Let me just get this out of the way first. Mysticism…it’s not for me. I believe in science through and through. That’s my training, I’m sticking with it.
Over the past week here in Oregon I have had to make decisions about the future of my vineyard, including what type of farming practices I want to utilize. There are several options; certified organic, certified biodynamic or certified sustainable or plain old conventional methods.
The big Hoo-Haw right now in the wine industry, which I view as interesting but more of a marketing scheme, is biodynamics. You will see it on wine bottles and in literature, it’s everywhere. This new level of caring for vineyards, has been around for a while, but is currently surging in popularity as organic cuisine and “living green” becomes more and more popular.
Here’s the problem, while biodynamic viticulture has some interesting and favorable sustainable farming practices, it also employs various astrological principles within its methodology.
I just can’t go there.
I don’t even read my horoscope, why would I look to the phases of the moon to determine when to fertilize my vineyard and process wine in the winery?
Many biodynamic wine producers as opposed to the many “biodynamic-like” producers out there rack (separating wine from its sediment) and bottle their wines according to the phases of the moon and tracks of the stars across the galaxy. They believe that racking a wine during the full moon will make it less clear in appearance as opposed to racking the wine during the time of the new moon.
If anyone can show me some supporting scientific data that actual celestial forces were imparted to the wine during that process, I would love to see it. I really would.
Another very common practice of biodynamic viticulture has to do with filling a cow’s horn with ground up quartz and soil from the farm and burying it in the spring. You then dig up the horn in the fall, stir the contents with water and spray it on the vineyard’s canopy. This is supposed to enhance light metabolism.
Wha? I don’t know, I just don’t. Maybe I need to write out the balanced chemical equation on this one.
If this is going to the “end of what you think” then yes that’s what it must be.
Because those are just a few of the things required to be a true biodynamic producer.
I just haven’t seen any studies with scientific proof that biodynamics has any efficacy or superiority over say a certified organic vineyard. I believe that any time you are paying attention to something, in such great detail, those “things” will turn out better.
Biodynamic producers are also supposed to keep a herd of cattle in a portable 10,000 square foot pen.
Once the cattle graze and poop (for about two days), you move them to another location so the flys can come and lay eggs on the poop.
Now, before the fly larvae metamorphose you call the mobile-chicken-truck-guy and he brings over a load of hens to “have at” the poop that’s now chock full of unborn flys.
The hens peck and scratch while eating away at the larvae and unknowingly aerate the poop to make into fertilizer. Kind of brilliant don’t you think?
However, I can barely get three square meals on the table along with everything else I have to do.
If had to make sure a herd of cattle was to be relocated so a chicken guy could bring birds over to eat unborn flys out of my cows poop in a timely matter, I would seriously fail. I know I would.
So as brilliant as the idea of biodynamics is with all of its holistic and renewable soil practices, I am unable to hear the words harvest and moon in the same sentence without getting a little shaky.
Science on the brain doesn’t let me go there, I’m not sure if it ever will. I really don’t need the hopes of cosmic influence to get me to pay attention in the vineyard or winery.
So what do I believe in?
I believe in organic farming sans the mysticism with increased effort and attention to detail.
I believe the vineyard is a whole system with cause and effect relationships.
I believe in trying to implement practices that reduce reliance on chemicals however this becomes difficult when disease pressure is elevated due to a wet and rainy climate.
I believe in maintaining biological diversity and ecosystem stability.
I believe in being a steward to the land, accepting that my time farming it is only minimal compared to those who will farm it after me.
And mostly, I believe in creating the highest level of fruit production available within my means, accepting quality over quantity in all situations.
That’s my soapbox and I’m standing on it.