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For the past 3 years I have been involved, at least to some degree, with Cosmic Apple Garden in Victor, Idaho. Cosmic Apple Gardens (cosmicapple.com), is a certified organic farm specializing in vegetables, spring mix, fresh eggs, beef, and pork products. They incorporate biodynamic farming techniques on over 9 acres of garden vegetables.
From the beginning of May through the end of October, Cosmic Apple offers a workshare program where one can work from 7am to noon doing whatever is needed around the farm in return for a share of the produce. This year I work one morning every other week. Duties include weeding, harvesting, working with all stages of compost, maintaining greenhouses, washing vegetables etc. At the end of every morning shift, we are fed a homemade, all organic lunch – definitely a highlight of the day!
Cosmic Apple Gardens goes beyond organic by utilizing the principles of biodynamic agriculture. Developed in 1924 by an Austrian scientist and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), biodynamic agriculture was in response to observations from farmers that soils were becoming depleted following the introduction of chemical fertilizers at the turn of the century.
Farmers also noticed a deterioration in the health and quality of crops and livestock. Biodynamic agriculture was the first ecological farming system to develop in response to chemical agriculture.
A basic ecological principle of biodynamics is to conceive of the farm as one organism, a self-contained entity. Integration of crops and livestock, recycling of nutrients, maintenance of soil, and the health and well being of crops and animals are central tenets.
Even the farmer is considered a part of the whole.
Now for the ‘Cosmic’ part: “while biodynamics parallels organic farming in many ways—it is set apart from other organic agriculture systems by its association with the spiritual science of anthroposophy founded by Steiner, and in its emphasis on farming practices intended to achieve balance between the physical and higher, non-physical realms; In a nutshell, biodynamics can be understood as a combination of "biological dynamic" agriculture practices. "Biological" practices include a series of well-known organic farming techniques that improve soil health. "Dynamic" practices are intended to influence biological as well as metaphysical aspects of the farm (such as increasing vital life force), or to adapt the farm to natural rhythms (such as planting seeds during certain lunar phases)”. (quoted from National Sustainable Agricultural Service)
A fundamental tenet of biodynamic agriculture is that food raised biodynamically is nutritionally superior and tastes better than foods produced by conventional methods. This has absolutely been my experience!
Today biodynamic agriculture is practiced on farms around the world, on various scales, and in a variety of climates and cultures. However, most biodynamic farms are located in Europe, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
Does it work? The differences between biodynamic farming and conventional chemical farming are quite significant. For instance, a 1993 a research article in the journal Science compared soil quality and financial performance of Biodynamic and conventional farms in New Zealand. The article reported that, "The Biodynamic farms proved in most enterprises to have soils of higher biological and physical quality: significantly greater in organic matter, content and microbial activity, more earthworms, better soil structure, lower bulk density, easier penetrability, and thicker topsoil." The biodynamic farms were just as financially viable. (Visit Wikipedia.com, Biodynamic Agriculture)
You may wonder how this relates to my work and life. First, it is more time spent outside. Working at the farm gets me up very early in the morning – an especially beautiful time of day. It connects me to the source of our food in a very intimate way. The food right off the farm is notably better, more vital and flavorful than produce from the grocery store. Working at the farm is also a way for me to be involved in my community and with people who are actively seeking green lifestyles and sustainability – both critical to the future of the outdoor industry, as well as inspiring!
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