WE USED TO BURN WITCHES IN AMERICA

 In the spring of 2007 I went to the Milford, England, International Rugby Tournament to watch my son play Rugby for the U.S.A. U17 Eagles Rugby team. On the way home from the tournament I was invited to have Easter supper with a wonderful English wine writer and his family in West London.  We both shared a passionate love of Riesling and we were all having a lovely time, until he asked me what I thought of Biodynamic farming.   After a long pause, I said that if Biodynamics got the farmer into the vineyard more often then that was all to the good.  But as to Biodynamic farming itself, I took an even longer pause and finally said “Well, we used to burn witches in America, didn’t we?”  It turned out my host is a big believer in BD farming and a pall settled over the rest of the meal. I felt terrible and guilty for upsetting my host – and still do.

 It became obvious to me that Biodynamics is the poster child for what I was so concerned about in our society – believing that fantasy is real.  Folks within my own winegrowing industry were embracing a farming philosophy that had more in common with witchcraft and animism than modern, progressive Best Management Practices (BMP) of the 21st century.  Science that propelled the California wine industry into the forefront of world recognition was being ignored and supplanted with this belief in the cosmic, occult-like mysticism as preached by Rudolf Steiner.  Here was ignorance, growing and infecting an entire industry; it’s become viral.   Just last week at an organic farming seminar held at Frog’s Leap winery, a rather prominent  albeit new vintner (former titan of industry) reportedly pronounced that if Napa Valley Vintners would give up petro-chemicals then the entire Napa Valley would no longer have to be concerned with mildew.  This individual could buy me ten times over, with what he makes on interest, yet, in my humble opinion, this guy is dumber than dirt when it comes to vineyards and farming.

Stuart Smith

31 Responses to WE USED TO BURN WITCHES IN AMERICA

  1. jp mckinney says:

    which part of biodynamics is a hoax the theory or the practice? if the theory you decry of it is as much a hoax as you claim it to be. can you prove that cosmic influences have NO merit in farming? i guess tahcions and nutrinos simply dont exist. that the magnetic field of the sun in which we are all bathed has no influence on the magnetic field of the earth and its moon, or that the movements of the planets through the suns magnetic field has no effect on affairs here on earth. is it the homeopathic preparations and methods for preparing them? how is biodynamics a hoax? is it the cow horn silica preparations, i guess cowhorn contains NO silica and that the ph of manure is entirely nuetral therefore it would have NO effect on the silica in the horn when buried in the earth during the winter. i guess there is NO change in the cold moist soils ph during the cold winter months. i just dont get it how is it a hoax… i guess farmers who have been working the land for generations are entirly oblivious to whats going on. and the modern petrochmical companies understand for better. after all better living through chemistry, right? god forbid we should forget to murder and blight the land afterall we must maintain the economy so those billionares can feed those thousands of baby billionairs so that they can grow up and maintain status quoe as usual. right?

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Jp,

      Biodynamics has a very specific birth date – June 1924. Please do not confuse what the ancients may or may not have done centuries ago, but it has nothing to do with Rudolf Steiner or Biodynamics.

      It is the Biodynamic crowd that claims superiority over all other farming methods. I simply am being a skeptic and after reading Steiner I believe that he was, indeed, a fraud and that when you isolate those practices that are only Biodynamic then it’s clear to me that Biodynamics is worthless and a hoax.

      If you are so incensed at my skepticism than why don’t you and/or Demeter prove that I’m wrong. Is that too much to ask from such loyal supporters of Steiner?
      Stu

  2. 1WineDude says:

    One thing that I’ve been wondering – do most U.S. vineyards that say they are BioD (with or without certification) actually implement *all* of the practices outlined by Steiner? Or do they pick and choose?

    I ask because I’m also wondering if you would consider a modified version of BioD to have merit? I.e., one without the kookiest elements in it (or is that simply “organic”)?

