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Biodynamics comes in all sizes
 
Can you imagine, biodynamics came from the insights of Dr Rudolf Steiner, which he shared through a series of lectures delivered in 1924.
His motivation was driven by the declining quality of agricultural produce, observed not only by Steiner, but also by many in the farming communities. And remember, this was ninety years ago!

Every year since then, our chemical based agricultural system has continued to mine the soil, depleting it of minerals and vitality. Consequently the nutrient density of foods has continued to decline along with the health and fertility of the soil on food producing farms throughout the world.
 
Steiner’s biodynamic system
 
Steiner’s agricultural system is based on viewing the earth and cosmos holistically. His famous agricultural lectures were intended to help farmers restore and maintain balance and fertility to the soil by the application of naturally derived materials and cultural practices.
The basic idea behind biodynamic farming is the treatment of animals, crops and soil as a single system in a sustainable way. The aim is for the farm/garden to operate in an environmentally self-sustaining way so that no external inputs are required.
 
These days, biodynamic principles and methods are applied to all sizes of production from huge biodynamic farms, down to small home gardens.
At Vital Veggies we are doing our part to educate and integrate organic/biodynamic practices into the home gardens and veggie patches around Adelaide.
 
Large scale biodynamic land transformation
 
One of the largest and most successful biodynamic operations is the Egyptian farm SEKEM that was established in 1976 by Ibrahim Abouleish. Despite opposition, he reclaimed 70 hectares of barren desert near Cairo and by applying biodynamic agricultural methods, revitalised the barren earth, turning it into a thriving and sustainable rich farm land using only compost and Nile water.
 
SEKEM has now established a network of over 2,000 farmers and partner organisations in Egypt and other countries. They produce dairy products, juices, fine quality cotton, and medicinal products. The organisation is not only certified biodynamic but takes great care of its people, community and mother earth.
SEKEM has grown to include a number of biodynamic farms, trading companies, a medical centre, a Waldorf school, adult training and research centres, all based on agricultural, cultural and socially sustainable principles. Although in the early days they received regular harassment from the military government, it is now a proud flagship for the Egyptian government with regular overseas visitors.
The weekly Sekem Circle: A powerful symbol of the inspiring story of Sekem.
It was the persistence and vision for what could be achieved that allowed SEKEM to succeed. Their farm produce is biodynamic, free of chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, and exported worldwide.
 
Earlier this year Ibrahim’s son Helmy Abouleish toured Australia, sharing his biodynamic knowledge and the story of SEKEM with us.  Vital Veggies attended Helmy’s Adelaide talk, hosted by our very own biodynamic success story, B-d Farm Paris Creek.
 
Large and medium sized biodynamic operations
 
B-d Farm Paris Creek is South Australia’s most successful biodynamic dairy, producing premier milk, yoghurt, butter and cheeses. The milk always has a plug of ‘real’ cream in the top of the bottle (yum), just like we had when we were kids.

Founded by Ulli and Helmut Spranz, who emigrated from Germany in 1988 with the vision to set up a biodynamic farm, B-d Farm Paris Creek has shown that it is possible to farm without chemicals and succeed at putting biodynamics into fully commercial practice. Consumer demand for their high quality dairy products led them in 1994 to expand and they are now supplied by nine organic/biodynamic-in-conversion dairy farms around Adelaide.
 
Jurlique is another South Aussie biodynamic success story. The founders Jurgen and Ulrike Klein established their biodynamic farm in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, growing medicinal herbs and botanicals for their pure skin care products.
The Jurlique farm in the Adelaide Hills
According to Jurlique: “Biodynamics goes a step beyond organic farming to focus on how the rhythms of nature can have positive effects on the crops we grow. In biodynamic farming, the soil is considered a living entity. By following biodynamic principles, we aim to encourage healthy, well-structured soil on our farm that’s rich in humus and high in biological activity. Farming activities are planned where possible to coordinate with the cycles of the sun, moon, planets and stars. This helps create optimal conditions for plants to thrive.”
 
Jurlique is certified biodynamic by the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA).
 
Richard Makin is another example of a biodynamic farming success story. Richard converted a 3,000 acre cattle/sheep station in western NSW from conventional agriculture to biodynamic. Here he observed the effects of biodynamics on his land, bringing it back to life after its almost total collapse as a farm. During those biodynamic years, soil carbon increased from 1% to 5% and with it, he increased soil fertility and the number of animals able to be grazed.
 
Time and time again we see the application of biodynamics as a regenerative force upon the landscape.
 
