world.”  Once again, I’m proud of our county!


Well, now class is over and your homework is to head down to the girl & the fig and taste some of the Biodynamically-grown veggies from our little “fig farm.”  It’s tomato season, and you know what that means…

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Heirloom Tomato Salad


2 Comments on “What is Biodynamic?
  1. If you and your readers would like to explore more about biodynamic practices in CA, check out our website (www.talkingchadwick.org) recounting the teachings of maverick master gardener Alan Chadwick in Santa Cruz, Saratoga, Green Gulch and Covelo in Mendocino County. Much credit is due him for popularizing both biodynamics and French Intensive methods on the West coast. Since the 1970s, many of the students that he inspired have continued these gardening traditions and trained others in these practices. Prime examples of Chadwick students who have built on his biodynamic training are Stephen and Gloria Decater who run Live Power Farm in Covelo and the late Alan York who was a key figure in the growth of biodynamic viticulture.

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