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Beckmen on Biodynamics Part III: Organic v. Biodynamic; Biodynamic v. Regenerative Organic

Posted: Feb 27, 2024

There is no argu­ment that the move towards bio­dy­nam­ic, organ­ic and regen­er­a­tive organ­ic farm­ing is a good thing for wine and the earth, but as typ­i­cal in our indus­try, we like to make things chal­leng­ing. There is lit­tle infor­ma­tion avail­able about what is involved in fol­low­ing these prac­tices and what makes them dif­fer­ent from each oth­er. In this blog, we will dis­cuss the dif­fer­ent farm­ing prac­tices for each prac­tice before mov­ing onto the even more chal­leng­ing sub­ject of organ­ic, bio­dy­nam­ic and nat­ur­al wine in part 4 of this blog series.

In the pre­vi­ous parts of this blog series — Beck­men on Bio­dy­nam­ics Part 1 and Beck­men on Bio­dy­nam­ics Part II: The Five Core Con­cepts of Bio­dy­nam­ics — we went into great detail about our cho­sen farm­ing phi­los­o­phy Bio­dy­nam­ic. You can go back and read those arti­cles so we will not spend too much time on bio­dy­nam­ic farm­ing in this arti­cle. There are links at the end of this blog if you are inter­est­ed in the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process for these farm­ing methods.

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Let’s start with the dif­fer­ence between organ­ic and biodynamic. 

We have often spo­ken about this sub­ject and typ­i­cal­ly state three main dif­fer­ences between these two farm­ing philoso­phies. Much of this infor­ma­tion was gleaned from an esteemed col­league in Bio­dy­nam­ic farm­ing, Hugh Court­ney, who helped estab­lish the Josephine Porter Insti­tute for Applied Bio­dy­nam­ics and was one of the finest Bio­dy­nam­ic prep mak­ers as well as an expert on bio­dy­nam­ic farm­ing. Hugh not­ed both in print and to me per­son­al­ly that the three main dif­fer­ences between bio­dy­nam­ic and organ­ic farm­ing are the use of the bio­dy­nam­ic preps, the use of the bio­dy­nam­ic cal­en­dar and the holis­tic vision where life comes from life, mean­ing the bio­dy­nam­ic farm’s fer­til­i­ty does not come from a bag of organ­ic fer­til­iz­er but from the manure and com­post cre­at­ed from the ani­mals on our farm. This sim­ple expla­na­tion makes sense because the roots of organ­ic farm­ing come from the Bio­dy­nam­ic philosophy.

Both philoso­phies focus on build­ing healthy and enlivened soils with­out using poi­sons or harm­ful chem­i­cals like Roundup. It is how they go about cre­at­ing these enlivened soils where you find a dif­fer­ence. Organ­ic farm­ing does not take the holis­tic approach that Bio­dy­nam­ic farm­ing does. Organ­ic farm­ing will still fer­til­ize out of a bag as long as it is organ­i­cal­ly pro­duced and sourced. Both philoso­phies strive to cre­ate diver­si­ty on their farms and in their crop rota­tions or cov­er crop rota­tions, and both are open to tillage, a prac­tice of turn­ing the soil over. There is, how­ev­er, no talk of a closed sys­tem or cre­at­ing a farm ecosys­tem with organ­ic farm­ing but it is a core val­ue of Bio­dy­nam­ic farming.

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We have cows, pigs, and chickens living on our farm.

Regen­er­a­tive Organ­ic is a rel­a­tive­ly new and very hip top­ic in the wine busi­ness right now. It com­bines parts of organ­ic farm­ing with parts of bio­dy­nam­ic farm­ing while adding some­thing com­plete­ly its own. Think of it as a way for those farm­ers who have a hard time embrac­ing some of the more eso­teric prac­tices of bio­dy­nam­ic farm­ing like the preps and cal­en­dar to incor­po­rate oth­er parts of bio­dy­nam­ic prac­tices into their organ­ic prac­tices. It is an evo­lu­tion of both organ­ic and bio­dy­nam­ic farm­ing. Bio­dy­nam­ic farm­ing requires a leap of faith which not all farm­ers and peo­ple are will­ing to make. Regen­er­a­tive opens up some of the very impor­tant ideas of bio­dy­nam­ic to a wider audi­ence who are unwill­ing to take that leap, and now do not have to with Regen­er­a­tive Organic.

A regen­er­a­tive organ­ic farm includes sim­i­lar ideas of bio­di­ver­si­ty and ani­mals on the farm for fer­til­i­ty like the Bio­dy­nam­ic sys­tem, but makes them a require­ment for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion which is dif­fer­ent than Bio­dy­nam­ic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. The Regen­er­a­tive Organ­ic sys­tem is a holis­tic one like Bio­dy­nam­ic and encour­ages farm­ers towards a closed sys­tem. The regen­er­a­tive organ­ic sys­tem does not allow tillage, but will make excep­tions in some instances. There are no such spec­i­fi­ca­tions in bio­dy­nam­ic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in fact many Bio­dy­nam­ic farm­ers till and till often. The idea of no till relates to anoth­er very hot top­ic of today: glob­al cli­mate change and the move to trap more CO2. The belief is that no till cap­tures more CO2 than till. Till­ing can be extreme­ly ben­e­fi­cial to a farm and vine­yard if it is not done in excess. Our bio­dy­nam­ic sys­tem includes a till­ing rota­tion through­out the vine­yard with dif­fer­ent rows being done each year. Till­ing can help stim­u­late root growth, can aer­ate com­pact­ed soils, and most impor­tant­ly for us, it helps elim­i­nate com­pe­ti­tion for water, our most pre­cious resource.

Anoth­er very cool aspect of regen­er­a­tive organ­ic is tak­ing care of the peo­ple and employ­ees who work the farm through high­er wages and health­i­er work­ing con­di­tions. Tak­ing sus­tain­abil­i­ty to include not just the farm, plants, and soils but the peo­ple who work the farm, plants, and soils. All employ­ees who work on an Organ­ic, Bio­dy­nam­ic and Regen­er­a­tive Organ­ic farms and vine­yards ben­e­fit from health­i­er work­ing con­di­tions. The fact that Regen­er­a­tive Organ­ic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion makes this a part of the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process is admirable.

All three of these sys­tems pro­mote the ideas of healthy soils and healthy plants. All three are good for our farms, our wines and our world. Hav­ing start­ed work­ing with bio­dy­nam­ics for over twen­ty years, it has been fas­ci­nat­ing to see the growth and evo­lu­tion of these healthy farm­ing philoso­phies. We are at a great point now where wine grow­ers have options and can do what they feel is best for them per­son­al­ly, their wines, and their vine­yards. We obvi­ous­ly chose our direc­tion ear­ly and are very com­fort­able with our sys­tem as we con­tin­ue to learn and evolve with our bio­dy­nam­ic farm­ing. The impor­tant thing is that more vine­yards are mov­ing towards farm­ing that is ben­e­fi­cial to the earth and human­i­ty. The qual­i­ty of these ben­e­fits is seen in the wines being pro­duced off these vine­yards through­out the world, includ­ing our own.

For more infor­ma­tion on the dif­fer­ent cer­ti­fi­ca­tions being dis­cussed here, please vis­it these websites:

Bio­dy­nam­ic – www​.deme​ter​-usa​.org

Regen­er­a­tive Organ­ic – www​.regenor​gan​ic​.org

Organ­ic — www​.usda​.gov/​t​o​p​i​c​s​/​o​r​ganic

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