The Crisis in Agriculture

By 1922, Dr. Rudolf Steiner was approached by various groups of Farmers, Doctors in the Austrian-German region of Europe to advise on the crisis in agriculture after the World War I:

  • Concerned Farmers noticed an increasing degeneration of seed-strains in many cultivated crops. Their question was: What can be done to check this decline and to improve the quality of seed and nutrition?
  • A second group went to Dr. Steiner in concern at the increase in animal diseases, with problems of sterility and the widespread foot-and-mouth disease high on the list.
  • Then there were questions dealing particularly with the etheric nature of plants, and with formative forces in general. In reply to a question about plant diseases.

A Call for Regeneration

The agricultural course was held from June 7 to 16, 1924, in the hospitable home of Count and Countess Keyserlingk at Koberwitz, near Breslau (now in modern-day Poland)

In the Agricultural Course, which was attended by some sixty persons, Rudolf Steiner set forth the basic new way of thinking about the relationship of earth and soil to the formative forces of nature. He pointed out particularly how the health of soil, plants and animals depends upon bringing nature into connection again with the cosmic creative, shaping forces. The practical method he gave for treating soil, manure and compost, and especially for making the bio-dynamic compost preparations, was intended above all to serve the purpose of re-animating the natural forces which in nature and in modern agriculture were on the decline.

Biological-Dynamic

The name "Biodynamic" refers to a 'working with the energies which create and maintain life.' This is what was meant in the name given to it by the first group of farmers inspired by Rudolf Steiner to put the new method to field use as well as practical tests. They decided to call it biological-dynamic and leading to "Biodynamic.".....The use of the word 'method' indicates that certain principles are involved, which in their practical application secure a healthy soil and healthy plants - which in turn produce healthful food for man and healthy feed for animals. - E.E. Pfeiffer

Biodynamics, derived from two Greek words, bios (life) and dynamos (energy), refers to the agriculture science that recognises basic principles at work in nature and applies this knowledge of life forces to bring about balance and healing in the soil. It is a method of farming that aims to treat the farm as a living system which interacts with the environment, to build healthy living soil, and to produce food that nourishes, vitalises and helps to develop humanity.

The ideal of the biodynamic economy is the cycle management: the farmer holds as many animals (number and species) as he can feed with his land. Their dung (and its diversity) ensures high soil fertility, which produces the best food for humans. With the help of biodynamic preparations, the producer arranges natural processes. Thus, the farm becomes a unique organism (a living system) in which each organ (component) needs the other: man, plant, animal and soil work together.  

The Farm as a Living System

Taking hold of and developing the farm as a living whole is one of the most important principles of the biodynamic Impulse. The 'farm organism' is a self-contained system with all its sub-systems serving the whole. A place that has been developed in the sense of a whole entity and has been cared for over the years – farm, garden, park or valley – develops within itself all the elements, which nature has produced so comprehensively. From this relationship between the micro and the universal, the individuality of the farm is established.

Seed & Biodynamic Plant Cultivation

Plants are living beings which live in relation to other elements in their surroundings, form substances and develop their own contexts. They become qualitative images of their environment. One of the most important goals of biodynamic plant breeding is to enable plants to adapt to the specific conditions on a farm. 

Biodynamic Preparations

The transformation of living substances (soil, plants, animals and food) through the use of small quantities of alchemically transformed substances – the biodynamic preparations.  

Working with Cosmic Cycles

All living phenomena on Earth is brought forth and maintained through the activity of rhythms, often subject to cosmic cycles. Biodynamic Agriculture also takes in account these rhythms of the cosmos. The effect of cosmic cycles in the practical application of biodynamic agriculture can be understood by observing and working with these rhythms and their practical applications in activities such as sowing, transplanting, cultivation, and harvesting.

 

Livestock Management

It is a process of sensing the essential being of the animal. This approach creates the conditions that enables the animals to reveal their true nature and make the best possible contribution to the farm. The keeping of livestock becomes self-sustaining and species- appropriate.

Biodynamic Nutrition

Earthly food ingredients merely builds our nerve-sense system and are used mainly for the production of energy for our muscle movements and the supply of the internal organs. However, the building up of substance in the body occurs through the uptake of substances through our sense organs, the eyes, the skin, breathing, that is, from the cosmos. Therefore, it is important that the food itself be as healthy and vital as possible, so that we can tap their forces for us. The forces we get from the food largely influence whether we can implement our will in the world. Biodynamic agriculture produces food that nourishes the body, soul and spirit.

New Economic and Social Design

Standards and a system of Demeter labeling were developed to enable customers to find the products grown in a biodynamic way. However, only by addressing and trying to reform the social and economic context within which the whole of agriculture is entwined, can alternative forms of agriculture succeed. Biodynamic agriculture must supply its own needs if it is to remain healthy. For a threefold ordering of society - economic, political and cultural -the representatives of production, trade and consumption – must come together and collectively find solutions to the issues that effect them by bringing reflection and common sense into the anonymous marketplace.

Research Methods

The ideal would be for the biodynamic farmer to become a meditant, a spiritual researcher.

  • Chromatographs: Pictures through which the living formative forces present can reveal themselves pictorially.
  • Goethe Science: (1) observing organic transformation in natural phenomena over time (historical progression); and (2), organic transformation of the inner life of the experimenter. Linked to the ability of the Gemüt (empathy, compassion) so that one 'becomes what one perceives'
  • Meditative-Spiritual Research: super-sensible perception for critical testing of statements made by others on the basis of one’s own abilities.
  • Scientific Research Trials: Research at universities on the application of biodynamic preparations and comparative systemic trials, conventional, organic and biodynamic.