Mushroom Table are the first certified Biodynamic Mushroom Farm in the UK. We have been growing organic mushrooms for over twenty years on our farm in north east Essex. In 2015 we completed the conversion process from organic to biodynamic farming.
Biodynamic Agriculture was developed by the anthroposophical philosopher Rudolph Steiner. It was developed in response to chemical agriculture that was on the rise after the end of the First World War. Even in that short time there was growing evidence that the use of chemicals on farms was having a detrimental impact on soils and the biodiversity of farmland.
In 1924 Steiner gave a series of lectures, known as The Agriculture Course, which were the first lectures on organic agriculture and laid the foundations for the modern organic agriculture movement. In keeping with his philosophy, Steiner proposed a holistic approach to agriculture with the farm as a self-sustaining entity but conected with the wider community through social, economic and environmental activity.
Biodynamic Agriculture is at it’s heart an organic system of agriculture. An important part is that work on the farm is done at the proper time with regard to seasonal, planetary and sidereal cycles. These cycles affect the way things grow, germination of seeds, ripening of fruit, fertilisation of embryos, in fact the life cycles of all living things. A useful tool for biodynamic farmers is the Biodynamic Calendar produced each year by Maria Thun since the late 1940’s and now, since her death in 2012, by her children. The Calendar is based on years of field trials at the Thun family farm and gives the optimum times for sowing, transplanting and a host of other farm activities, in relation to the cosmic cycles.
Like all living things, mushrooms are heavily influenced by seasonal, planetary and sidereal cycles. Mushroom farming is a continuous process, unlike other seasonal forms of farming, so it is especially important to pay attention to these cycles in order to maintain the vitality of the crop from week to week.
Rudolf Steiner also saw the importance of soils and one of key elements of biodynamic farming are the series of preparations he developed to promote soil fertility. The prepartions focus on the cow as the connection between the cosmos and the soil. Of particular importance are the cows horns (all female cows grow horns but in most non-biodynamic farms these are removed shortly after birth by de-budding) . Cow horns are a sensory organ for the cows detecting changes in the environment whilst the cow is busy grazing. The horns contain sinuses which can alert the cow to changes in temperature, atmospheric pressure, vibrations and so on. Cows with horns tend to be less nervous than those that have been de-budded because they are more aware of their environment. Steiner saw cow horns as antennae through which the cosmic events are transmitted to the soil through the cows normal activity. (The sinuses in the horns are connected with the mouth. Cows spend most of their time grazing plants from the ground and chewing the cud, regurgitating food from their stomach in order to digest it more efficiently. Once digested it is eventually excreted back on to the land as dung to fertilise and improve the soil.)
Mushrooms are the main group of organism involved in the breakdown of plant matter to create healthy fertile soils. They are the only organisms that decompose wood to create forest soils and are a major decomposer of grasses and leaves in non-forest ecosystems. Through mycorrhizal association they connect the plants together and supply them with water and mineral nutrients from the soil. As micro-organisms they provide an antibiotic shield for the plants protecting them from pathogens, whether bacterial, viral, fungal or animal.
Biodynamic Agricultures focus on soil/compost fertilitiy combined with regard to seasonal, planetary and sidereal cycles is key to successful mushroom cultivation.
There are Biodynamic farms the world over, Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia. For more information on Biodynamic Agriculture contact www.demeter.net or your local Biodynamic Association.