    • Sam viticulteur says:

      I know of several vineyards east of the Rockies, mine included, that incorporate BD practices inti otherwise conventional management. I believe Linden in Virginia and Macari on Long Island both do this, and both make amazing wine.
      I know of no one in the East that has had success with 100% biodynamic, and very few even 100% organic. Almost every grapevine disease or pest has it’s origin in the eastern US, so synthetic materials are generally needed to some degree when growing vinifera and hybrid vines. That said, a hybrid BD/organic/ conventional approach is in my opinion feasible and perhaps very well suited to the conditions in the East if one aspires to elevate grape and wine quality and minimize synthetics and the dull wines that result from their over use.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Sam Viticulteur,

      Are you willing to say that Biodynamics doesn’t work? It seems to me, that a farming system that can’t adapt to various regions shouldn’t be considered successful: Most farming methods work in the easy areas.

      I think you’re idea of a hybrid farming system is a smart approach. Are there parts of Biodynamic farming that you feel are worth keeping, and if there are, how can you be sure of their efficacy?
      Stu

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      1 Wine Dude,

      I know that there are no half-measures if you are to be certified Biodynamic by Demeter and that there is more Steiner that is included and mandated than ignored or excluded.

      I’ve noticed that several aspects of Steiner lectures are being ignored such as disease and insect control. For instance Steiner said that using his teas would eliminate mildew, but Biodynamic farmers are now allowed to use sulfur dust to control mildew. This sulfur dust is a byproduct of oil refining. I can’t think of anything more abhorrent to the principals of Biodynamic farming than using a chemical (sulfur) that comes from the petro-chemical industry. Steiner said that to control insects the farmer should catch the insects, burn them and then spread their ashes over the field and within four years they would all be gone. But Demeter allows the use of the pesticide “PyGanic.” The PyGanic label says “contains pryethrins – derived from chrysanthemums” and is such a nice little homeopathic whatever that after applying this stuff you can’t enter the vineyard for 12 hours without “…coveralls, chemical-resistant gloves and chemical-resistant headgear and a chemical-resistant apron when cleaning equipment, mixing or loading.” The label lists almost 200 insects it will kill – Pyrethrin is a neurotoxin that is also extremely toxic to aquatic life and honey bees. Also, don’t forget that this chemical pesticide was manufactured in a large modern industrial plant – just the type of modern chemical farming that Rudolf Steiner was against.

      I wouldn’t have a clue as to how many non-certified farmers use some parts of Biodynamics and ignore other parts.

      You and Sam Viticulteur (see above comment) ask mostly the same thing: Are there things, concepts, and practices in Biodynamics that have merit? The simple answer is yes. The more complete answer is that within the framework of Biodynamics there are many valuable practices and concepts that are valuable to the farmer; however, if you eliminate the concepts that are in common with other farmer methods and isolate those unique practices advocated by Steiner alone (and advanced by Demeter) then my answer is mostly no. Why have a modified version of Biodynamics when all of the good parts are already available in organic, sustainable or conventional. I suspect that in next 15 to 30 years the best practices from the various competing farming methods will coalesce into a new method. I don’t see much of Biodynamic farming making it into the next system.

      The concept of a closed farming system with everything being recycled and regenerative is very appealing, even seductive. There is even purity in its utopian ideology – unfortunately, it is an idea that is impractical in most modern farming situations. World peace is a great idea too, but it “ain’t gonna happen.” Farming today must be economically viable or the land will go into another use and be lost forever. I don’t believe that small multi-use farms can survive today. In Northern California, wine grapes are the only agricultural crop that can compete with housing. Can you imagine ten acres of land in the middle of Rutherford being used for sheep, pigs, goats, mixed orchards, a couple acres of vegetables and another couple of acres for vineyards and maybe the same amount for hay? Who wouldn’t want to have that little slice of history, but that’s all it is – history!
      Stu

    • Sam viticulteur says:

