Published on 16th October 2014
Peter Brown, Director of the Biodynamic Association, outlined the principles of the biodynamic approach to farming and food production as guest speaker at the annual Harvest Lunch.
"Most people nowadays hear of this philosophy through biodynamic wine, which has gained a very good reputation," he pointed out. "The wine estates primarily convert to biodynamics because it brings out the 'terroir' of their particular soil and climate, making distinguishable and exciting wine."
Mr Brown has farmed biodynamically since he was in his early twenties, first in South Africa where he managed a farm near Cape Town for 15 years, then in Germany for three years. He returned to the UK in 1994 to manage the 500-acre Tablehurst Farm in Sussex, which two years later became one of the first Community Supported Agriculture initiatives in the country.
"Biodynamics is essentially about good farming in harmony with nature, and one of its main principles is to look at each farm as an individual entity with its unique soils and microclimate," he explained. "In fact, it is easiest to think of a farm as something alive, like an organism, which has to be balanced to be healthy and survive.
"It should not have more animals than the farm itself can feed and no raw manures - they must be composted and turned into humus - or artificial fertilisers are used," he pointed out. "A biodynamic farm uses techniques and herbal preparations to help make this possible, including holistic or mob grazing practices that avoid over-grazing and encourage natural humus production."
Contrasting this approach with the use of 'industrial' inputs and economics-driven intensive practices, Peter Brown urged Members and Friends of the Guild to learn more about the principles, practices and outcomes of biodynamic farming through the Biodynamic Association and its conference - Biodynamic Agri-Culture: A Matter of Life - from October 30 to November 2 at Stourbridge, West Midlands.
Read Peter Brown's text on the origins and highlights of biodynamic farming here and find further information from the websites of the Sustainable Food Trust (true cost-accounting of modern farming methods) and the Natural Beekeeping Trust, a YouTube video illustrating holistic grazing, and internet resources on chromatology for determining soil quality, and the breeding of biodynamic and organic seed on the European continent and in Britain.
After Mr Brown's talk, the winners of the Guild's Yara and Keenan journalism awards were announced, and certificates of appreciation presented to Guild members Liz Snaith, Howard Venters and Peter Hill for their contributions to IFAJ Congress 2014.
An infographic (pictured right) summarising the potential impact of the congress was made available along with copies of the tour guide, and the premiere of a superb video that captures the essence and spirit of the congress was well received.
Filmed and edited by Guild member Ian Damms, and sponsored by Agrovista, it is available to watch here.
As has now become traditional, St Brides Church administrator and sole permanent member of the choir, Claire Seaton signed off the event with Parting Glass to a standing ovation for her unaccompanied solo performance.
See a report and picture gallery here.