When it comes to organics vs. biodynamics vs. conventional farming, you get a lot of “you’re with us, or you’re against us.”
As Kevin Chambers explains in this video, when it comes to his farming practices at Resonance Vineyards, he uses wisdom from what he calls a “three-legged stool” of “eclectic farming”—which can be hard for more dogmatic folks to take. For chambers, all three farming practices to varying degrees have valuable contributions to make.
Chambers’ history on farms goes back to his childhood; his father’s family grew cherries and his mother’s grew cereal grains like barley. When he was a teenager, he watched as friends grew more radicalized vis a vis the environment, with some even joining Earth First. As is true in many farming families, his parents sent him away to college for a “better life.” He shocked them by coming home and choosing farming as the best life possible.
His environmental consciousness and farming background led him first into organics. He listened to soil scientist Frank Wann, read Rudolph Steiner’s Agriculture and Biodynamics, and became a Demeter-certified biodynamic farmer. Before becoming first organic and then biodynamic certified, in 1997, he became co-owner of a vineyard consulting and agriculture supply company, OVS, and that forced him to look more closely at conventional farming methods in addition to the organic regimens. As a result, he came to realize that there were benefits to be gleaned from more than just the organic and biodynamic side of the equation.
“For me, eclectic farming is borrowing from every school of thought—what are the best practices at any given time to grow the very best produce that I can grow and without being limited by a ‘thou shalt not list,” he said.
Part of his frustration with dogmatic followers of organics and biodynamics comes from his own experiments. He said that as a farmer, he’s tried different methods on his fields, and watched to see which ones worked. For example, he points out that it’s common in vineyards to use sulfur to control powdery mildew and keep certain insects at bay, even though sulfur ends up being a blunt force instrument that destroys way more than it helps.
“I know for a fact that repeated use of sulfur in my vineyard destroys all of the beneficial insects in my vineyard,” he said. But when he wanted to swap out several pounds of sulfur for a couple ounces of another compound, he was dismissed. “‘Nope, can’t do that—that’s poisonous.”
The bottom line for Chambers is that farmers need a new agriculture system that offers a more holistic approach to farming; one that incorporates the best practices from all the different disciplines in order to grow food with a strong emphasis on nutritional value, and flavor.