Practices which are unique to biodynamics are the application of biodynamic preparations based on mineral, plant and animal substances(in particular cow manure), used to support soil and plant life. These soil and atmospheric preparations are applied at least twice per year in spring and autumn. Biodynamic farmers and gardeners also use compost preparations unique to biodynamics in their compost to aid the breakdown and recycling of organic matter through composting and fermenting processes converting it to humus.
Peter Proctor, in his book "Grasp the Nettle" explains how soil is viewed as a complex, living entity and is considered the prime capital and wealth of the biodynamic farmer. Biodynamic agriculture treats the whole farm as a living system which interacts with the environment to build healthy living soils and to produce nourishing food full of vitality. Rudolf Steiner pointed out that plants grow not only through the fertility of the soil but also with the support of the cosmos, the rhythms of the sun, moon, planets and the wider constellations of the zodiac. This cosmic support streams into the earth through the living nature of the soil and is important for the healthy growth and quality of plants. The biodynamic preparations help open up the soil to these cosmic influences. The way in which biodynamic farmers and gardeners work with the cosmic formative forces through biodynamic calendars which guide the appropriate timing of farm operations and the application of biodynamic preparations is what distinguishes biodynamic farming and gardening from organic farming, permaculture and biological farming methods.
There are also many similarities between biodynamic farming and organic farming, permaculture and biological farming methods. Biodynamic farmers like organic farmers also grow their crops and livestock without the use of pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilisers and GMOs. They also share a respect for ecological processes and the environment and have healthy living soils at the basis of their production system. Everything a biodynamic farmer does on his farm allows him to be certified organic but the reverse is not true. Biodynamic practitioners often believe that biodynamics helps make organics work. Biodynamic farms are inherently self contained and self sufficient systems where organic farms are not necessarily so.
Biodynamic farming also shares similarities with permaculture. Permaculture is a design process for designing food production systems modelled on patterns observed in nature. Both biodynamics and permaculture seek to create sustainable systems based on understanding patterns and energy cycles inherent in natural systems. Biodynamic farmers often create systems similar to those designed in permaculture and these two systems can compliment each other when used together.
Biological farming practices are becoming more widespread as conventional farmers search for ways to improve degraded soils and reduce costs. Biological farming practices can use either or both conventional and organic farming methods to create healthy soils with high levels of biological activity. They are not necessarily chemical free systems and this does not involve the use of the biodynamic preparations used by biodynamic farmers.
The use of specially formulated biodynamic preparations that work with cosmic forces to grow food full of life force energy is the distinguishing feature of biodynamic farming and gardening. Peter Proctor explains that the life forces in our food influence the quality of our thinking and our interactions with other people. Conscious thinking about and working with these cosmic formative forces and applying this knowledge in making and using the biodynamic preparations is what distinguishes biodynamic farming.
We implement biodynamic farming and gardening methods and combine them with organic methods and permaculture design approaches and we have noticed the amazing taste and vitality in our produce as a result. It is the production of food full of life force energy that distinguishes biodynamic practices for us and ensures our commitment to this farming and gardening approach.