Cast back to farming in the 1920’s and picture a pioneering visionary, scientist and educator – Rudolf Steiner.
A remarkable man whose intuition and intellect led him to realise, before anyone else, something of vital worldly importance. Not only did he realise the dangers of emerging synthetic fertilisers and poor soil conditions to habitat and health, but his innate understanding of how the western way of life was beginning to impact the earth, led him to recognise that there was only one way for the true force and potential of nature and our health to thrive. With that he asserted: a farm must be treated as a single self-sustaining organism that flourishes through biodiversity and the interdependence of all living things.
There’s organic…and then there’s biodynamic.
So what’s the difference? Well, while biodynamic farming reflects many principles of organic farming there’s a fundamental contrast. Because biodynamic farming means creating an ecosystem that’s capable of producing everything it could possibly need without any external input. And because of this, every living creature on the farm – from the humble earth worm to the insects and flowers – plays a vital role in nurturing and nourishing the earth and the plants and food it produces.
That’s why here at Shire Farm everything from our sunflowers and the bees buzzing around them to our Zwartbles sheep and the grasses they graze are playing a valuable part. We continue Steiner’s ground-breaking work by tending our land according to his recommendations and supplying the multi-award winning biodynamic skincare brand AEOS, Pegasus Parfum and Aura-Soma with potent plants and herbs brimming with nutrients and life-force.
DID YOU KNOW…
The word "Biodynamic" originates from the Greek word "bios" meaning life, and "dynamos" meaning energy.
To create the most nutrient-packed produce, healthy and thriving soil is at the heart of biodynamic farming. There are two main ways in which we keep our soil so nourished: farm-derived soil preparations and crop rotation. We create natural fertilisers and field sprays from manure produced by our Dexter cattle and Zwartbles sheep and through fermentation of nutrient-rich plants and herbs from our farm. Full of minerals and beneficial microbial activity, these multi-tasking preparations stimulate the soil’s ecosystem, enhance the plants’ absorption of nutrients, fend off pests and prevent the spread of disease.
By rotating crops we ensure soil doesn’t get depleted. Conventional farming methods exhaust the soil by growing one crop season after season on the same piece of land, continuously taking the same nutrients from the soil. Adding chemical fertilizers only makes the problem worse by further exhausting the soil. Biodynamic farming takes a more holistic, long-term view, and crop rotation – growing different crops on the same piece of land from one season to another – ensures that different nutrients in the soil are utilised each time, while mineral-accumulating plants help to replenish the soil.
The value of biodiversity
Biodiversity plays a vital role in biodynamic farming. By understanding the dynamics between different species and working with nature instead of trying to manipulate it, we’re richly rewarded with incredible allies and a vibrant, fertile ecosystem with built-in pest and disease controls, supporting the health and thriving of all its parts.
At Shire Farm we value the contributions of all our creatures, big and small. Our Dexter cattle and Zwartbles sheep bestow us with soil-enriching manure and our thriving bee colonies pollinate our crops for abundant harvests as well as providing us with delicious and healthful honey.
Various other insects oxygenate and fertilise the soil or help to keep plant-damaging pests in check – though in the biodynamic model pests are an indicator of a weakened plant and the first course of action is to strengthen the plant with holistic preparations. We also plant trees and berry-laden hedgerows to attract more birds to the farm – we’re rewarded with soil-improving phosphorus-rich droppings and rodent control in return!
In harmony with celestial cycles
Biodynamic farming also recognises the impact that celestial bodies – the Sun, Moon and planets – have on the vitality and growth of plants. For example, variations in sunlight intensity and the ebb and flow of water, not only in the ocean but within all living things due to the Moon’s magnetic force, naturally create energising or resting conditions for plants during the year. These cycles are recorded in the annual planting calendar which guides the biodynamic farmer when best to sow, cultivate and harvest to maximise the quantity and quality of produce.
In the biodynamic ecosystem, the farmer is a conscious and responsible steward, recognising and nurturing the interdependence of all the diverse elements of the farm’s ecosystem for the optimum benefit of the whole. Tending the earth with wisdom and intuition, the farmer plays a crucial role in maximising the potential of the land to produce the healthiest, most nutritious bounty it can offer.
This is what we’re striving toward at Shire Farm, every day, in every season of every year: to sow and reap the fruits of a greater good for all.