3rd March 2017
- by Kelly Newton-Wordsworth
By Kelly Newton-Wordsworth BJuris LLB(BLaws)
(Housewife, mother, international performing and recording artist, composer, author, environmental and humanitarian activist) With thanks to William Newton-Wordsworth, for his valuable assistance in the writing of this article.
What is “biodynamic farming?”
For any person who has never heard of “Biodynamic” agriculture, I would love to give you an introduction in a “nutshell”, so that you can become a passionate ‘biodynamic’ enthusiast after reading this article! Biodynamic agriculture is a huge passion for myself my husband and our family. It is also becoming a passion for a growing number of people throughout the world. Probably the main reason for our great enthusiasm, is that we have been able to bring “life” to the soil and grow food without poisons for around 30 years. Also it is a truly sustainable way of farming, not just with small areas of land but it can be done on a much larger scale. We are now the longest running broad acre biodynamic farmers in Western Australia farming around 3,000 acres since 1987.
Biodynamic farming was developed by the Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner and introduced to the world in 1924. It was the foundation of the “organic movement” in agriculture internationally. Prior to the 20 th century, all food was grown “organically”, without artificial inputs and chemicals for controlling pests and weeds. With the introduction of the methods used in modern conventional farming, biodynamic and organic methods became known as “alternative agriculture”.
Having been a biodynamic farmer now, since the late 80’s, I would say the “nutshell” description of what we do, is that we gather cow manure (from only our own cows) and pour the manure into empty cow-horns. We then bury the horns under the ground for a few months during the winter. When we remove the manure from the horns, the substance that once was ‘simply’ cow manure has transformed into what is known as “500”. (It is called “500” because there are 500 million living bacteria in one gram of this material. Many agronomists are now speaking about the importance of “microbes” leading to much healthier soil. The application of 500, results in a quantum leap in microbe activity in the soil. This in
turn leads to a major increase in the health and vitality of the soil, which of course leads to the same in the foods grown in this soil.) The cow manure after it has become ‘500’ changes and smells sweet. It is no longer like cow manure and more like compost. However, it is also not like compost. You can hold it in your hand, and it feels spongy. It is black in colour
and you can roll it to form it into a ball. One hand full of this “500” mixed with a quantity of water and stirred in a container in a specific way for one hour is enough “activator” to spray one acre of land. The results we are achieving in many ways are astonishing from the perspective of not only the health and vigour of our pastures and the animals, but also the profitability of our farming operation.
From the consumer’s point of view though, I know people who are looking to eat ‘clean’ food would be very interested to know a lot more about what is happening in the production of their food and also what is happening in the environment in which they live. How “clean” is the food being purchased by people all over the world? Would you choose to eat ‘Biodynamic food’ as opposed to conventionally grown food ? Please humour me for a moment, and ask your self a simple question. If you were given the choice between eating foods, which were grown in the following two completely different ways, which would you choose for the health of yourself and your family?(If you are interested in letting us know, and perhaps being interviewed, please email us. We would be very grateful for your answers)
Eat food that was grown with a cocktail of poisons (herbicides, pesticides, fungicides), chemicals, “potentially” Genetically modified organisms (there is almost no labelling so far of these foods in international markets) and artificial toxic fertilisers potentially containing heavy metals.
Eat food that was grown with a life-giving bacteria, derived only from cow manure collected from a biodynamic/organic farm. This food has been produced with NO poisons, chemicals or toxic fertilisers, only a substance which brings life to the soils in which the food is grown and therefore brings life to the foods to be consumed. Biodynamic foods are also grown with natural fertilisers as required.
I imagine that if you are a sane human being and truly care about your health in the short and long term, you would choose to eat Biodynamic/Organic food.
Do consumers really have the choice? The difference between having this opportunity to “choose” in this hypothetical situation, and what is happening out in the real world, is that most people have no idea of the way in which their food is being grown. There is no labelling of what farmers are using to grow their produce, on produce and products, except when the label states that food is grown, “biodynamically” or “organically”. I have not so far found produce in most shops that state which chemicals or fertilisers were used to grow the products I am buying in any shops I have been to around the world! Therefore effectively people have little or NO real choice as to the products they are buying and therefore eating, unless they buy “biodynamic or organic” foods. If anyone can help me to find produce that is stating the chemicals, drenches, hormones or fertilisers that have been used in the production of any product from conventional agriculture, please contact me and let me know.