      Maybe I’m off base here, but it seems BD could be successful in California more easily than most places in the US because the climate is rather predictable and summers are dry. The downside of Cali would be land values which would make diversified farming more difficult to justify- at least in the present commodity volume based structure.
      But imagine that the real estate market gets even worse, world demand for California wines cools down further, free global trade halts as countries turn isolationist. In short, capitalism can no longer sustainably
      function and Napa valley’s grape monoculture becomes therefore an impractical vestage of the failed system. Who then would be in a better situation, the small diversified farm (with vegetables, fruits, chickens pigs etc) or the 100 acre vineyard?
      Stu, doubting the merit of the diversified farm shows your strong faith in the system, which explains why you are so adamantly against Biodynamics.
      I beleive that farm diversification is in a sense a type of specialization. That is, it is a focused concept tailored to each unique farm (soils,climate,farmer temperment etc.) and the local/regional market which small farms serve directly. This is an immensely more secure way to structure a farm because it is far more adaptable and resilient in the face of poor economic conditions or turmoil. Small diversified farms are growing in number and are in fact thriving once they get the farm functioning properly, which takes a large investement of time and money.

      Whether or not a diversified farm uses BD practices or not is largely irrelevent to the discussion of economic viability. If it works, it works. If it does not, it does not. In short I disagree that monoculture is somehow the only way to go forward because it so rides on the global economic wave which, obviously, fluctuates wildly and unpredictably as we go through time.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Sam,

      While I may not like what our system has currently turned into, betting against the US and world economy recovering is just foolish. I don’t think there is any nexus between my support of “the system” and being a skeptic of Biodynamics – they are mutually exclusive. I(we) operate under our system of government and economics and I have been just as harsh a critic as I am a skeptic of Biodynamics – I just don’t see any connection or conflict. I don’t think that predicating farm diversification success on a doomsday scenario is a smart bet.

      Just the other day I was speaking with a friend who farmed Biodynamically for several clients and here’s what he said:
      • Farming Biodynamically was 2 to 2 ½ times more expensive than conventional farming.
      • Farming Biodynamically was a waste of time, energy and money.
      • He was so disgusted with the increased carbon footprint that he refused to continue and quit managing those ranches.

      My friend is considered one of the best vineyard managers in the Napa Valley.

      There’s always the exception to every rule and I’m sure there are many small niche farms that may be economically viable, but they are a small percentage of farming.
      Stu

  3. Why does it matter in some people use BD processes as a way of differentiating themselves in the market. It is their land and their brand. I’m in favor of letting market forces decide if BD is valid.

    Besides it is more honest than beer commercials convincing us that we’ll be sexier if we drink their beer.

    Thanks for consistently intriguing blog posts.

  4. Sam viticulteur says:

    With all this talk of the need to eliminate this plague of “fantasy”, I surely hope you rationalists don’t subscribe to religious doctrines and the sheer nonscense of that fantasy. If you do then you align yourselves with those (religiosity right) who seek to run this country (if not the world) on purely unproveable, speculative grounds with are faith based. After all, where is this Puppet Master which made all the rules and pulls all the strings? Oh ya, up in the sky, of course. Just consider Glenn Beck-the highest rated most worshipped pontificator of our times, spewing complete nonsensical fantasy about the return of Moses and burning bushes etc. I mean come people, this makes belief in BD seem relatively rational, no? And Demeter ain’t seeking to run the world.. And they don’t get “sponsored”. …. ahem …. By frickin gold line. Oh very humble indeed. What would Jesus do? Sell gold obviously! Duh.
    times (oh so rational)

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Sam,
      Welcome. This blog is about providing an alternative view of Biodynamics and has nothing to do with the religious left, right or center. Everyone has the right to their belief system. I have challenged Biodynamics for promoting a farming method which I consider a hoax, because I believe it is based on fantasies and falsehoods. If the Biodynamic crowd will admit that it is a faith based farming system then I will happily fold my tent and move on because they have a right to their beliefs. However, by claiming superiority over all other farming systems (in a material world) and denying that is faith based then it leaves them open to skepticism and criticism.
      Stu

    • Sam viticulteur says:

      Mr Smith, my point was to illustrate how certain segments of society can selectively believe in a particular unproveable, ideological fantasy on one hand and then dismiss someone elses unproveable notion as rediculous, groundless, dangerous etc. They used to burn witches indeed, for this exact reason.

