Easy. WE DON’T.
We realized early in our farming journey working with nature is crucial. This drive to find a natural balance was fueled by the hundreds of sustainable farming documents we watched, from the numerous organic farming workshops we attended, knowledge gained through other farmers and perhaps most importantly, having a deep appreciation for life- BIG & small.
Many people routinely ask us “how do you get rid of the bugs?” It’s one of my favorite questions to answer because it provides me the opportunity to brag on natures perfectly balanced system. Our farm does not use chemical warfare or synthetic based fertilizers to aid in our veg production. Instead, we use very traditional farming practices that rely on the ecosystem – creating a natural balance in our gardens. Simply stated: instead of trying to reinvent the wheel we used the existing wheel and rolled with it!
Biodynamic Agriculture is the term used to describe this type of food system. Biodynamic farming is actually the precursor to organic and sustainable farming. It is from Dr. Steiner’s teaching of how to work with the earth and heavens to farm in harmony with nature. “Organic farming” was coined by those describing Dr. Steiner’s farming approach. Biodynamic gardening was developed in Germany in the early 1920s by philosopher Dr. Rudolf Steiner. Dr. Steiner believed that the soil, plants, animals and everything in the solar system is interconnected. While agriculture takes nature to a state that is one step removed from wilderness, the wisdom of the farmer that guides its course can reflect these ancient principles of sustainability. The view of the farm organism extends beyond the fence line and includes the tangible and intangible forces that work through it. Examples include the climate, inherent wildlife of the earth (above and below the ground), the light and warmth from the sun and the more distant astronomical influences. Biodynamic agriculture attempts to harmonize all of these factors within a holistic, living farm system. The food that results is very pure and true to its essence and provides deeply penetrating nutrition that is essential to an increasingly unhealthy human population.
In our day-to-day practice the goal is to create a farming system that is minimally dependent on imported materials, and instead meets its needs from the living dynamics of our farm itself. It is the biodiversity of the farm, organized so that the waste of one part of the farm becomes the energy for another, that results in an increase in our farm’s capacity for self-renewal and ultimately makes our farm sustainable. This requires that, as much as possible, a farm be regenerative rather than degenerative. Consider carefully materials that are imported onto the modern day organic farm. Where do they come from? Often they can be tracked back to a natural resource provided by the earth. Examples include petroleum to move materials around, ancient mineral deposits, by-products of unsustainable agriculture-related industry, and the life of the seas and waterways. An important social value of Biodynamic farming is that it does not depend on the mining of the earth’s natural resource base but instead emphasizes contributing to it.
So why isn’t all of our food (in America) produced using biodynamic farming practices? Because it is takes time to establish the natural balance on a farm. For example: our farm has been using biodynamic practices for the past 5 years and just this past season we are finally beginning to see a true balance. Our first year of farming our beneficial population was practically nonexistent. Pollinators were so scarce we relied on manual (by hand) pollination of crops, our soil contained mass amounts of nematodes and poor overall nutrients, excess watering was necessary for crops to survive, we had mass amounts of crop destroying pests, and a destructive bird population made for two very frustrated farmers. There are very few farmers who have patience (and financial flexibility) to dedicate to harnessing the natural world around them and so modern day farming techniques were born. <- And now we are all learning most of these modern day farming techniques are not sustainable for our planet or human life. (I’ll save that topic for a future blog)
If you’re interested in a biodynamic approach for your home garden here are a few recommendations:
*Start composting – make sure you find a reliable resource on what items can and cannot be used in your compost bin – Don’t forget to add some earthworms to your composting station. Use organic based compost to supplement your composting needs (if you’re unable to compost or if you’re unable to produce enough compost from your personal composting station).
*Don’t spray ANYTHING – every single organism, friend or foe, has a purpose.
*Plant many different crops, fruit trees/shrubs and add flowers as much as possible – think of a forest so many different life forms from the fungus on the forest floor, vines on the trees and the trees themselves. In nature, life is layered providing habitats for many species of plants and insects.
*If you are growing in ground, implement cover crops into your crop rotation. – Our farm’s health (and human health) starts and ends with our soil. The soil itself is a living organism and it too requires nourishment. Implementing cover crops aids in reconditioning soil, building soil nitrogen (by removing carbon from the atmosphere and converting that carbon into nitrogen), feeding beneficial microbes, preventing top soil erosion, suppressing weeds and reducing water consumption. Once your cover crops have been mowed, they can easily be turned back into the soil as green manure/bio mass – further creating a closed farming system (not relying on outside resources).
*Follow the Farmers Almanac. – Yes, it’s old school but our farm has benefited a great deal by utilizing this guide.
These are just a few basic guidelines to aid in harnessing the natural balance in your home garden. Our farm will be offering various educational workshops in conjunction with the University of Florida this upcoming season that will further build on biodynamic farming practices.