Food For Thought
Men of the greatest learning have spent their time in contriving instruments to measure the immense distance of the stars, and in finding the dimension and even the weight of the planets. They think it more eligible to study the art of ploughing the sea with ships than tilling the land with ploughs. They bestow the utmost skill learnedly to pervert the natural use of all the elements, for the destruction of their own species by the bloody art of war; and some waste their whole lives in studying how to arm death with new engines of horror, and inventing an infinite variety of slaughter, but think it beneath men of learning (who only are capable of doing it), to employ their learned labours in the invention of new, or even in improving the old means for the increasing of bread.
[Jethro Tull - Horse Hoeing Husbandry - early 18th Century.]
Things haven't changed much, have they?
Whilst there's an increasing interest in and understanding of the benefits of organic food, many are mystified by the word Bio-Dynamic (usually shortened to BD). The BD approach is rooted in a deep respect for an understanding of humanity's place in the cosmos; is committed to sustainability; is deeply practical and effective; and has the potential to transform the quality of life of the planet, let alone us humans! At its heart is an understanding of how we can tune into and benefit from the positive energy that is the life force. Without life force, seeds would not germinate, creatures could not be born or grow, but what is it, where does it come from, how does it work? Read on...!
Bio-dynamics adopts an organic, holistic approach that recognises the interdependence of all creation, and was developed in the 1920s by the Austrian thinker, philosopher and spiritual visionary Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). His aim was "to integrate psychological and practical dimensions of life into an educational, ecological and therapeutic basis for spiritual and physical development". He could see that agro-business, whilst increasing crop yields and profitability by taking advantage of modern machinery and plant-breeding methods, did not necessarily result in improved nutritional quality and that, in consequence, people's health could suffer. He also understood the interdependence between food (be it plant or animal) and the wider environment which is influenced by the rhythm of the seasons, night and day, sun, moon and the planets. Seen in this way, all living beings are subject to cosmic forces (eg sunlight or the moon) which, if understood, can be harnessed to help the farmer and grower to produce better quality crops. Trials show that right timing results in a crop that yields better, resists disease, keeps longer and tastes better. But there is more. Steiner realised that plants sometimes needed help to give of their best, just like humans, and that the application of specially prepared substances in homeopathic quantities made a big difference. There are two main preparations, both of which are spread on the land. One is based on silica, which is powdered quartz, which helps concentrate and attract light. The other is based on cow dung, which draws out qualities from the earth, and helps the soil and roots.
Can This Be The Staff of Life?
...in the process of making bread, the important thing is not the loaf but that the loaf should fit the machine. This means that you take the flour, you add a certain number of chemicals in such proportions that, after the mixture has been left a certain length of time at a certain temperature, it rises to a certain height so that a certain weight will fit exactly into pans of a certain size that will fit into a rack going through an oven at a certain time; that will come out having risen to a certain height so that it will fit into a cutting machine regulated so that the cut bread will fit into a certain piece of paper that will fit into a packing machine of a certain size so that it can be effectively sealed so that it can sit on a shop shelf for about a fortnight. It is a magnificent technical achievement but not necessarily the best nutritional result...
[Priscilla Chapman writing in "The Sunday Times" in the 1970s.]
Well, you know what you can do about that!
Careful composting and the use of additional plant substances, together with companion planting and crop rotation, result in a powerful and sensitive system of agriculture. It may sound esoteric, and it is, but the proof of the pudding is definitely in the eating...and the drinking. France's foremost vintners are demanding wine grown to BD principals, because it tastes better, and what better reason could there be, whether or not the reasons are fully understood or measurable using the limited instruments of contemporary science? But it's not just taste - several of our customers with sensitivity to most bread and flour have reported that they can assimilate Bio-dynamic grain. We have been using Bio-dynamic wheat and rye for some years now, ever since we were sent some "doubtful" wheat by a grain merchant who was sceptical as to its suitability because it had a protein level below 8% (protein is usually associated with bread-making quality, and should normally be 12%-14% for bread). Well it DID make good bread with a great taste, so we got in touch with the farmer direct...none other than Alan Brockman, who farms near Canterbury in Kent, and is hugely respected as one of the best BD farmers in the UK. He has been an inspiration to us. We also get grain from another highly thought of BD man, Jo Bradley, who farms near Loughborough, and is currently growing a special variety of "Naked Barley" (John Barleycorn normally has a beard!), as well as Spelt and Rye grain.
A well documented research project carried out in a closed community to minimise external influences - the Monastery of Heiligenbronn in Germany's Black Forest. The results are interesting but perhaps not surprising other things being equal, a biodynamic diet is good for you ! You can download the study from www.biodynamic.org.uk.