      I’m not sure that the entire BD movement is somehow unified in preaching superiority over other types of farming. Sure there may be an element of that here and there, but the superiority of industrial ag has been jammed down societies’ throat for the last 60 some years as shown by USDA policy of get big or get out, and the Green revolution which has essentially destroyed towns throughout the farm belt. People had no choice but to buy into the machinations of that paradigm. look where it got us. Dead towns, dead culture, meth and opiate addicts rampant, and no hope. It also got us addicted to the corn/soy/CAFO paradigm supposedly so crucial to feeding cheap fast food to a hungry world.
      The alternative would be slower food, produced by more people working the land more conscientiously. The economics would have to recalibrate accordingly. In my opinion this is already happening to some degree, and will happen even more as the present system continues to deflate into insolvency. The pendulum will perhaps swing back toward less efficiency, higher quality (as measured by nutrient density, brix, flavor etc.) away from bulk commodity- more is better mentality.
      You can really feel the air spewing out of the economic balloon, and then getting air pumped back in (hot air) reasuring us all is well once again.
      Something new is certainly going to emerge from this mythology.

      So perhaps the BD label is abused by some looking to make a buck, but so what? Relative to other abuses, at least this one seeks low impact, quality, and harmony ecologically and culturally. Whether or not BD achieves this is obviously open for examination.

      Perhaps it would be

  5. I actually came here via the Reign of Terroir blog which criticises this post (I’m sure you’ve seen the above message from Ken Payton).

    While I disagree somewhat with your position on Biodynamics, the only point I want to make is that perhaps you (and everyone else) is in danger of mixing up a lot of outside noise with the questions at hand.

    From what I understand from reading your posts, you want to dismantle by logic the practises of Biodynamic farming. By all means, do so. Using reason and logic to investigate these practises would make fantastic reading and also be of value to the wider wine world.

    Merely presenting BD as the land of the mystic up against a world of the empirical will not do; it is fair to neither and, to be honest, all the while you do this, you will not make an ounce of difference to people’s beliefs.

    Imagine, for a start, you tried to prove you were American (in itself, a mystical concept/construct – as is my Englishness). Indeed, when I read “one must not forget, too, that some of the worst atrocities commited by colonial forces over the centuries were driven by religiously inspired mystical politics” I wondered who we were talking about – after all, the biggest colonials/imperialists of late (the US and Britain, as well as France, Germany, Holland and Spain) were in most cases societies founded on a rational and scientific approach to life (even if in some cases they weren’t, it is a founding principle that all colonisers argue that they are bringing reason to the land they invade – how true even today?). But I digress.

    Regards

    Oliver

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Oliver,
      Your point is well made and one that I’ve been wrestling with. Keeping the discussion on-topic has been much more difficult than I ever imagined. I suspect there’s a natural learning curve that blogs go through, especially one as controversial as this one.

      And again, you are correct I am attempting to use reason and logic to challenge Biodynamics. I don’t understand your comment about the mystic vs. the empirical – care to elaborate?
      Stu

    • Gentlemen,

      If I might jump in, “mystic vs. empirical”, reminds me of a line from Paul Simon’s The Boxer – “…a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest…”

      The inability to see or measure something something may only be a matter of perspective, not existence. One could argue that St. Augustine did as much or more to further logic and reason in Western Culture than any other, yet, would you argue there was not a mystic or spiritual side to his philosophy? Or 1300 years later to Gregor Mendel’s? (He was called names as well.)

      Stu, you have been greatly above the call here. I think we both prefer not to get involved in the name-calling and side-taking, remembering Mark Twain’s classic “Never argue with a fool. Passers by won’t know who’s who…”

      Thanks again for keeping up with this. I couldn’t do it.

