Biodynamic Association and Demeter USA Unification Update: Decomposing to Recompose
By the Unification Communications Subcommittee Members
Beth Hoinacki, Kaitlin Voellinger, Kerri Quinlan, Zachary Krebs, and Kaitlin Downs
From the beginning of the biodynamic movement, practitioners have focused on study and observation, as well as sharing their findings. Many early biodynamic practitioners also shared an impulse to establish a designation for farms which follow all of the core principles of biodynamics. In both Europe and the United States, the very earliest conversations about biodynamic agriculture featured many who advocated for a clear certification process and a way to set standards for managing farm soil, plants, and animals.
For years, separate organizations in the US have been working on these separate threads; Demeter USA and the Biodynamic Association being two of the major organizations. For many, the promise of a collaborative effort between these two organizations toward the development of a new, larger organization means not only greater efficiency and a buttressing of the impact of both groups, but, more importantly, an opportunity to broaden the scope, services, and momentum of the biodynamic movement within the US.
In April 2020, the boards of Demeter USA and the Biodynamic Association voted to accept a proposal from leaders in the biodynamic community to unite and expand their collective work to include three spheres of activity: Culture, Rights, and Economics/Marketplace. More than one year into the process, boards and staff from the two organizations are continuing to bring our beliefs, our wisdom, and our organizational practices together to be sorted and synthesized. The time and care, re-thinking, and turning over of information feels to us like composting. We are letting our individual ideas and experiences break down into a substance that will nourish new life, new initiatives, and stronger work.
In the unification process, there have been understandable culture clashes as we build a path that incorporates the voices, needs, and experiences of all who practice biodynamics. As we build our new structure, we are also building self-awareness around historical and present day oppressive structures that intersect with land ownership, food, farming, farm labor, and foodways. As in a farm organism, either everything thrives or nothing does.
The hard thing about organizations composting their work to create a substrate for new growth is that it’s hard to let good things compost — it is a humbling process at best as we move from our prior states, into decomposition, before we are ready to emerge and nourish the next season’s new growth. We find ourselves in a liminal space still — we are not two distinct organizations, yet we have not yet fully recomposed.
Here is a snapshot of where things stand in the unification process right now, mid-composting:
The Board of Directors of both Demeter USA and the Biodynamic Association meet all together with the staff of both organizations every other week. With the help of an outside facilitator, we have developed sub-committees to move the unification process forward, such as a Finance Group, a Structural / Governance Group, a Trade / Marketing Group, and a Communications Group.
Board members now participate in staff circles as appropriate, supporting the work of the staff especially in the areas of social justice and racial equity and how those issues are inextricably linked with food ways and food justice.
A new legal structure for the organization has been proposed, with an umbrella organization we are temporarily calling the Biodynamic Demeter Alliance as the body holding together the work of the BDA (Culture), the work of Demeter (Rights), and the work of promoting and building the marketplace, trade, and distribution of biodynamic goods (Economics). This “threefolding” mirrors Rudolf Steiner’s proposal (in the aftermath of World War I) for a healthy structuring of societies.
The Structural / Governance Group has drafted bylaws for the new organization and is discussing issues of governance.
Like the newly unified Biodynamic Federation - Demeter International (a merger of the European version of our BDA and Demeter USA), we collectively intend to do more work in the marketplace to support those who want to see more Demeter certified goods available widely. Several groups have looked at how to staff and prioritize this work.
What we want you to know especially is that we are still in this, striving to better our work, our community, and ourselves. We love biodynamics, as you do, and we believe this process will create a new organization that honors the roots of biodynamic agriculture and answers the needs of the future. We will come out of this composting process transformed, abundant, complex, and nourishing, just as cow manure does after a long winter in the ground.
Thank you for being here, and thank you for your support. It is felt and appreciated. As always, we would love to hear from you, our community. If there is any way you would like to help to carry this work forward now, in the present or in the future, please feel free to reach out to us.