LIVING

Regenerative vs. Biodynamic vs. Organic

April 20th, 2020

Certified organic. Regenerative farming. Biodynamic certification. If you’ve been on the pulse of the food movement in recent years, you’ve likely heard about each of these practices and maybe even made an effort to shop for them when you can. But what’s the difference between regenerative versus Biodynamic, or Biodynamic versus organic? We’re tackling this question in today’s post, but let’s start with the biggest commonality: each method avoids pesticides and harmful chemicals, and plays a role in making a difference in the long-term health of our soil and planet. Keep reading for some extra clarity.

Regenerative

In the world of organic farming, regenerative leads the pack in its holistic view of agriculture. Biodynamic farming is a type of regenerative practice, which is defined as a means to help reverse climate change by “rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity.”

Regenerative agriculture focuses on four main practices:

  1. No tillage/minimum tillage: Instead of shoveling, raking, and hoeing (which may decrease soil health), this policy helps protect the soil and increase its ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  2. Restoring soil and plant microbiome: This is achieved by planting cover crops, using compost and animal manure, and working crop rotations into the annual plantings.
  3. Building ecosystem diversity: There are a handful of ways a regenerative farm can support the ecosystem, including composting and creating friendly spaces for pollinators to thrive.
  4. Well-managed grazing practices: Allowing animals to graze openly and roam freely helps contribute to insect diversity and soil biodiversity.

What Is Biodynamic?

Biodynamic agriculture is a form of regenerative agriculture pioneered by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. Steiner believed a harmonious approach to farming would help support plants and animals, while creating nutrient-dense food and emphasizing self-sustainability.

Here are some of the things you can expect to see on a biodynamic farm, which are based on Demeter’s Biodynamic Farm and Processing Standards.

  • Biological diversity: Biodynamic farms are required to have a minimum of 10 percent of their land serve as a biodiversity reserve, which helps support wildlife and endangered habitats.
  • Focus on fertility: Fertility on the farm is defined as the ability of soil to sustain plant growth. To boost vitality, biodynamic farms use a variety of practices such as green manure, rotational grazing, and crop rotation.
  • Gentle pest control: Instead of using pesticides, biodynamic farmers focus on learning pest life cycles, then timing their plantings accordingly. To help manage weeds, mulching, grazing, and crop canopies can all make the difference.
  • H2O conservation: Water conservation is a big part of a biodynamic farm, which often uses solar pumps and wind pumps, protects natural wetlands, and installs efficient irrigation systems.

Organic Food Farming Methods

If you think of regenerative farming as the holy grail of sustainable agriculture, then organic is the gateway method. An organic label refers to the way farmers grow and process fruits and vegetables, which includes avoiding conventional pesticides and fertilizers and incorporating more natural approaches such as cow manure and compost.

When you’re shopping, look for the formal seal of approval from the United States Department of Agriculture. To achieve the USDA Certified Organic designation, more than 95 percent of ingredients used in a product are required to be organic and non-GMO, and animal products aren’t allowed to use antibiotics or growth hormones.

Choosing organic produce during shopping trips and at farmers markets is a great way to vote with your dollars—and we have thousands of options on ThriveMarket.com! When you have access to Certifed Biodynamic or regenerative options, seek them out to support the farmers and brands who are helping define our food future for the better.

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Nicole GulottaNicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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