    • The mystic versus empirical is pretty much as Virtually Nothing describes it. Burning witches is appropriate provided one believes witches have the powers we ascribe to them. After all, in some places, they still believe the death penalty is appropriate when dealing with those beyond redemption.

      Also, in a science vs. mystic debate both sides think the other is outdated. For example, the words ‘scientist’ and ‘mystic’ in following sentences can be swapped around depending on which side you fall:

      Remember when the scientists said the world was flat? Maybe not, but up until it was accepted that the world was round, Gallileo was the mystic.

      That’s what I meant by a mystic vs. empirical debate. It’s an almost impossible situation.

      Perhaps, in this case, in order to be critical of BD, one has to accept Steiners teachings as truth and be critical from that standpoint (for example accepting that if moon patterns can move something as massive as the sea, surely they can aid root and plant growth, what role does the moon play in flower and fruit production?)

  6. A great discussion Stu. I think you said it, in different words, and you may be more BD than you think. A couple of things you know, but didn’t mention, Steiner was a 19th and early 20th century anthroposohist, not a 21st century BMP member. Agriculture was near the bottom of his priorities, yet he “could see the vineyard through the clones”. Some people say they don’t believe in god and cite religion as the reason. Religion and BD hoopla are man-made and by that definition imperfect, as I believe you have correctly noted. Yet, will you throw the baby out with the bathwater? Is it possible, I’m saying “only possible” now, that in our academia-born intelligenza arrogante, we believe we know it all in our Winklerian-colored lenses? Are there any non-organic or BD vineyards that use naturally occurring saccharomyces? Or does everyone go to Lalvin? The central point is a living unit, with its own immune system, “living right and breathin’ free.” A response: “Natural selection, bah! We’re smarter than that.” Do you want to throw Darwin out with Steiner? Or just recycle? I don’t think Steiner cared about a McLaughlin Gormley King Company, he cared more about exactly what you said, getting out in the vineyard. But perhaps observing a bigger picture, which is hard when you’re up to your axe in EGVMs. Yet, how did they get there – and survive.

    You are a bright man, Stu. That mountain air has, as the boss used to say, “got your mind right.”

    Like spinning cones, you can separate the HOHs from CH3CH2OHs. I sure as hell won’t.

    Thanks again for the dialogue. You da’ man!

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Virtually Nothing,
      Welcome and thanks for the comments. Yes, I believe you’re right that Agriculture was not Steiner’s strong suit, yet that didn’t stop him from giving full voice to an utterly unique how-to manual for farming. A bit arrogant in my book.

      I’m not sure what your point about naturally occurring Saccharomyces is, but I can tell you that when we were making Pinot Noir back in the 70s and 80s we fermented with wild yeasts and I coined the phrase “bronco fermentation” with the idea that we were in the west and that the fermentation was wild. The fermentation ran a very predictable course; at three days ethyl acetate could be smelled which meant the wild yeast Kloechera had started the fermentation. I think I remember that Kloechera dies out at about 3.5% alcohol and then Saccharomyces cerevisiae gets going and finishes the fermentation. But I am not sure this has anything to do with anything.

      If I read you correctly, you seem to be suggesting that a central point is that Biodynamics allows plants to develop or create their own immune system. I must differ here, because it’s simply not true. However, when you have good, peer reviewed scientific evidence to the contrary I’ll be interested to read it.
      Stu

  7. Ted Hall says:

    Stu:
    Thanks for the interesting comments about the organic winegrowing conference. We didn’t see you in the audience.

    A few points of clarification:
    First, we all advocated a science-based approach to organic farming. In fact, we mentioned that every farming practice we employ is based upon at least a point of view about why it works from scientific first principle.

    Second, “organic” is not a belief system. Organic farming management practices employ a sophisticated, total systems approach to acheiving higher quality at lower cost. If organic farming does not result in lower cost and higher quality over the long run, we should not be doing it.

