Want biodynamic certification for your vineyard or farm? After you’ve kicked the pesticide habit, try setting aside a wildlife refuge on your property or planting some beans near your vines. And if you don’t succeed the first time around, you’re not alone: The process can be as rigorous as the bar exam.

The certifying body, the Demeter Association, gives a farm the biodynamic stamp after it has been free of prohibited chemicals for at least three years and actively managed using biodynamic methods for at least two years. (About a third of Demeter-certified farmers in the United States were wine-grape growers as of June 2006.) An evaluator assesses the land and reviews how it is managed, examining the inputs used and the portion of these inputs that are local versus imported.

Then a panel reviews the evaluator’s report. About 90 percent of the time, a vineyard or winery will be required to take additional steps before becoming certified — for example, producing a greater portion of its fertilizer on site, either by raising animals or planting nitrogen-fixing plants like legumes, and setting aside more land for wildlife to preserve the land’s natural balance. A tough row to hoe, sure. But the benefits — both to the ecosystem and the palate — are becoming clear.

Story by Carol Huang. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2006. The story was added to MNN.com in June 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2006.