Movie Extravaganza — Three Films to Celebrate World Soil Day

soilStory at-a-glance −

Three documentary films reveal the importance of soil for a sustainable nutrient-dense food system that truly nourishes and sustains your health and prevents disease

Industrial chemical-based farming, Continue reading

“The Organic Life” Chronicles a Year in the Life of One Organic Farmer

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“The Organic Life” takes a behind-the-scenes look at one year in the life of an organic farmer in California

Young American organic farmers are an endangered species, Continue reading

The Surprising Leading Contributor to Pollution: Agriculture

agri2Story at-a-glance

The modern agricultural system is responsible for putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the actual burning of fossil fuels

One important factor that some experts believe is KEY Continue reading

Seven Key Ways Organic Farming is Superior to Industrial Agriculture

farmingThe industrial agriculture system has convinced many Americans that it is a necessity in order to produce an adequate food supply for the entire country. It operates under the assumption that it produces higher yields, more profits and is overall more efficient than organic farming. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Continue reading

Five Ways Small-Scale Organic Farming Can Save Agriculture from America’s ‘Greed for Profit’ System

ofAll around the world, the push to globalize the food supply by consolidating food production into large-scale, corporatized agricultural systems controlled by a select few is causing massive environmental destruction and immense poverty. And the only way to truly turn things around is to return to small-scale, independent, organic farming models in which people, not corporations, Continue reading

Health Basics – Why You Should Always Choose Organic

organicsEver notice when you meet someone who eats mainly organic, who works out often, is financially stable and always in that “sharing” mode, that no matter what happens around them, they stay in that “gear,” that energetic and positive attitude just stays illuminated and seems to levitate over the negativity? Some people just seem to reach their potential every day, in almost every way. If you haven’t noticed this, start paying attention, because they’re out there, and they are loving life. There is also a reason many people  Continue reading

Organic Tomato Juice Shown To Be Richer In Antioxidants

Many health-conscious consumers have found themselves standing in a grocery store aisle, debating whether it’s worth spending an extra $1 on an organic product versus paying less for its conventionally grown counterpart.

Researchers at the University of Barcelona’s Department of Nutrition and Bromatology recently conducted a study that provides support for food grown without synthetic pesticides or chemicals, since it revealed that organic produce may contain higher concentrations of antioxidants.

Authors of the study explained that conventionally grown fruits and vegetables usually receive the essential element nitrogen through fertilizers to stimulate growth. In organic farming, plants are not supplemented and therefore must use their natural defense mechanisms to survive, increasing their levels of protective polyphenols.

“Conventionally grown plants can lose resistance to disease and present lower levels of nutrients, minerals and secondary metabolites,” said first author Anna Vallverdu-Queralt.

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Biodynamic the New Organic?

The biodynamic movement, advocating food that is grown and harvested in accordance with lunar cycles, is taking off.

 Its fans say you can taste the difference in biodynamic produce.

Organic food has had a terrible recession. Before the crunch, the organic sector had been growing steadily year on year – but sales came to a crashing halt when cost-conscious customers began to look for cheaper alternatives.

Last week, sales of organic vegetables were revealed to be down by a fifth, while demand for organic wine and bread sales has halved in 12 months. On top of the dip in sales, the Food Standards Agency’s Organic Food Report this summer concluded that the nutritional benefits of organic food were negligible.

So you might think that now is no time to get into biodynamic food, a spin-off of the organic revolution.

Biodynamics embraces a holistic view of nature: it is by definition organic but it also involves biodiversity and – strangest of all – astronomy. Food is grown, harvested and sometimes even consumed in accordance with lunar cycles.

Biodynamism is not new: its principles were first outlined by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, in a series of lectures in 1924. Devotees of this “uber-organic” regime argue that the best days for harvesting, planting and sowing are in accordance with whether the moon is in the ascendant (when a plant’s sap rises) or descendant (when the vitality is in the roots).

During an ascending moon, the upper plant is filled with vitality, which, in biodynamic terms, is a perfect time to harvest. For the other two weeks of the lunar cycle, it’s open season on root vegetables. Other more complex issues regarding where the moon falls in relation to the planets, and within the zodiac, can also come in to play.

