Biodynamics is an ultra organic way of farming. It comes from the two words; Biological & Dynamic. The Biological aspect is practiced throughout organic farming and includes; composting, cover cropping, green manuering, cultivation, companion planting and integration of animals throughout the farm. The Dynamic effects are extremely important, maybe more than the biological. They include planning and planting by a calendar (i.e. near and far stars), Biodynamic composting, peppering and radionics, along with homeopathy. Therefore, both the Biological & the Dynamic effects are practiced and implemented.
In Biodynamics the farm is considered a living organism — having its own individuality and soul. As such the farm is believed to be sick if it imports any fertilizer from the outside; therefore being self sufficient is an important part of Biodynamic farming. Soil is considered to be the foundation in agriculture, therefore noblizing the soil is an important task. A farmer is like the conductor of an orchestra — bringing all the individual forces and energizing into harmony and playing the right notes at the right time.
How do you implement Biodynamics in the vineyard and winery?
We distribute our own compost, inoculated with the Biodynamic preparations which we have made on own vineyard, underneath the vines as needed. We have also eliminated the use of minerals which need to be mined from the earth. Instead, we grow a variety of herbs and flowers that have been used medicinally for thousands of years (i.e. Chamomile, Dandelion, Yarrow, Valerian, Horsetail, Stinging Nettle, etc.). We make teas with them to be sprayed either on the foliage (on leaf days) or injected through the irrigation line to the root system (on root days). We apply these teas in homeopathic amounts in order to maintain the vitality and healthy immune system of the plants. Plants do not need to be shocked with penicillin like medication if they are "brought up" with healthy immunities to pests and diseases.
In the winery, we allow the native yeast found on the grape skins to naturally initiate primary fermentation. No commercial yeast or enzyme use is allowed and we do not adjust acidity or add sugar. The secondary or malolactic fermentation also occurs on its own without any additives.
Your land is roughly 540 acres, do you practice Biodynamics throughout?
Yes, our entire farm is Demeter Certified Biodynamic®. In my opinion the hardest part is gaining the knowledge and understanding of Biodynamics. When you reach this, it is easy to implement the practices throughout the entire farm. With Biodynamics it is important to not pick and choose the pieces you want to follow, but to practice this process in its entirety.
Have you seen a change in your vineyard and winery since you put into practice Biodynamics? If so, what kind of changes?
Lots of great changes have happened at Momtazi Vineyard. We were very fortunate in purchasing our property in 1997 in that it was an abandoned wheat farm and that for the 7 years prior to us purchasing no chemicals had been used. When we started planting the grapevines -- many of the sections were poor in nutrition. The grapes would get pink, but would not fully ripen. Now those same sections are producing some of our most excellent fruit. You can stroll throughout the farm and see the wildlife and biodiversity flourishing. We have seen some endangered species of butterflies in abundance. The soil color and "fluffiness" has changed drastically. We do not import any kind of fertilizer; everything comes from within our own farm. After the harvest, we send all of our animals into the vineyard and they really do a great job of balancing the land and getting rid of weeds.
As for the winemaking since we do not manipulate the wine it is a lot healthier to consume and the wine I feel "Tastes better".
Some people are skeptical of Biodynamics — why do you think that is the case? Are there any facts to prove that Biodynamics relates to science?
I don't blame the skeptics as much as I blame the early media. Many wine writers started discussing Biodynamics without having any insight into what they were talking about or at least taking the time to research what Biodynamics represents. Relating Biodynamics to "voodoo agriculture" is unjustified. Another misconception in the western world is that Rudolph Steiner came up with this method of farming. I don't want to take any credit away from Steiner as he did contribute immensely to this practice. He was a great scientist, philosopher, historian and had studied many different cultures; however, he did not pull this information together on his own. Our ancestors in many ancient cultures were very skillful in farming and knowledgeable in astronomy (the roots of Biodynamics dates back several thousands of years). Questions I would have to the skeptics are; What is wrong with the style of farming, such as Biodynamics, that believes in not using chemicals, herbicides and pesticides? What is wrong about wanting to keep our air, water and soil clean? We need to learn how the entire universe affects our lives and to look at things macroscopically rather than microscopically.
Who sparked your interest in Biodynamics?
There was no "one" particular person that "sparked" my desire in Biodynamics. I did a lot of independent reading and research to see if this was a worthwhile practice. As a young boy, my grandfather impacted me the most with his teachings about the environment and how we need to be stewards of the land, water and air around us. Keep in mind that in those days in my old country - most people thought chemical farming was the solution to all sorts of social and economic problems.
— Moe Momtazi