On a windy, hot afternoon drive, on the way to see a client in Ukiah, I was struck as I passed precious top soil blowing away while tractors were tilling the soil. Now more than ever, it seems crucial to know what we are working with in farming, and how we need to partner with the earth if we want future generations to enjoy it. Education is the only hope we have to develop awareness around our obligation in this dance with Mother Nature.
Since the 1970s, there has been an undeniable shift of consciousness around the environment. In the last decade alone, consumers are finally starting to pay attention to what they are eating and the provenance of their food. They are coming to market with their own bags and asking questions. And since consumers have been making more responsible and informed choices, farmers are encouraged to think about how they work with the land. Over recent years, I’ve watched an increasing number of younger people responding to the call by volunteering on organic and biodynamic farms, and some are seeking opportunities to farm themselves, whether by urban gardening or partnering with land grants or trusts. More farms, schools, and businesses are creating renewable energy with solar panels. Surprisingly, even big box stores carry biodegradable cleaning fluids. The movement for change can be found everywhere. And as the impact of industrialism and consumerism will continue to rear its ugly head for centuries to come, the trend towards using renewable resources stands to finally have real staying power.
At the heart of this concept is what many call sustainability. However, to merely sustain what is already much depleted falls short of our highest potential. I prefer to think of it as regenerative farming, as it implies a constant cycle of rebuilding and improving the natural elements that feed us: earth, water and air. Biodynamic farming takes regenerative farming to the next level. By harnessing the inner and outer forces of the earth in a more mindful way, an alchemical shift occurs, creating a force that is far greater than the sum of its parts.
The benefits to seeking out these farming practices are innumerable. Essentially, all successful forms of regenerative farming are aimed at creating proactive rather than reactive responses to the conditions of a given growing season, the microclimate and the land. In taking a holistic approach to the farm, a farmer can radically improve the natural immune system of his or her crop and consequently reduce problems before they even occur. What’s more, the long-term viability of the farm is greatly increased without the synthetic-based chemicals (many of which are derived from petroleum) used in conventional farming. Using natural methods not only protects a farmer from harmful carcinogens, but also improves the ecosystem for generations to come. And once a long-term regeneration system is in place, increased profits soon follow. Certification facilitates an essential dialogue in the marketplace.
When farmers seek to deplete Mother Nature for higher yields or quick fixes, they actually dilute the energy and nutrients in our food. In so doing, humanity as a whole is reduced and marginalized to the lowest common denominator. How many illnesses today are attributed to poor dietary choices? And when farms are saturated with synthetic chemicals and genetically modified crops, how many choices do we really have? The logic is rather simple. When the farmer seeks to find balance in the fields, (s)he also begins to find it within, while simultaneously elevating the nutritional content of our food. By developing philosophies of how to best partner with the Earth, we raise the consciousness of humanity as a whole. In this light, regenerative, organic and biodynamic farming serve to make the world, quite literally, a better place. So let us join forces in our mission, working together to raise our practices to the highest standards we can imagine and consequently provide Mother Nature with the antidote She has been waiting for.