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Why I’m Paying Farmers to Convert to Biodynamic Cotton

When you think about curbing pollution, taking aim at the clothes in your closet is probably not high up on the list. But the textiles industry is one of the most polluting on the planet. New trends and “ultrafast fashion” has clothing entering popular clothing stores on a weekly or even daily basis.

As a result, Americans have increased how much clothing they buy, with the average person bringing home more than 65 articles of clothing in 2016, according to the “Toxic Textiles” report by Green America.1 Where clothing was once valued for durability and practicality, we’re living in an age where people feel pressured to keep up with clothing trends, at the expense of quality and the environment. Green America noted:2

“[S]ocial media has led to a new trend of ultra-fast fashion — where companies are able to design, manufacture, and sell hundreds of products mere weeks after the initial conception of design, thanks to a large network of local and international factories.

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Biodynamics: Where Regenerative Agriculture Meets Regenerative Capital

Author: John Bloom | Published: January 25, 2018

Biodynamic farming, a “beyond organic” approach to agriculture long respected in Europe, may finally be poised for a breakthrough in the U.S. It has growing cachet in the wine industry, where biodynamic wines earn both high scores and high price points. Prince Charles speaks of its ecological, spiritual, and cultural importance. And the unimpeachably mainstream Today show recently aired a segment by Maria Shriver touting biodynamic produce’s flavor and benefits to health and soil quality.

With its emphasis on approaching the farm as an integrated living organism and the farmer as a deeply knowledgeable orchestrator, biodynamics is a natural path to regenerative agriculture—a real corrective to the negative effects of our dominant food system. Realizing the potential of biodynamics, however, will require an investment strategy that is also regenerative.

The industrialized agriculture system we have today—including industrialized organic agriculture—grew out of a particular capital approach: extractive, impatient, and designed to maximize profit rather than value for the community. We’re not going to create a different kind of agriculture with the same kind of capital.

Now, while the biodynamic market is where the organic movement was about 20 years ago, is the perfect time to look at how we can build a biodynamic farming movement with long-term integrity in mind. The central question is, can we grow the biodynamics market with capital that is consistent with the farming philosophy?

Building a balanced farm ecosystem

Similar to organic farming, biodynamic agriculture eschews synthetic pesticides and herbicides, GMOs, and hormones and other pharmaceutical growth promoters for livestock. But biodynamic farming goes well beyond that. It stands out for its system-level approach. Farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility from within the farm as much as possible. Accordingly, the biodynamic certifier, Demeter, certifies whole farms rather than individual crops, ingredients, or parcels of land.

Biodynamic farmers build rich soil using integrated livestock, cover crops, farm-generated compost, and crop rotation. Biologically diverse habitat controls pests and disease. At least half of livestock feed must be grown on the farm. (Many organic farmers also follow these practices, but the USDA’s organic certification does not require them to.) Biodynamics also recognizes farmers and farm workers as vital actors whose health is essential to the health of the system, rather than seeing them as simply managers or processors. Biodynamics is more than a method—it’s a coherent philosophy.

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