On December 2nd there will be a “Shortcourse on Biodynamic Farming” at the Rutherford Grange Hall, Rutherford, Napa Valley. What has made me spitting-mad is that the event is being sponsored by both Demeter USA and the Napa County – University of California, Cooperative Extension (UCCE).
Two speakers are employees of Demeter USA—the Executive Director and the Marketing Director—three Biodynamic consultants, 11 wineries that farm Biodynamically, one organic farmer along with two UC Cooperative Extension Folks—Dr. Monica Cooper, Director and Farm Advisor for Napa County and Glenn McGourty, Farm Advisor for Mendocino County. With seventeen out of 20 speakers directly involved with Biodynamics, this is clearly a marketing, promotional and sales event by Demeter USA, with no pretense of a balanced program. No one is supporting conventional or sustainable agriculture and no one is presenting an alternative viewpoint to Biodynamics. This is not a balanced presentation and UCCE should not be a sponsor.
It would be ethical for UCCE to sponsor an event that discussed the various farming paradigms, a compare and contrast if you will, that would include advocates for all the various methods of farming. I see no issue with UCCE agents, scientists or Farm Advisors attending any Biodynamic sponsored event. However, being a speaker or panel member at this event is essentially an endorsement of Biodynamics—-remembering that the entire program is devoted to Biodynamics.
On November 7, I sent an email (see below) to Dr. Monica Cooper and Glenn McGourty. I copied Dr. Andy Waterhouse, of the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis, and forwarded a copy to Dan Dooley, Vice-President of UC Agriculture and Natural Resource, which is the controlling agency for the Cooperative Extension.
What are your thoughts? I’ll share what the responses have been with my next post.
Email addressed to: Monica Cooper and Glenn McGourty,
“I am shocked and outraged that UCCE is sponsoring the “Shortcourse in Biodynamic Winegrowing” to be held on December 2 at the Rutherford Grange Hall. I am requesting that UCCE withdraw its support from the event and that you cancel your appearances.
Why and when did UC Davis and UCCE begin promoting Biodynamic farming? You are being used by a private company (it doesn’t matter that they are a non-profit), Demeter USA, to gain respectability, promote its message and to recruit clients for Biodynamic farming. Your support gives Biodynamic farming the credibility that it doesn’t have otherwise. It is entirely appropriate for you to attend such an event, questionable as to your participation and completely wrong to sponsor/host and thus become a promoter of Biodynamics. Clearly this event is intended to be a promotional sales event for Demeter USA. Biodynamics is trade-marked by Demeter and all money required for certification flows into Demeter’s bank accounts. Following a link from the UCCE website I found the fact sheet for the event that claimed “You’ll get a practical hype-free introduction to Biodynamic principles and practices for framing and winemaking from experienced vintners who have put them to the test” and yet hype is all that Biodynamics is – there is not one shred of evidence, one peer-reviewed replicable experiment proving the efficacy of Biodynamic farming! I know many of the speakers and all they can muster for proof is an anecdotal “I know it works, because I’ve seen it with my own eyes.” Ed Weber and I had many conversations about just this type of Biodynamics hype and I have no doubt that he would be as horrified as I am that UC Davis and UCCE has any involvement with this program.
The UCCE website lists a Mission Statement and above that in large and bold type is “Bringing UC research to Napa County” – so let me ask, what UC research do you have that supports Biodynamic farming? Have you read Rudolf Steiner’s book AGRICULTURE, do you know that he hated modern science and that he created the concept of “Spiritual Science” which cannot be challenged and is based on intuition and perception? I created biodynamicsisahoax.com to provide an alternative view to Rudolf Steiner and Biodynamic farming.
Biodynamics is the antithesis of what the Department of Viticulture and Enology has stood for since its creation by the California State Legislature in 1880. I had the good fortune to have had Dr. Winkler sign my General Viticulture textbook. I studied under professors such as Lloyd Lider, Jim Cook, Harold Olmo and Mark Kliewer. I was the Department’s first teaching Assistant for Professors Amerine and Singleton. The California premium wine industry has gone from a tiny industry 60-70 years ago to world pre-eminence because the industry ignored European reliance on tradition and embraced science. U.C. Davis, staffed with scientists, did the basic scientific research to find the truths of Enology and Viticulture. They used science and the scientific method to test old assumptions and new theories and then offered up their results for peer review. They taught their students what they had learned in their research and as importantly they taught their students how to think critically and evaluate research. California wine quality soared. Your support for Biodynamic farming is a repudiation of everything the Department has stood for during these last 130 years.
How do you reconcile the following quote by Rudolf Steiner and the UCCE’s fundamental role of continuing education to industry professionals of the “scientific principles” that underlie growing grapes?
The following are direct quotes from Steiner’s book AGRICULTURE, page 128, lecture six, on disease control, originally given on June 14, 1924:
“Let us assume, however, that the Moon’s influence is too strong, that the soil is overly enlivened. In this case, the vitality works up too strongly from below, and something that should occur only in seed formation starts to happen earlier. When the vitality is too strong, it doesn’t reach all the way to the top; its very intensity makes it start working lower down. Thus, because of the effect of the Moon, there is insufficient force for seed formation. The seed incorporates a kind of dying like into itself, and through this dying life a kind of second ground-level is formed above the level of the soil. Although there is no actual soil up there, the same influences are present. As a result, the seed, or the upper part of the plant, becomes a kind of soil for other organisms. Parasites and all kinds of fungi appear – blights and mildews and the like… Direct perception reveals what I have just described.”
“So what should we do now? We need to relieve the soil of the excessive lunar force; we need to find some way of reducing the water’s mediating capacity, of giving the soil more earthiness of the water that is present does not absorb the excess lunar influence. We accomplish this – though outwardly everything remains the same – by making a fairly concentrated tea out of Equisetum arvense, which we then dilute and use as a kind of liquid manure on the fields where we want to combat blight and similar plant diseases.”
DISCUSSION FOLLOWING LECTURE SIX, page 134:
QUESTION: “Can these methods for alleviating plant diseases be applied to vineyards too?
STEINER: “I can only say that I am convinced that the vineyards could have been protected (from Phylloxera devastation) if people had gone about it in the way I have indicated.”
QUESTION: ‘What about downy mildew?”
STEINER: “That can be treated just like any other blight.”
When you support/promote a course in Biodynamics you are also validating the foundations of Biodynamics which, in this case, are the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Please minimize the damage you have already done and immediately withdraw your involvement with this project.
I look forward to your response.”
CC: Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, Chairman, Department of Viticulture and Enology.