Biodynamics is a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, food production and nutrition. Biodynamics was first developed in the early 1920s based on the spiritual insights and practical suggestions of the Austrian writer, educator and social activist Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), whose philosophy is called “anthroposophy.” Today, the biodynamic movement encompasses thousands of successful gardens, farms, vineyards and agricultural operations of all kinds and sizes on all continents, in a wide variety of ecological and economic settings.
Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being raised. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health.
Most biodynamic initiatives seek to embody triple bottom line approaches (ecological, social and economic sustainability), taking inspiration from Steiner’s insights into social and economic life as well as agriculture. Community supported agriculture (CSA), for example, was pioneered by biodynamic farmers, and many biodynamic practitioners work in creative partnerships with other farms and with schools, medical and wellness facilities, restaurants, hotels, homes for social therapy and other organizations. Biodynamics is thus not just a holistic agricultural system but also a potent movement for new thinking and practices in all aspects of life connected to food and agriculture.
One of the best ways to learn the basics or deepen your knowledge is through participating in a workshop led by an experienced biodynamic educator. To find out about current offerings, view the Biodynamic Association’s list of educational centers and training programs and interactive calendar of events across North America and beyond. You can also order audio recordings of workshops from the 2014 and 2012 Biodynamic Conferences, or take the Oregon Biodynamic Group's free online introduction to biodynamics class. Scholarships for biodynamic courses and workshops are available through the Biodynamic Scholarship Fund.
The Biodynamic Association offers a wide variety of books on biodynamics and related topics through our webstore in partnership with SteinerBooks. Introductory books recommended by our staff and board members include....
In the early 1920s, a group of practicing farmers, concerned with the decline in the health of soils, plants and animals, sought the advice of Rudolf Steiner, founder of anthroposophy, who had spent all his life researching and investigating the subtle forces within nature. From a series of lectures and conversations held at Koberwitz, Germany (now in Poland) in June 1924, there emerged the fundamental principles of biodynamic farming and gardening, a unified approach to agriculture that relates the ecology of the farm-organism to that of the entire cosmos. This approach has been under development in many parts of the world ever since. Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, who worked with Dr. Steiner during the formative period, brought biodynamic concepts to the United States in the 1930s. It was during this period that the Biodynamic Association was founded in 1938.
Biodynamic preparations, made from fermented herbs, minerals and manure, can help enhance the health of your compost, soil, and the food you grow. Preparations can be purchased from the Josephine Porter Institute and several regional biodynamic groups.
Biodynamics has an independent certification system managed worldwide by Demeter International and in the United States by Demeter USA.
Demeter certification in the United States uses the USDA organic standards as a foundation but goes beyond them in several important ways. For example, the Demeter Biodynamic® Farm Standard requires the healthy integration of crops and livestock on the farm, as well as a certain amount of wild or uncultivated land as part of its biodiversity requirement. It also requires use of the biodynamic preparations described above. In addition, whereas organic certification can be applied to just one part of a farm, Demeter certification must encompass the whole farm.
For information on Biodynamic® certification and products, visit Demeter USA.