Get down and dirty in the garden
Last weekend I had an amazing experience learning about Biodynamic farming at DeLoach Vineyards in Northern California. In the spirit of hands-on education, instead of just sitting through lectures and slideshows, the knowledgeable folks at DeLoach planned a weekend of intimate conversation and participation for those who wanted to learn more about Biodynamic farming.
DeLoach Vineyards, a Demeter-certified Biodynamic vineyard in Sonoma, enlightened me to the beauty of Biodynamic farming. On a brisk Friday morning, DeLoach winegrower Eric Pooler gathered the group, a mix of journalists, students and media professionals, to give a brief history of Biodynamic farming. While understanding Biodynamic farming requires intense appreciation for history, agriculture and sustainability, Eric was able to break the concept down very easily for us: Biodynamic farming and agriculture, developed by scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner, is an ecological, holistic system that says the farm should be a self-contained, self-sustaining organism that creates and maintains its own health and vitality through natural means.
DeLoach Vineyards winegrower Eric Pooler explains Biodynamic farming to a group of journalists, students and media professionals. Photo By Kim Wallace.
If that still seems a little intense, think of Biodynamic farming as a more intimate step above organic farming—Biodynamic farming emphasizes self-sufficiency through the integration of on-farm livestock for rich manure instead of imported organic fertilizers; creation of biologically diverse habitats for wildlife to keep the predator-prey relationship in harmony instead of using organic pesticides; and reliance upon different Biodynamic field and compost preparations to stimulate plants and soil.
I learned firsthand what it was like to mix field preparations; in this case, it was Biodynamic prep 501, or horn silica 501. Horn silica 501 is crushed powdered quartz (which was first packed inside a cow horn and buried in the soil for months before using) stirred with water for one hour (luckily, Eric did most of the stirring that morning and left us with about 15 total minutes of stirring). When stirring Biodynamic prep 501, Eric instructed us to stir rigorously one direction to create a vortex, and then immediately change direction to disrupt the flow. Not only does this thoroughly mix the water and silica, but this vortex movement replicates natural rhythms of our bodies and of the Earth.
Eric stirred these two barrels of crushed quartz and water for nearly an hour before the group was ready to begin for the day. Photo By Kim Wallace.
Media professional Anna Hartman creates a vortex in the barrel. Photo By Kim Wallace.
Once we finished stirring Biodynamic prep 501 and it was ready for spraying, Eric drained the prep into backpacks for us to take into the vineyard. Each of us took turns spraying the prep onto our own lines of pinot noir grape plants at DeLoach. A fine mist of horn silica 501 coats the foliage and is “a catalyst for photosynthesis,” according to Eric. Misting horn silica 501 over the plants helps them grow and stimulates carbohydrate production, he says. While spraying, I noticed that the leaves had a glistening shimmer and couldn't help but smile; though I didn't really understand it, it felt serene, beautiful and spiritually hydrating—perhaps this connection is part of the beauty of Biodynamic farming.
Eric fills the packs with Biodynamic prep 501. Photo By Kim Wallace.
I chose a beautiful line of pinot noir grape plants to nurture with Biodynamic prep 501. Photo By Kim Wallace.
Eric encouraged us to quickly walk down the line and spray a fine mist of horn silica onto our pinot noir plants. Photo By Anna Hartman.
The DeLoach team will keep us updated on the growth of our pinot noir plants during the course of three weeks. Learn more on DeLoach Vineyards' blog.
What do you think of Biodynamic farming? Follow my updates on the Green Gardening blog to find out more about Biodynamic farming, DeLoach Vineyards and sustainable wine. Got a question or a comment? Leave me some feedback in the comments section!