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What is Biodynamic Coffee?

Director of Coffee, Steve Leighton, shares the difference between Organic and Biodynamic coffee.

Words and images by: Steve Leighton

Biodynamic farming was introduced and pioneered by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, in the late nineteenth century and focused on the idea that farming should not just be about producing crops - but should also be about holistic agriculture as part of a wider spiritual philosophy. This method is based on a closed system of inputs, where everything the farm needs should already be available on site, without the need for external resources.

How is biodynamic agriculture different from organic?

Biodynamic farming shares many of its core principles and methodologies with organic farming, and is already widely recognised in the wine industry. Both biodynamic and organic farming share a big focus on soil health – with pesticides, herbicides and other toxic ingredients not being used at all in these two farming practices. However, there are some biodynamic principles that go even further than that of certified Organic farming – namely that of sustainability and the care for the environment through the adoption of self-sufficient practices.

One of the main principles of biodynamic agriculture is to view the farm as a ‘living being’ and to allow it to be self-sufficient wherever possible. This is most clearly demonstrated through the internal production of compost and feed for livestock, and is based on the idea of nature being cyclical and self-fulfilling. The core idea is to put more energy and resource into the land and soil than you take from it, thus replenishing and completing the cycle. The aim of biodynamic farming is to have the farm operating almost as its own ecosystem, requiring as little external interference as possible and relying on the unique environment of the farm to self-fertilise and maintain its own balance. Another large part of biodynamic farming relies heavily on cosmic influences, considering the ways in which the moon, planets and stars dictate and impact the optimal time to plant, cultivate and harvest the crops would be.

To encourage such a balance and to develop a cycle on the farm, producers use herb-based preparations to aid the germination and photosynthesis of plants. This practice promotes microbial activity in the soil, giving the soil improved minerals, nutrients and water that the plants absorb and thus allow for the production of better crops. Farmers also use preparados – diluted solutions made from plants, minerals and other naturally occurring products on the farm (such as cow manure and camomile) with the main aim of passing on ‘information’ from these preparados to bring about balance to the soil. Interestingly, this method is very similar to the concepts behind micro-biome diets currently in vogue!

We think the way biodynamic practices ensure a holistic and sustainable approach towards coffee farming and its impact on the environment is super important. And as an absolute bonus – these practices also deliver clear quality in the cup! We’re super proud to have recently achieved Biodynamic Certification too, allowing us to maintain the biodynamic approach through our logistics and roasting systems and, importantly, to support the extra effort and investment of our certified biodynamic producers.

The regulating body for global biodynamic certification is Demeter, and you can learn more and read up about it here.

 

Biodynamic farms are kept as natural to the local landscape as possible, the Balmaadi Estate coffee trees can be found nestled amongst the natural forest.
On Balmaadi Estate there is no use of pesticides, herbicides and other toxic ingredients. Clever planting helps keep pests away from the crop.
Balmaadi Estate owner, Una, carefully checks the picked cherries with one of her farmers.
Ripe cherries picked and ready for processing.
Plinths in foreground are there to place the drying tables on when the cherries are ready for processing. The monkey seen in the distance, is left to his own devices - The Biodynamic model says that the farm must live in harmony with any animals who choose to live there. To keep the monkeys from eating too many of the cherries, they do have a round the clock 'monkey guard' who 'shoos' them away.