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Bio Dynamic Preparations: The Phenomena Coming of Age

Bio Dynamic Preparations: The Phenomena Coming of Age

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Ideas introduced in the 20th Century byRudolf Steiner are now emerging as someof the most original and timelycontributions to the modern world.Inaddition to Biodynamic Agriculture,examples of Steiner’s living legacy includethe Waldorf/Steiner school movement;Anthroposophical medicine;the Camphillmovement for living and working withdevelopmentally disabled individuals;anew freedom of design in architecture;andoriginal contributions to fields as vastlydistinct as the arts and economics.Over the next four issues we willinvestigate Biodynamic Agriculture – along practised but little publicised methodof organic agriculture,that is growing in itsrecognition and use due to its ability toproduce exceptional quality produce withminimal inputs!
Biodynamics – What is it!
Biodynamics is gaining increasedattention for its ability to restore soilfertility and produce high quality food.Once a little known method of organicagriculture,it is now practised in over 30countries,bringing the farmers that chooseto use it good returns both on the land andin the local and world markets.According to Hugh Lovel,author of “ABiodynamic Farm”and a BiodynamicFarmer of 25 years,who recently touredAustralia,“Biodynamics is known for itsexcellence.One grower gets good crops of high protein while another grows the mostfragrant,delicious,fruits or herbs.Another’s flowers amaze with theirvibrant coloursand thedurability of their blossoms.Biodynamicscan make thelabour side of farming seemcreative and fun,and instead of the worries of health risks andenvironmentaldegradationthere is the joy of working andlearning withnature!”So what is atthe essence of Biodynamics?It is anorganic farmingmethod suited toall types of farmproduction that is geared towardsimproving and regenerating the soil andoverall farm integrity through the use of aunique range of Biodynamic preparationswhich stimulate soil micro-life activity andatmospheric balance.These specialpotentised preparations are used in smallquantities over a large area andconsistently achieve dramatic results in arelatively short period.Experience both in Australia andinternationally has shown that the use of these preparations make natural bacterialand mineral processes found in an organicsystem work much faster.Previouslymarginal farming land has been turnedinto highly productive fertile ground in aslittle as two years.One of the hardest things to grasp withBiodynamics is the small amount of inputsthat are used to achieveresults! However,this is inkeeping with the principle of fluid dynamics that amicroscopic change at a pointcan effect large scale changesin the medium.These specialpreparations are one of themain features thatdistinguishes biodynamicfarming from organics.In the process of learning tofarm biodynamically,one of the most important skills thefarmer develops is a greaterawareness of nature and theutmost respect for both the visible andinvisible forces that shape life.
A Brief History
Biodynamics was first described in 1924by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner,after requests from farmers,who wereexperiencing an increasing degenerationin seed strains,cultivated plants andanimal health.During a series of 8 lectures,Steinergave the farmers recipes for nine special“preparations”(500-508),which are thefoundation of Biodynamic Practice.(In thenext issue we will explain these in moredetail.) These lectures are now compiled inthe book known as “The AgricultureCourse”by Rudolf Steiner.Some 80 years on,there are thousandsof Biodynamic Farms worldwide,producing everything from flowers,herbs,wool,olives,grapes,fruit,vegetables,grains,beef,poultry and even cosmetics.Internationally,Demeter is the mostcommon certification symbol of Biodynamics,however in Australia we arefortunate to have two other certifiers whoaccredit to National Biodynamicstandards,BFA (The Biological Farmers of Australia) and NASAA (NationalAssociation for Sustainable Agriculture).The increasing interest in Biodynamicsis part of a general move to organic andenvironmentally sustainable agriculture.Biodynamics is gaining strongerrecognition each year for its contributionsto better soils,quality food,healthy plants,healthy and contented animals,andenthusiastic farmers and consumers.Both farmers and consumers enjoy thefact that Biodynamics gives that extraedge of putting something back into ouroverstressed and tired soils whilst giving asuperior quality product.We are fortunate in Australia to now
 A phenomena coming of age!
 By Michelle Bell-Turner  Award winning BD Paris Creek Dairy Farm,SA. Left = conventional,Middle = control and Right = Biodynamic 
Town and Country Farmer • Winter 2003
have many farmers with experience inBiodynamic practices that can walk theirtalk,and assist those making the move andtransition into more sustainable farmingpractices.Some well-known Australian producersusing Biodynamic techniques are JalnaYoghurt,Cassegrain Wines,TimboonCheese,BD Paris Creek Dairy Farm,Weleda,Jurlique & Dr HauschkaCosmetics,Rosnay Organics and LloydsVineyards.Lloyds,at Nyah in Victoriahave been producing their award winningBiodynamic grape juice for over 25 years.The consistent use of BiodynamicPractices has enabled many farmers togain recognition for their work throughstrong marketplace demand and prizewinning product.During the past year,sixBiodynamic vineyards have won prizes fortheir wines and in 2001,Biodynamicfarmers won 70% of the OrganicFederation of Australia awards,with thenext awards to be announced at the bi-annual Organic Conference in Adelaide inOctober.
Farmer & Community Benefits