    Third, during our discussion about alternative treatments for mildew, we referred to the increased potential use of microbial agents to combat mildew as a future trend. A point was also made that use of strong chemical agents could reduce the population of competing microbes and may have made the incidence of mildew greater in the absence of microbial competition in certain situations. Effective active management of mildew is central to grape quality, as you know, and cannot be left to “nature.” You may have missed the more detailed conversation among the vineyard managers during the breakout session on the second day.

    Regards,
    Ted

    P.S. I have been making wine for 39 years.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Ted,
      Welcome. I hope you’re not confusing Biodynamics with organic farming because I’ve never thought that organic farming was a belief system. In fact, I’ve stated several times that organic farming is an important and necessary farming method. On the front page next to the Introduction I assert: “This blog is about biodynamic viticulture. It is not an attack on organic or sustainable farming – both of which the author supports.”

      I’m afraid you have misread my post. If you read the post carefully, I think you will agree that there is nothing in it that can be construed as an attack on organic farming.

      Because organic farming doesn’t deal with long-term sustainability, I’m not sure that organic farming will exist in the long run. However, in the short term, organic farming provides a viable alternative farming method, while the various competing farming methods sort themselves out.

      An attendee told me of the quote and because I wasn’t at the conference I qualified my remarks with the use of the word “reportedly” and didn’t identify the speaker.

      Question: What “strong chemical agents” is our industry using that we should be avoiding so we won’t ever get mildew? Our local wine industry uses very few chemicals compared to other agricultural products which many equate to “agri-business”. This valley is a very savvy, up-to-date community of grapegrowers constantly upgrading Best Management Practices to become better, environmentally sensitive farmers. Is it appropriate for you to claim that this valley uses “strong chemical agents”? Please be specific as to what “strong chemical agents” we are using, that if stopped, would eliminated our mildew problem?

      I for one, use Glyphosate for my weed control and sulfur for my mildew. In past years, I’ve used other fungicides and alternated them with sulfur dust. I haven’t used a Pesticide in 39 years, but will do whatever it takes to do my part in the elimination of the European Grapevine Moth.
      Stu

  8. bob dickey says:

    it’s interesting that the topic generates such for/against opinions.. listening to some winemakers make me believe it’s fantasy; listening to others, makes me believe the quality increases.

    seems to me the jury is still out. some of biodynamics seem like fantasy, but some results seem real. here in santa barbara, I’ve walked vineyards that had experimented in biodynamics and the difference in the vines was apparent (though I’m a photographer, not a viticulturalist). I’ve had winemakers say the grapes were better. and, no, it’s not because they charge more because that’s still not possible for most. some even eschew the Demeter certification because of the additional per bottle expense.

    I have some trouble with burying the horns, but farming by the phases of the moon makes sense. and anything that puts attention on grape quality rather than ease of manufacturing (like tomatoes suffered from) sounds good to me..

    bob

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Bob,
      I started this blog so that folks like you could have an alternative view to Biodynamics. Biodynamics espouses many farming practices that are common with other farming methods. Isolating vineyard practices to prove efficacy is very difficult. I did an earlier post where I said that everyone that eats a carrot today will die. While that is a factual statement, eating carrots will likely not be the causation of death. Same thing with the vineyard you walked in, and, attention to detail is not the sole province of any farming method.

      Mike Benziger made a video where he acknowledges that burying the horn seems a little strange, and then goes on to say that the reason they do it is because it works. Should we just take his word for it, are there any experiments to prove it or not – or is it sheer nonsense and fantasy? Let me answer with an old saying “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck then it’s probably a duck.”
      Stu

  9. Nick Nakorn says:

    By the way, I forgot to include this link. Anthroposophy,and all its systems, are as phoney-baloney as things can get.

    http://richarddawkins.net/videos/3986-rdf-tv-the-baloney-detection-kit

    Nick

  10. Nick Nakorn says:

    Stu,

    another great post that gets right to the nub of the scientific argument; I too agree with your point about BD promoting fantasy. On my way home from Bangkok I watched the movie Avatar (supposedly the highest grossing film ever made) and the popularity of the theme of conflating science and mysticism as if they were one and the same grows apace. Like practitioners of Bd and other mystical practices, the heros in Avartar see themselves as scientists and align themselves with hocus-pocus, yet we are on their side throughout the film because their adversaries are “The Corporation”, i.e. the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). It seems that the arguments for and against BD have aligned themselves along similarly polarised lines; If one is against the ravages of the MIC and the anti-environmental lobby then one ‘must’ somehow be a supporter of BD, as if BD was the only alternative to Big Ag.

