Incorporating Biodynamic Practices at the Botnia Micro-farm

Have you ever researched where the ingredients in your skincare come from? When we started to formulate our skincare, we were blown away by the greenwashing from larger suppliers of cosmetic ingredients. We simply trusted what companies were selling us. Then, we received a clear liquid of goldenseal root (which should be neon yellow) and preservatives labeled as clean and green, only to find out they had small amounts of known toxins such as parabens and formaldehyde. We soon realized that we needed to investigate every ingredient and not simply trust a company’s website, but to become informed consumers. Ultimately, we’ve found the best way to ensure quality is to grow our own ingredients, because offering skincare you can trust is our reputation and also our commitment to you.

In sync with mother nature//

If you know us, you know that we make skincare for all skin and our products work in synergy with the body, slowly moving the skin toward balance. This year, we’re super excited to begin incorporating Biodynamic Farming (BDF) practices into our micro-farm in Sausalito, where we grow the plants for your skincare! 

What we love about biodynamic agriculture is that it’s a holistic, ecological, scientific, and ethical approach to farming and includes astrological influences that work with the natural rhythms of the seasons. Similar to organic farming, there’s a spectrum of ways to integrate these practices. A biodynamic certified farm must meet the requirements with European organic regulations and meet an additional year of converting the farm into a biodynamic farm using the eight mineral and plant-based preparations in the soil and land. While a BDF certification is available, not everyone can afford the costs it takes to get these certifications, so don’t be deterred if your favorite farm isn’t certified.

While we might not be getting into all the woo-woo practices right away—like using a cow’s horn infused with ground quartz or manure, or stuffing innards like stag bladders and intestines with floral preparations and burying them into the ground (!)—we love the idea of working with the cosmos to sow our seeds and plant our starts using Maria Thun’s biodynamic calendar. Botanicals and produce sourced from farms that practice biodynamic farming have higher levels of nutrients that are more beneficial for the body. So ultimately our BDF practices will create richer, more nutritive plant-based skincare at Botnia! 

History 101//

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Biodynamic Farming, created a series of eight lectures for a group of farmers who noticed poor soil conditions and worsening health in the quality of their crops from using chemical fertilizers. They hoped to find a solution to increase their soil fertility. Steiner believed that the farm should be thought of as a whole organism and should be self-sustaining– this includes the farmer, land, plants, animals, and the cosmos. If there are plant or pest problems, they are looked at as a symptom of problems in the whole system. (Much like our skin shows us signs of internal issues!) While Steiner himself died only a year later in 1925, he never got to witness how his lectures became an international standard for BDF practices. You can find the lectures here and listen to the Agriculture Course here.

The traits of biodynamic principles and practices//

A biodynamic farm is a living organism: all elements that create the farm are interdependent on one another; the plants, animals, soil, compost, fields, people, and the spirit of the land.  Biodynamic farmers and gardeners work to harmonize all the elements together that support the health of the entire farm.

Biodynamics cultivates biodiversity: A diverse farm made up of many different animals and crops helps boost the health and resilience of the whole organism. 

Brings plants and animals together and treats animals with respect: In a natural ecosystem, you’ll find that plants and animals exist together in harmony, so they support and balance the system as a whole. 

Compost is enlivened with biodynamic preparations: Six preparations made of yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion, and valerian are used to encourage the growth of beneficial bacterial and fungi and add minerals and nutrients the soil needs to grow healthy plants. 

Works in rhythm with the earth and cosmos: The cycles of the earth, moon, sun, planets, and stars influence the growth and development of plants and animals. Biodynamic growers are in tune with the rhythms of the cosmos. 

Approaches pests and diseases holistically: Disease and pest problems are a sign of the farm’s health. Problems usually indicate an imbalance in the system as a whole and BDF practices encourage natural holistic ways to manage and bring the system back to balance. For example, when farms experience snail problems, ducks are brought in to take care of the slimy buggers!

Biodynamics offers many regenerative solutions for the future: As more farms incorporate BDF practices, the hope is to nurture the earth back to health and become stewards of Mother Earth.

 Compost tea recipe//

Incorporate BDF practices in your own garden! Instead of dumping the nutrient-deficient soil, feed the soil using this recipe for both in-ground amendments and container gardening. Our manufacturing specialist and herbalist Isabella shares her favorite recipe for compost tea that she and her partner, Sam of Tookey Farms, use when amending their soil. 

In a five gallon bucket add:
– 2 cups of compost
– 2 cups of worm castings
– 1 cup alfalfa 
Add the ingredients to the bucket and fill with water leaving enough room to add an aerator into the bucket to allow bubbles. Then bubble for 24 hours. (Any aerator for a 5-10 gallon fish tank will do!)

What this does is circulate the water and ingredients and oxygenating it together creating a nutrient rich “tea” you use for any depleted soil. Not all plants need compost tea. You may use the tea once a month feeding any plants you might consume: vegetables, culinary herbs and medicinal plants like skullcap, nettles, oats, horsetail and mints.

At the micro-farm//

We’re in the very early stages of exploring BDF, so we’re by no means experts in this field but we’re excited to share our learnings as we incorporate these practices into our micro-farm. So far we planted our rose geranium starts and sowed our chamomile seeds the day after the full moon. We’ve been working on amending and fertilizing the soil to provide a healthy medium for our plants to grow in. Emily, our new farmer, has been digging up the starts of calendula that have volunteered themselves throughout the garden and compiling them in one area. We’re doing the same with our volunteer yarrow and chamomile as well. It’s exciting because we’re saving every single plant on the farm! 

Our fast-paced world is reaction-based, tending to favor quick fixes. At Botnia, we believe the earth’s in dire need of long-term solutions that will help its longevity and sustainability. Biodynamic farming isn’t the easiest way, but it’s a meaningful, holistic approach that’s completely worth it to create a healthy farm, healthy skincare, and a healthier earth. We’ll continue to share our experience using Biodynamic Practices and share our wins and challenges along the way! 

The Green Thumbs at Botnia

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