Whole and Holistically Unconventional Farming

Whole and Holistically Unconventional Farming

The following text and photos are contributed by Flying Goat Cellars Ambassador Faye Walker:     

Farming for the Past, Present, and Future
The biodynamic movement has been at work for decades. For skeptics, some of the methods and practices can be easily dismissed as pseudoscience. While it may seem farcical to bury animal parts in the earth or to farm by the rhythms of the moon, biodynamics have also been touted to enhance soil quality and vineyard biodiversity. Is it possible to rationalize the cosmic ideologies behind lunar cycles and fire elements with vines and wines? What modern studies have found is that biodynamic principles, at their core, offer a long-term solution for building a successful farm and vineyard.




The Start at its Heart
Organic agriculture found its start at the beginning of the last century.  The first movements originated as a reaction to ecological, economic, and social issues that occurred during the two world wars. Soils suffered from acidification and loss of structural integrity; seeds decreased in quality; and diseases in both plants and animals were on the rise. With an aim to create a more sustainable form of agriculture without mineral fertilizers, farmers sought out ways to improve soil fertility and produce high-yield crops.
Biodynamics further evolved beyond organic farming from the teachings of Austrian spiritualist, philosopher, and writer Rudolf Steiner in 1924. His holistic system is based on respect for the spiritual dimension of the living and inorganic environment. Ideally, the practice takes place on mixed farms that include both crops and livestock in order to support the functionality of the land as an organism.
One essential element differentiates biodynamics from organic farming:  the application of nature-based preparations. Typically utilizing cow horns, these preparations are applied to soil and plants in conjunction with seasonal and celestial cycles. A minute amount of horn silica is stirred into rainwater in a figure-eight stirring motion referred to as the lemniscate. The result is sprayed as fine mist onto the vines. In addition, preparations of manure packed into cow horns are applied to compost to facilitate the transformation process into microbial-rich, black-brown decay products.




The Science-Mindedness
All this might come across as an elaborate approach to impose order using somewhat far-fetched, disordered components. However, scientific findings have been able to address the question of how conventional, biodynamic, and organic vineyards differ in their distinguishing characteristics. Organic and biodynamic treatments with compost application, the implementation of cover crop mixtures, and denial of mineral fertilizers have been shown to increase soil nutrient cycling in long-term studies. Biodiversity is also enhanced under organic farming, including the microbial communities found on grapes and vines. The diversity of cover crops and the use of compost in biodynamics contribute to an abundance of plant, insect, and related species.
While there is currently no conclusive way in which to link data on viticulture practices with wine quality, the sensory appeal of wines from biodynamic management are representative of something singular. Beyond improvements to soil and biodiversity, the mechanism bolsters the authenticity of an ecosystem's wine. The interactions between a physical, biological environment and the applied practice to morph grapes into wine is genuine and distinctive.




Bridging the Gap
There will always be an audience for wines that are complex rather than uniform, made in a style that can communicate the story of the wine's origin. Biodynamics represents part of a greater whole in which farming and winemaking mirror each other. The idea is to bridge the two disciplines--to have one reflect the other.  
Within our team, we strive to find vineyards in our community that support this balance. We emotionally invest in the managers and stewards of the vineyards from which we source. It is a constant, year-round interaction and investment.  And we commit to ensure that the outcome is a unified expression of our separate realms.     


Sources and Further Reading:
Doring, J. et al.  Organic and Biodynamic Viticulture Affect Biodiversity and Properties of Vine and Wine: A Systematic Quantitative Review.  Am J Enol Vitic. 2019 (70), 221-242.  


Archer, L. M.  Napa's Quintessa Showcases Biodynamic Practices.  Wine Business Monthly; April 2024.  


Willcox, K.  Does Biodynamic Farming Improve Wine?  Experts Weigh In.  Wine Enthusiast.  June 2023.

Comments 0

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published