Even the most discerning foodie might think this a touch faddish. But according to Sebastian Parsons, chair of the Biodynamic Agricultural Association, you can taste the difference in biodynamic produce. Producers of biodynamic food need a Demeter certificate – a DEFRA-approved scheme – with which they commit to farm organically, encourage biodiversity, trade fairly, take a holistic approach – and keep an all-important eye on the moon’s movements.

“Essentially, it’s about working with nature, not against it, and making the most of the land with the minimum cost impact,” says Sebastian Parsons. “It is a strategy for saving the world.”

The results can already be found at many farmers’ markets, though not many stallholders shout about it, preferring to trumpet their organic status (see www.farmersmarkets.net for a nationwide list). But this weekend marks the start of the Biodynamic Food Fortnight, a nationwide push to educate the public about biodynamic farming that chimes in, naturally enough, with the next full moon.

Explaining the lunar connection, Parsons says that biodynamics offers a view of nutrition that is “a bit wider than usual. In principle, it means that it produces stronger food – more ‘carrot-y’ carrots, more ‘potato-y’ potatoes – which not only taste better but require a healthier digestion to process, which in turn makes you fitter.”

A surprising advocate is a man who is surely paying penance for an outsized carbon footprint: the former Formula 1 champion Jody Scheckter. He got into biodynamic farming for his family: “Organic farming tells you what you shouldn’t do – biodynamic what you should. It will never become mainstream in the same way but does the food taste better? I would say yes.”

Scheckter’s Hampshire farm, Laverstoke Park Farm (www.laverstokepark.co.uk), which is hosting events during the food fortnight, produces award-winning biodynamic meat, as well as biodynamic buffalo milk, which is available at Waitrose supermarkets. Selfridges in London has also just started to stock exclusively his biodynamic buffalo mozzarella – at £3.50 for a £125 gram ball (compared to an average £2.50 for basic organic).

Given that organic food has been rubbished of late, is there any reasonable health imperative to step up a level and choose biodynamic? Ian Marber, the Food Doctor, says: “It’s not so much what you do get so much as what you don’t. You would choose biodynamic food to cut down your overall toxic intake. But it’s the principles of sustainability that will prove more beneficial in the long term.”

This rhythm-of-life approach applies not just to food but to wine production, too. In Germany and France biodynamic wineries have existed widely for some time. German gardener Maria Thun is the acknowledged guru and has published her biodynamic calendars for more than 40 years in 18 different languages. Maria has identified ‘fruit’, ‘flower’, ‘leaf’ and ‘root’ days, which affect gardening, harvesting and eating practice. For the first time, she has published a calendar for biodynamic wine drinkers, which explains what to drink at what point on the lunar cycle.

 

It might sound bonkers but hard-nosed supermarkets have endorsed the notion: Tesco and Marks & Spencer hold their press wine-tasting days on “fruit” days, the best for wine appreciation; root days are the worst. Atmospheric pressure, which changes with the phases of the moon, can also affect the taste.

Earlier this month, Marks & Spencer held a “fruit vs root” wine tasting – the first retailer to do so – to show the impact the moon can have on taste. At the end of the event, all but one of the critics correctly guessed which day was which.

David Motion, owner of The Winery in London’s Maida Vale, used to be a biodynamic sceptic, until he tried a similar taste experiment with wines. Motion, whose shop specialises in German wines, is now a convert and stocks a range of biodynamic vintages (look for the tiny green dot on his shop labels). “A root day won’t make a good wine taste bad, but on a fruit day the wine is almost leaping out of the bottle and singing “ta-dah!” he says. He recommends beginners try La Petite Ourse Cotes-du-Rhone Villages 2007 (£13.99), which has a strong nose due to the wild yeast, and a silky taste.

To introduce some biodynamic principles into your life, Parsons suggests we try to live more rhythmically. “Before going to bed, develop a process – brushing your teeth, putting on your pyjamas, reading your book – so that your body knows what’s coming. As skin renewal begins around 11.30pm, you should try to be asleep by then. Don’t apply any fatty night creams – it means they do all the work instead of your skin, leading to early sagging and creasing. And, of course, try to eat biodynamic food.”

As for howling at the moon, you really don’t need to do that.