Those who are very conscious of the foods they are eating for themselves and their families, tend to discover the power and uniqueness of biodynamic produce after a time. It is still a method of growing food that is not so well known throughout the world, but the awareness of the benefits of eating this produce is growing exponentially internationally. The practice of biodynamic agriculture is allowing consumers to eat foods that are ‘life enhancing’, therefore helping to bring increased health and wellbeing to the consumers who buy and eat biodynamically grown foods. Organically grown foods are also grown without the use of artificial fertilisers, hormones, chemical drenches, chemicals and so on.
In this way, biodynamic agriculture is similar to organic farming. In another way though, biodynamic agriculture is completely different to organic farming. Organic farmers tend to use more composted manures, both animal and plant. Biodynamic farmers are using the preparations such as ‘500’ to spray out over the land and the living bacteria, does the work to bring life to the soil. Natural rock phosphates and minerals tend to be used in places where particularly in Western Australia our soils tend to be very mineral deficient. When anyone really looks at the implications of the fact that we can grow amazingly healthy and tasty foods, from one handful of ‘500’ to the acre, together with occasional natural organic inputs, biodynamic agriculture can only be described as a miraculous, life-enhancing, world changing, precious blessing to humanity.
The fact that this method of looking after the land has not spread world wide very quickly, can perhaps be attributed to the possibility that it stands as a major threat to modern conventional practices of agriculture, where huge multi-national companies market and promote to farmers world wide, that poisons and artificial fertilisers are essential in the production of food and falsely claim that they are safe. The modern pretext that it is ‘impossible to grow food without chemicals and artificial fertilisers’ has been promoted for more than fifty years throughout schools, universities and agricultural colleges. These words have been spoken and promoted for a long enough time that many farmers quote this saying as a fact, instead of a theory.
The theory of modern conventional chemical based agriculture, was founded by a German scientist Dr Liebig. This can of course be turned around to Dr “big lie”. The chemical companies grabbed his theories of the advantages of growing food with chemically processed water-soluble fertilisers and ran with them. He said this way of farming would lead to farmers having bigger yields. By the time he was realising that his theory was faulty, in that while there were increased yields unfortunately the application of the artificial chemically processed fertilisers (which are made with substances like sulphuric acid) lead to more acidic and unhealthy soils. The plants and animals grown on these soils were not as healthy and the food did not taste as good. By this time, it was too late to stop the movement of multi-national companies who were producing and marketing these products to farmers in the pursuit of ever increasing profits.
We now know many farmers who have told us that they will not let their wives and families go anywhere near the canola paddocks. Why? We have met beekeepers whose hives have been wiped out after farmers have sprayed the canola. We know canola growers who use a chemical that they have told us is banned all over the world but still used here in Western Australia. We have met fruit growers who have told us they will not let their families go near their packing sheds and they have an organic orchard for their families. What is going on here?
Biodynamic agriculture is seen to be a very “alternative” method of farming in the modern world. My husband William and I have been growing food in a successful commercial way on an almost 3,000 acre property in Williams Western Australia since 1987. Many farmers have said to us that it is not possible to grow food without chemicals and artificial fertilisers. Almost 30 years ago, one of these farmers said to us, that our farm would be “barren” in ten years. That farmer has now sold his farm due to increased debt and decreased productivity along with others who made similar comments. On our land, “Boraning”, (which in the local indigenous dialect, means “place of spiritual wisdom”), we grow biodynamic beef, lamb, oats, olive oil, table olives, pistachios, many fruits and vegetables, breed horses for horse sports and live a life that people probably don’t even know is possible to live in the modern world. We have an eco-tourism business, a music business, a Christian community and now a church that meets every Sunday in our Café.
We live a “biodynamic” life full of amazing surprises, travel internationally to take part in concerts, speaking engagements, events and have a wide variety of exciting activities every day. Biodynamic agriculture is caring for the land on which we live. We can eat the food we grow with happiness knowing the way in which it has been grown, and walk across the land with a feeling of warmth that is even ‘beyond’ the light of the sun. The passion for living that comes from knowing that the way we are growing food is right for ourselves, our family, friends and all of the people who buy our produce is the one of the main answers to “WHY” we farm biodynamically.
Something money can’t buy is the happiness that comes from this lifestyle.