According to the USDA , the US has increased its use of nitrogen fertilizer by 450% to 13 million tons annually over the last 50 years. Phosphate and potash fertilizer use during this same time period has doubled, now totaling almost 9 million tons annually.
The environmental impacts of this much chemical fertilizer use include:
Ocean dead zones created by commercial fertilizers entering surface water through rain runoff that stimulates microorganism growth. This reduces the dissolved oxygen content of the water to levels that suffocate fish and other aquatic species. One example of a fertilizer runoff induced dead zone is the 7000 square mile dead one in the Gulf of Mexico emulating out from the mouth of the Mississippi River.
High levels of nitrate in drinking water: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now lists agricultural use of pesticides and fertilizers as the primary cause of water pollution accounting for 48% of the pollution in streams and rivers and 41% of pollution in lakes.
The obvious question is, can we produce the same abundance of food, with nutritional qualities at least as high, from alternative farming methodologies that are more supportive of the environment? One farming methodology achieving such results is called “Biodynamic Farming.” Biodynamic farming approaches soil as the essential asset of a farm and focuses on natural and sustainable soil enrichment and preservation. Practitioners recognize that it is the soil’s natural ability to convey nutrition into food that is the value creation basis of the farming process. Biodynamic farming is a systems thinking approach focused upon a set of self-sustaining farming actions. These create a soil enrichment process that stands in sharp contrast to that of the Industrial Age farming cycle: mining-refining and transporting industrial chemicals long distances for insertion onto exhausted farm soil to falsely sustain a next season of crops. Biodynamic Farming offers a competitive advantage with consumers because it produces food free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. And with the growth of “Buy Local” as a consumer mega-trend, Biodynamic Farming aligns with the consumer’s search for local environmental and economic solutions.
Quivira Vineyards and Winery provides a very compelling business and environmental case study on Biodynamic Farming’s potential. This winery produces high quality, rich tasting wines free of pesticides and fertilizers. And their Biodynamic Farming process also minimizes the vineyard’s water footprint to levels much below that of comparable local vineyards. In the following video interview, Nancy Bailey, General Manager with Quivira, outlines how they have developed their hugely success business using the techniques of Biodynamic Farming in both their vineyard practices and their marketing strategy for engaging consumers through creative educational outreach and alignment around achieving community goals.