Nonini on biodynamics
One of the things I'd hoped
to get out of the ACRES USA conference was an opportunity to answer
questions like --- is biodynamics kooky or is it a valid method of
increasing the biological stability of a farming ecosystem? After
listening to Gena Nonini's "Biodynamic journey" presentation, I'm
leaning toward the answer --- biodynamics is both.
Nonini grew up on a
conventional (aka chemical) farm in California, so her journey in the
biodynamic direction wasn't well received by her family and
neighbors. She leased 90 acres of wine grapes from her parents in
1991, and soon realized that chemical farming was terrible for her
health, and wasn't going to allow her to make a living either.
Nonini's response was to
slowly but surely start focusing on organic inputs and on diversifying
her operation. She followed the biodynamic principle of creating
"preparation 500" --- filling a cow horn with cow manure and burying it
in the ground to age for a few months before applying the compost to
her soil. She also added citrus trees and vegetables to the farm,
figuring the biodiversity would help prevent pests organically and
would also ease the financial strain if one crop failed.
In her lecture, Nonini
argued that the health of biodynamic farms can't be explained by
"substances", but instead by "forces". (Yes, she even talked
about communing with the gnomes.) This is where she lost me, and
why I've considered biodynamics kooky in the past. I'm quite
willing to believe that preparation 500 might be very valuable to soil
--- maybe the horn acts a bit like biochar and increases microorganism
populations dramatically in the enclosed manure. But creating a
spiritually-based agriculture system seems like a copout to me. I
always want to know how things operate so I can decide when to use them
and how to make them work even better.
Biodynamic agriculture has
developed a large following as the term "organic" continues to be taken
over by large agriculture companies that care more about the bottom
line than about the health of the farm ecosystem. However, I'm
afraid I'll stick to the term "permaculture" for now if Nonini is a
typical example of the biodynamic movement. I've got another
biodynamic talk to listen to, though, so maybe I'll change my tune in
the next ACRES lunchtime series.
Our chicken waterer makes it easy to leave town
for the weekend without worrying about your flock.
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