    So as well as opposing the mystical and racist elements of Anthroposophy it seems to me that we must (as you have been doing)also promote strongly the other options including science-based sustainable best-practice. I don’t know if readers here have listened to some of the podcasts over at Skepteco,
    (see: http://skepteco.wordpress.com )
    but I think its important for everyone in the farming industry to be able to separate the fantasy from the fact. If we genuinely care about the state of the planet, sustainable agriculture must be scientifically sound.

    One must not forget, too, that some of the worst atrocities commited by colonial forces over the centuries were driven by religiously inspired mystical politics; in that sense, BD has more in common with the MIC than with the science-based sustainable development movement.

    Best wishes,

    Nick

  11. Randy says:

    Stu,

    I think there are many many winefolk out there who would totally disagree with you and your rather acute analysis, namely the Benzigers who’ve put forth really good arguments FOR BD vineyards. We’ve been planting and farming by moons and stars for thousands of years, ever since we stopped hunting and gathering and began forming permanent farming communities.

    Your arguments are solid but I find your lack of imagination and utter rigidness off putting. The vineyards are a semi-open system, allowing for certain natural variables to permeate and ultimately affect the quality of winegrape arriving at the crushpad. I for one am ok with folks treading lighter on land.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Randy,
      Thanks for your comments. No question that there are many folks that disagree with me. However, I think of myself like that little kid who called out “the Emperor doesn’t have any clothes on.” In the two months that I’ve been doing this, not one Biodynamic supporter has defended what Steiner lectured. I’ve seen nothing but spin coming from all the Biodynamic wineries; they haven’t provided one ounce of proof to support their claims.

      I wouldn’t be so quick to think that these folks are “treading lighter on the land.” Do you know about the pesticide “PyGanic” which is OK for both Organic and Biodynamic farmers? The PyGanic label says “contains pryethrins – derived from chrysanthemums” and is such a nice little homeopathic whatever that after applying this stuff you can’t enter the vineyard for 12 hours without “…coveralls, chemical-resistant gloves and chemical-resistant headgear and a chemical-resistant apron when cleaning equipment, mixing or loading.” The label lists almost 200 insects it will kill – Pyrethrin is a neurotoxin that is also extremely toxic to aquatic life and honey bees. Also, don’t forget that this chemical pesticide (EPA registration No. 1021-1772) was manufactured in a large industrial pesticide plant operated by the McLaughlin Gormley King Company. Wasn’t this just the type of modern chemical farming that Rudolf Steiner was against?
      Stu

  12. Diego says:

    I’m laughing because I find it very ironic that the automatically generated “Google Ads” has found it appropriate to advertise on this very page for “Biodynamic Agricultural College” so that future farmers can be professionally trained in these groundbreaking techniques.

    Apparently, the boys at Google have perfected their irony & sarcasm algorithm.

    “Ads by Google
    Biodynamic Agriculture
    Train to be a farmer of the future Accredited professional training
    http://www.bdacollege.org.uk