The most immediate benefit farmers’talk about is a dramatic improvement insoil structure,animal and plant health.Farmers also notice that the water holdingcapacity of their soil greatly increases.Other positives include the money savedin no longer requiring costly inputs of chemical fertilisers,herbicides,pesticides,fungicides and antibiotics.Plus,the benefitof a higher return due to consumersrecognising and being willing to pay forthe superior quality,flavour and shelf lifeof Biodynamic produce.The most common way people getstarted in Biodynamics is seeing orobserving a Biodynamic Farm in actionand then eventually meeting theenthusiastic practitioner.The Porter’s,a broad-acre grazingfamily from Armidale,observed that aneighbouring farm would always outlastall the other farms in the district duringdrought conditions.After years of drivingpast and noticing this eventually decidedto investigate and since May last year theyhave been applying Biodynamicspreparations on their farm.Observationsin the first six months,are that their stockare utilising the available pasture muchmore efficiently and the level of supplementation required,even withdrought conditions,has greatly reduced.When their shearers arrived,theycommented that the condition of theirsheep was among the top they had seen forthe season and the quality of the wool clipwas one of their best.Internationally,Biodynamic Vineyardshave fast been gaining a name asproducers of exquisite wine and this is justas true in Australia.Rosemount Winesbuy all of Botolabar’s biodynamic grapesat top price as they appreciate the flavourthat the biodynamic methods bring and forthe last three years in a row Biodynamicgrowers Julian & Carolann Castagna of Beechworth,Victoria,have won Gold &Silver medals in Australia’s Top 100 wines.The Castagna’s also won the prestigious“Le Concours des vins due Victoria”,inthe French Chamber of Commerce,Shirazsection.Biodynamic advisor,Cheryl Kemp,saysthat many professional people that enterfarming later in life find Biodynamics intheir quest for developing farming skillsand with no pre-conceived ideas they getgreat results in just a few years.In the next issue we will look at how theBiodynamic Preparations work and howto use them.
Tom Hacket,Biodynamic Farm Inspector & Adviser and award winning farmer shows off his soils at his farm at Bonville,NSW.
Biodynamic AgriCulture Australia isone of a number of BiodynamicAssociations in Australia dedicated tohelping farmers develop and share theskills.The Association makesbiodynamic preparations for distributionto members across Australia as well asteaching growers how to make their ownpreps on farm.Throughout the year,the associationruns introductory workshops forfarmers in regional areas acrossAustralia as well as providing a phoneadvisory service to its members.Further details on biodynamics can beobtained from www.biodynamics.net.auor contacting Biodynamic AgriCultureAustralia on 02 6655 0566 or emailcheryl@biodynamics.net.au.
 Soil Change after 2 years of BD Preps.
Town and Country Farmer • Winter 2003
The quest - To find an alternativeto conventional farming.
It all began in the 80’s when my father,Don,discovered a product called seaminerals to replace the conventionalchemical fertilizers that were in use.Thiswas used for several years with greatsuccess until supply problems wereencountered and use of this product wasstopped.Since then several alternativeshad been looked into,but with littlesuccess.I guess this taught me that we don’thave to accept the norm.Too manyfarmers have become totally dependent onthe chemical companies and we have beenlooking for an alternative to this methodof farming.Some properties in the New Englandare having massive problems withchemical resistance to all known drenches,the only solution being to destock.Resultsbeing seen from the application of chemical fertilizers,namelysuperphosphate,have also beendecreasing while the cost of applicationhas only been increasing.These issueswere prompting us to continue to look foralternatives.During shearing on our family propertylast October,we were introduced to PaulWilloughby,who is a biodynamic farmer.His enthusiasm towards BD farming wasobvious and started my interest in findinga better way of farming for our property.
The beginning of BD
I found,what was then,the BDFGAA.Contact was made with Cheryl Kempregarding our curiosity towardsBiodynamics.Cheryl’s enthusiasm wasremarkable,as was her willingness to getus involved.Armed with the resource manual and acopy of Peter Proctor’s “Grasp theNettle”,I set off to convince ‘my father’that this had to be a better way to go.Iencountered no resistance in wanting topursue BD further.In January the decision was made togive biodynamic farming a go,althoughthere were many problems for us toovercome e.g.what equipment to use andhow to spread the BD over the requiredarea.Topography and area were limitingfactors for ground spreading,so aerialspreading became the preferred option.Several discussions were held with thelocal aerial spreading companies,bothhelicopter and aeroplane.The helicopterscould only carry 450 litres per load.Wehad a choice of two aeroplanes,one thatcould carry up to 1,000 litres,the othercould carry up to 1,850 litres per load.Themost cost effective choice was the planethat carries up to 1,000 litres.Working with David Boundy,SuperairServices’ pilot/manager,we calculated thatthe plane could do between 8 and 10 tripsper hour from our airstrip.This createdthe need to be able to mix about 9,000litres per hour.As there was no spraying gear used inthe Armidale area,spreading from theplane became a job of trial and error.Tocontrol the flow a ‘fire door’,originallyused for fighting grass fire,was attached tothe bottom of the plane.(The fire door isquite unique as it saves us from filteringthe liquid before spreading.) On our firsttrial flight with the fire door,a swath of approximately 100m was observed.Our next problem was loading theplane.We had to get 900 litres into theaeroplane in the shortest amount of timepossible.Pumping was disregarded mainlydue to the cost of setting up a pump bigenough to do the job.The plane couldn’t fly all afternoonwithout fuel,so the loader used for loadingsuperphosphate into theplane had to come out tothe job as well,because italso carries the fuel for theplane.We decided to utilisethe hydraulic power of theloader and had a tankmanufactured to be liftedabove the plane.The tank holds 1,000litres and,through apurpose built valve in thebottom,can be unloadedinto the plane inapproximately 35 seconds.Discussions withHubertus Bobbert,a longtime successful practitionerof BD,about our proposedmethod of mixing andspreading met with hisapproval.We thenorganised Phil Sedgman
the beginning at “St Elmo” 
by Mark Porter,St Elmo,Armidale,New England Tableland,NSW 
Town and Country Farmer • Winter 2003

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