Biodynamic Agriculture was developed in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, in partnership with a group of farmers who were concerned about the decline in soil and animal health they were seeing on their farms. At this time, agriculture was moving toward a mechanistic view of nature and the development and use of synthetic nitrogen. Steiner was one of the first to warn that this would lead to the decline of soil, plant, and animal health, and devitalization of food. Steiner was one of the pioneers of organic farming.
Biodynamics views nature as a unified system with material, biological, and spiritual elements. An example of a unified system is a wilderness forest which has a high degree of self-sufficiency with the recycling of organic material that the system generates. Avoidance of pests is based on biological vigor and biological and genetic diversity. Water is recycled through the system.
Biodynamics attempts to integrate tangible and intangible forces on and beyond the farm. Its methods integrate crops and livestock and restore biodiversity to stimulate the farm's inherent fertility, health and terroir and enabling it to be self-sustaining. It considers the influences of climate and wildlife. The cycles of the sun, moon, and planets are used in determining the optimal times for sowing, cultivating, and harvesting.
Biodynamics uses nine preparations made from fermented manure, herbs, and mineral silica that are used as field sprays and in making compost. The herbs include yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion, valerian and horsetail.
Steiner and his colleagues developed a set of scientific methods for demonstrating the presence of life forces in nature and the vitality of food and soil. Acceptance of these methods is growing in European scientific circles.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which creates a cooperative relationship between farms and consumers, originated in the Biodynamic movement.
Biodynamics has a certification system that is managed world-wide by Demeter International. It starts with organic standards, but goes beyond them. Certification must be for the entire farm. It requires an integration of crops and livestock and that a part of the land be left wild or uncultivated to support biodiversity. It requires that biodynamic preparations be used.