Blackberry Farm

Friends of the Farm

Biodynamic Farming and Winemaking

This spring we are celebrating the season by focusing on Biodynamic farming and winemaking.
The spring is a natural time to celebrate and focus on Biodynamic wines. To do this, we are creating a seasonal wine list that focuses entirely on Biodynamic wines which we put out in the restaurant on the first day of spring. Biodynamics is the “oldest non-chemical agricultural movement,” according to the current day authority on the subject, Marty Waldin. It traces its roots to the teachings and seminars of an Austrian man named Rudolf Steiner. This man developed a branch of Science known as Anthroposophy or Spiritual Science. This science was developed by Steiner following a stint editing the scientific works of a famous German writer, Goethe. He learned from Goethe as well as “his own intuition that science was limited when it came to helping man understand nature and by implication farming because it overlooked the spiritual aspect of reality.” It is spiritual nourishment as well as physical nourishment that is addressed by biodynamics.
Now it’s important to address Steiner’s idea of spirituality. While I don’t profess to completely understand his theological leanings, it seems that when he talked about spirituality in reference to Biodynamics, he was talking more about the presence of life and energy that exists in nature and our connection to that rather than a belief in a certain deity. It is this energy that he believed humans were increasingly becoming detached from and also that seems to not exist on large industrial farms.
Of chief concern to Steiner at the time was the development of inorganic fertilizers by a German Chemist, von Liepig who became known as the father of chemical farming. He developed a theory known as the law of the minimum which basically stated that whichever element that was needed by the plant but was in the shortest supply would dictate the potential growth of the plant. Thusly, nitrogen rich fertilizers were born. These fertilizers worked well at a time when Europe needed them to grow crops in abundance however they had some negative side effects as well such as soil degradation, creation of larger and hardier weeds as well as fungal and disease issues in the farm. Eventually these negative side effects were addressed with the additional application of chemicals specifically designed to treat these new threats but these new chemicals came with their own negative side effects. You can see how this could spiral out of control. Organic farming addresses the idea of not using these types of chemicals in your farm. Biodynamic farming takes it to another level.
Steiner’s idea was to create farm systems that were not only fully sustainable, but created physically healthy and spiritually healthy farms. Healthy crops were simply a side effect of his teachings. More importantly, it was everything on the farm that became healthier through his systems including the crops, the livestock, the earth itself and the farmers and their families. His belief was that by following a standard set of processes including using a number of different fertilizers made under strict guidelines from ingredients that come from the farm and then by careful application at the appropriate time, a farmer could imbue his crops with a vivaciousness of healthy spirit and strength that would then translate to the creatures on the farm that ate those crops.
This process comes full circle. Imagine this, a farmer carefully grows his crops using fertilizers made carefully on the farm from manure from his cows. The crops get stronger. The cows eat better crops. What happens to their manure? It also gets better and more potent as a fertilizer of course. Eventually, the cows are healthier and the farmers who have been eating the crops and the occasional cow are also being nourished at a higher level and are therefore more in tune with their farm and can be better stewards of the land. It just keeps getting better and better.
When one of the crops grown on the farm is grapes, you can imagine that after a number of years of being farmed under Biodynamic guidelines, the grapes begin to truly translate a real sense of the farm on which they are grown. This is the most dramatic effect of biodynamic farming – the sense of place of a certain wine is heightened by this process. The wines develop personalities that are unique to that farm and therefore the wines from each grower are uniquely different as much as the farmers themselves.

Andy Chabot, Director of Food and Beverage