Biodynamic wineries
 
There are a number of South Australian wineries that have converted from conventional growing (using synthetic fertilisers, pesticides etc) to biodynamic growing. Wineries such as Gemtree, Paxtons, Ngeringa, Smallfry, Whistling Kite, Kalleske, Redden Bridge…to name a few. They are all passionate about sustainable farming practices, the health of the land, the soil and the earth, and use biodynamic methods in their vineyards such as composting, biodiversity, mulching, bee-hives for pollination and soil enhancing biodynamic preparations. Where possible, vines are pruned, biodynamic fertilisers are applied, and grapes are harvested according to the biodynamic calendar that links the planetary forces with the flow of sap and processes within the plants and soil on earth.
 
Converting a conventional farm is not difficult but it takes time, normally three years if you wish to gain biodynamic certification.
 
Small biodynamic farms in SA
 
Scattered throughout South Australia are many passionate people caring for small scale biodynamic farms. Some are producing products and food on a boutique commercial basis, some sell their produce at farmer’s markets, and some are growing food biodynamically simply for their own pleasure and good health.
 
We had the pleasure of visiting Sunningdale Farm in May this year – see our Out and About article this month
for lots of images of the farm.
Sunningdale is 180 acres of farmland located in Mount Jagged on the Fleurieu Peninsula. One acre of this devoted to growing food for family and friends. Owners Anne and Phillip Duguid purchased the property in 1997 and set about transforming it into an organic farm. As a GP, Phillip had became convinced that the quality of the food we eat depends on how it is grown and this in turn affects our health. When Anne was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, they decided to go biodynamic.
 
“Being at the top of the hill, the topsoil had washed away, leaving heavy clay, impos­sible to dig. So we built raised beds piled with layers of lucerne hay, compost and straw, and now we have beautiful, deep, black soil that is full of worms and produces an enormous amount of food for us, 10m from our door. With no mains water or bore, we rely on rain and dam water.”
Some of the garden beds at Sunningdale Farm.
Their next move was to improve the garden soil which was poor in nutrients and well compacted with the no dig method, using seamungus, rapid raiser, lucerne hay, pea straw and compost. Moving onto farm management, they stopped drenching and using chemical sprays on their cattle. They also created a cow pat pit to make biodynamic preparations and prepared lots of compost, an integral component of all biodynamic farming. That compost helped to build up the soil structure, along with humus and the application of Preparation 500.
 
Sunningdale Farm gained Biodynamic Certification in 2008 that covered both the garden produce and the cattle. Although their agricultural practices have not changed they have not renewed their certification this year due to the increased cost.
 
Another South Australian biodynamic farm is Jembella Farm in Angaston, Barossa Valley, run by Brian and Sally Linke. Their 16 acre property is largely self sufficient with a large vegetable garden,  fruit orchards, bees and livestock. They have 2 dogs, 7 cows, 2 alpacas, 5 geese, 35 chickens, 78 sheep and a few bee hives.
Sally makes jams, pickles, sauces, chutneys and other treats from their home grown biodynamic produce and sells them (along with their delicious honey) through their Farmgate shop.
Jembella, a self sufficient biodynamic farm in the Barossa Valley.
Biodynamic home gardens
 
By far the largest number of biodynamic growers are everyday home gardeners with their plots big and small. The reward of their endeavours is high quality fresh produce with exceptional taste and nutrient density. You may be one of these home gardeners who grow just enough seasonal food for your family or a bit extra to share or swap with friends.  

Biodynamic home gardeners have vowed not to use any chemicals on their property or plants. They have compost bins for garden waste and to make biodynamic compost annually, worm farms for kitchen scraps, practice crop rotations, plant flowers and herbs to increase biodiversity and may even have chooks for nitrogen rich manure to complete the cycle. They use biodynamic preparations to increase and maintain the fertility of their soil, which in turn builds healthy, strong, productive plants.

If you’ve been growing organically but haven’t explored biodynamics, don’t’ be afraid to go the next step! It can be a step by step conversion but it won’t take long to see the amazing results in your garden and your produce.
 
The continuing result of using biodynamic methods is a vibrant garden producing fruit and vegetables of far superior quality, taste, texture and nutrient density than even your locally sourced, organic produce. By working with the rhythms of nature, you’ll instil a palpable, harmonious energy into your garden.
Roger applying a mixture of biodynamic preparations to a typical home veggie garden.
So what are you waiting for?
 
If you have a food garden, or want to establish one, biodynamics is very easy to do and is the next step on from organic production. And we are here if you need help with setting up a biodynamic food garden or reinvigorating your old patch.
 
Get out in the garden and grow food, not lawns! 
You’ll be surprised at how much pleasure you’ll get from working with nature and you’ll be rewarded with delicious, freshly picked, chemical free, home-grown fruit and veggies.
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