  13. Bill Dyer says:

    Stu, I really appreciate your comment about this being a symptom of a basic problem in our society–believing that fantasy is real. We see examples all around us of people taking action based on illusions. Our foreign policy over the last few decades being a prime example. People watching so called “reality shows” that are contrived and scripted being another. There is a huge divide between those who pursue evidence based knowledge and those who engage in “magical thinking.” I have really enjoyed reading your posts, and the discussions generated by them and thank you for setting up this web site. I was in the audience at a panel discussion at the Kapalua Wine Festival recently where one of the first panelists proclaimed his adherence to BD practices, and each panelist thereafter was on the defensive about not utilizing these practices. Consumers in the audience likely got the impression they were not as “green” in their vineyard. And yet I know some of them as being very present in their vineyards and using very heads up sustainable practices. I think some people who are rather new to agriculture find it convenient to proclaim their adherence to BD practices as almost a veneer to hide their own unease with agricultural issues. It is also so odd that people find inspiration in the works of Steiner (that is if they actually read him). Rather than these dense words from an Austrian who wrote and spoke almost a 100 years ago, why not look to someone like Wendell Berry for inspiration? Lastly, I think the very term “biodynamic” causes some confusion. Consumers see “Biologique” on European labels (roughly equivalent to our “organic” classification) and think BD must be similar. Just as in the last election cycle, some progressive religious people felt that the fundamentalist right had co-opted the discussion on morality, and were compelled to express that they also held moral positions, I think it is unfortunate that “biodynamic” as a term has come to have such a narrow meaning. We should all strive be more dynamic biological beings, and sacrificing ones curiosity about connections between cause and effect in favor of faith based rituals doesn’t strike me as very dynamic was to live (or farm).

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Bill,
      Great to hear from you and I hope all is well. Your vignette from the Kapalua Wine Festival is a perfect example of how Biodynamics has taken the high ground. Maybe the next time that happens one of the panelists will be better prepared because of you and other’s contribution to this blog.
      Thanks,
      Stu

  14. Diego says:

    Stu,

    First off, thank you for continuing this blog.

    Why do you think the BioDynamic phenomenon has struck the wine industry so strongly? Is it the high markup which allows them margin to not only invest more money but also charge more? Is it because wine is one of the few products whose production cycle is of interest to its consumer, and therefore the door is wide open to folks who want to sex up the story?

    I assume Demeter certifies other agricultural products. Do you happen to know the top few and what the market demand is for these products, compared to BD wine?

    You wrote: “It became obvious to me that Biodynamics is the poster child for what I was so concerned about in our society – believing that fantasy is real. ”

    I could not agree more. How is it that BioDynamics grabbed such a foothold in the wine industry? I have to assume that folks drinking BD wines are buying them, and to buy them they need significant disposable income, and to earn this income they must have a good job which would require a good education. I am just baffled–it just does not compute to think that there are very educated people in this world who believe that sprinkling dead bug dust on vineyards or using cow’s horns or stag bladders are effective and rational farming techniques. This nonsense is so easily disproven by basic science. Is it just because the topic has been so taboo that non-believers were reluctant to pull back the curtain to learn of these practices for themselves?

    Lastly, have you heard back from the Secretary of Ag on your efficacy trials?

    Diego

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Diego,
      It’s only my opinion, but Biodynamics has several strong issues going for it. First: there is, and has been, a mass hysteria for anything green. They have positioned Biodynamics as the greenest of all farming methods. Wineries are desperate to find their place in the sun. The first thing any PR person will ask a winery is ‘what’s your schtick, what do you do differently from all the other wineries, what separates you from all of them?’ Additionally, the wine industry attracts an esoteric crowd that seems more interested in showing off how much more they know than the rest of us who are ‘just’ enjoying wine as the wonderful and amazing beverage that it is. They, we – have made wine complicated, arcane, mystical and sophisticated to the point that we must buy magazines and newsletters to tell us all about that what we should like about wine, because we lack the confidence to trust our own palates. I’ve always said taste with your mouth, not your eyes – but I’m swimming against the tide.

      In my earlier letters to the St. Helena Star and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat I used the phrase “I didn’t know if the Biodynamic crowd are true believers, charlatans or savvy marketers to the gullible.” That statement sums up my opinion of biodynamic supporters – who falls into which category is any ones guess.

      From my experience, the wine business has ALWAYS been about spin (Bull and Cow manure).

      I have not heard back from CDFA, but will send a follow up letter next week.
      Stu

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