Going Organic Magazine is now the educational component of the non-profit, "Transition to Organics, Coachella Valley". (read more)

Treating the Farm as a Total Living Organism

A brief look into the world of Biodynamic Agriculture

by Annie Rabin Arnold

farm

When drinking wine, the last thing you are probably thinking about is who made the fermented grape juice making its way to your mouth. And when I talk about “who” I am not referring to only humans.

chickenAlthough humans are the link between the vine and the glass, there’s a lot more working energy swirling around than you could imagine. As a matter of fact, some of the vineyard workers have hooves and can even fly.

That’s right, animals, insects, flowers and owls play a large role in creating the perfect grape for wine. Any grape producer can hire (or buy) these farmhands but only a few actually follow a strict method of farming called Biodynamic Agriculture.

Like biodynamic agriculture, biodynamic viticulture is a methodology of growing grapes based on a principle that all living organisms are inter-related and are affected by the spiritual elements within the universe. This methodology is attributed to Rudolf Steiner, who introduced it in a lecture series in 1924.

beeThis type of farming is really no different than how our ancestors farmed before the Georgian (or Western) calendar was invented in 1582. It incorporates early agricultural practices such as, basing the planting and harvesting calendar on the movement of the stars and the moon. It utilizes humus (product of the decomposition of organic materials like leaves, animal waste, herbs and flowers) as fertilizers (called Biodynamic Preparations) and uses traditional pest control measures free from pesticides.

goatsOne form of pest control is using beneficial plants within the vineyard, which attract beneficial insects that will in turn attack harmful insects. Another tool is creating “owl boxes” (bird houses for owls), to create a safe hunting and gathering spot for owls to clear the vineyards of unruly rodents.

wormsThe biodynamic movement encompasses more than just vineyards. These methods, whether certified by Demeter (Biodynamic certifying agency) or not, are currently being utilized on thousands of successful gardens, farms, and agricultural operations of all kinds and sizes on all continents, and in a wide variety of ecological and economic settings.

Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm or vineyard itself. An added benefit is that there’s no use of harmful pesticides, herbicides or fungicides on the farm, thus respecting the health of the farmers and their families.

owlCreating a biodynamic certified wine goes far beyond the final product. Treating the earth and vine with respect helps the farm succeed as “one living organism,” and by default, it benefits the farmers, animals, insects and plants.

When developing my business, I soon became completely overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of wines and producers that were available to choose from. After reading through hundreds of winery profiles I had what they call an “Ah Ha” moment. At that point, organic and biodynamic farming methods played a key role in the direction I chose to take, and a movement I wanted to support.

Annie Rabin Arnold was raised in a wine store that her grandfather opened in 1938. After college, traveling around the world and 10 years of working in the film business, Annie took a leap of faith and turned her local family business, into a nationwide phenomenon called Organic Wine Exchange, a unique website that combines wine education with the sales of organic and biodynamic wines. You can visit Annie at wine@organicwineexchange.com