Zenbunni Chocolate founders Bunni and Zen Nishimura remember the exact moment they first tried biodynamic food, about seven years ago at a friend’s farm. “We took a bite of some lettuce he was growing—just some ordinary lettuce—and we both looked at each other, like, what’s going on here?” Zen says.
The trip inspired the pair to take the next step with their organic chocolate line, going full-on biodynamic with their products. They’re now such adamant believers in the fringe farming practice that they plan to produce flour, oil, and sugar so consumers can stock a full pantry. (They’ve recently started selling another common kitchen staple: coffee.)
Besides food, you might have seen the term “biodynamic” creep up on the ingredient lists of your beauty products, wine, and even eggs. But if you’re still scratching your head over what it means—and if it’s worth seeking out—consider this the ultimate primer. (And bonus! There’s also a list of five biodynamic food picks to try now, because seeing—eating?—really is believing.)
What “biodynamic” actually means
For a farm or product to legally be called biodynamic, there’s one big board it has to impress: The Demeter Association. The non-profit is the only biodynamic certification organization, operating in more than 50 countries. “Think of it as the United Nations of agriculture,” says Elizabeth Candelario, the association’s managing director.
All biodynamic farms are organic, but they go a step further, emphasizing biodiversity, crop rotation, greenhouse management, animal welfare, and soil fertility management (yes, that’s a thing). “Let’s say there’s a fertility problem on a farm,” Candelario says. “A traditional farmer might bring in synthetic fertilizer. An organic farmer might use organic fertilizer. A biodynamic farmer would say, ‘Why is my farm system unable to create the vitality it needs? How can I create that within the farm itself?’ Maybe he or she tries composting, green manures, or growing crops that’ll really put nutrients back into the soil.”