Pesticide and Environmental Update
Based on "An Introduction To Biodynamic Agriculture",
originally published in Stella Natura 1995.
What is Biodynamic agriculture? In seeking an answer let us pose
the further question: Can the Earth heal itself, or has the waning of the
Earths vitality gone too far for this? No matter where our land is
located, if we are observant we will see sure signs of illness in trees,
in our cultivated plants, in the water, even in the weather. Organic
agriculture rightly wants to halt the devastation caused by humans;
however, organic agriculture has no cure for the ailing Earth. From this
the following question arises: What was the original source of vitality,
and is it available now?
Biodynamics is a science of life-forces, a recognition of the basic
principles at work in nature, and an approach to agriculture which takes
these principles into account to bring about balance and healing. In a
very real way, then, Biodynamics is an ongoing path of knowledge rather
than an assemblage of methods and techniques.
Biodynamics is part of the work of Rudolf Steiner, known as
anthroposophy - a new approach to science which integrates precise
observation of natural phenomena, clear thinking, and knowledge of the
spirit. It offers an account of the spiritual history of the Earth as a
living being, and describes the evolution of the constitution of humanity
and the kingdoms of nature. Some of the basic principles of Biodynamics
Broaden Our Perspective Just as we need to look at the magnetic field
of the whole earth to comprehend the compass, to understand plant life we
must expand our view to include all that affects plant growth. No narrow
microscopic view will suffice. Plants are utterly open to and formed by
influences from the depths of the earth to the heights of the heavens.
Therefore our considerations in agriculture must range more broadly than
is generally assumed to be relevant.
Reading the Book of Nature Everything in nature reveals something of
its essential character in its form and gesture. Careful observations of
nature - in shade and full sun, in wet and dry areas, on different soils,
will yield a more fluid grasp of the elements. So eventually one learns to
read the language of nature. And then one can be creative, bringing new
emphasis and balance through specific actions.
Practitioners and experimenters over the last seventy years have added
tremendously to the body of knowledge known as Biodynamics.
Cosmic Rhythms The light of the sun, moon, planets and stars reaches
the plants in regular rhythms. Each contributes to the life, growth and
form of the plant. By understanding the gesture and effect of each rhythm,
we can time our ground preparation, sowing, cultivating and harvesting to
the advantage of the crops we are raising. The Stella Natura calendar
which is featured in this catalog offers an introduction to this new
Plant Life Is Intimately Bound Up with the Life of the Soil Biodynamics
recognizes that soil itself can be alive, and this vitality supports and
affects the quality and health of the plants that grow in it. Therefore,
one of Biodynamics fundamental efforts is to build up stable humus in our
soil through composting.
A New View of Nutrition We gain our physical strength from the process
of breaking down the food we eat. The more vital our food, the more it
stimulates our own activity. Thus, Biodynamic farmers and gardeners aim
for quality, and not only quantity.
Chemical agriculture has developed short-cuts to quantity by adding
soluble minerals to the soil. The plants take these up via water, thus
by-passing their natural ability to seek from the soil what is needed for
health, vitality and growth. The result is a deadened soil and
artificially stimulated growth.
Biodynamics grows food with a strong connection to a healthy, living
Medicine for the Earth: Biodynamic Preparations Rudolf Steiner pointed
out that a new science of cosmic influences would have to replace old,
instinctive wisdom and superstition. Out of his own insight, he introduced
what are known as biodynamic preparations.
Naturally occurring plant and animal materials are combined in specific
recipes in certain seasons of the year and then placed in compost piles.
These preparations bear concentrated forces within them and are used to
organize the chaotic elements within the compost piles. When the process
is complete, the resulting preparations are medicines for the Earth which
draw new life forces from the cosmos.
Two of the preparations are used directly in the field, one on the
earth before planting, to stimulate soil life, and one on the leaves of
growing plants to enhance their capacity to receive the light. Effects of
the preparations have been verified scientifically.
The Farm as the Basic Unit of Agriculture In his Agriculture course,
Rudolf Steiner posed the ideal of the self-contained farm - that there
should be just the right number of animals to provide manure for
fertility, and these animals should, in turn, be fed from the farm.
We can seek the essential gesture of such a farm also under other
circumstances. It has to do with the preservation and recycling of the
life-forces with which we are working. Vegetable waste, manure, leaves,
food scraps, all contain precious vitality which can be held and put to
use for building up the soil if they are handled wisely. Thus, composting
is a key activity in Biodynamic work.
The farm is also a teacher, and provides the educational opportunity to
imitate natures wise self-sufficiency within a limited area. Some have
also successfully created farms through the association of several parcels
of non-contiguous land.
Economics Based on Knowledge of the Job Steiner emphasized the
absurdity of agricultural economics determined by people who have never
actually raised crops or managed a farm.
A new approach to this situation has been developed which brings about
the association of producers and consumers for their mutual benefit. The
Community Supported Agriculture movement was born in the Biodynamic
movement and is spreading rapidly. Gardens or farms gather around them a
circle of supporters who agree in advance to meet the financial needs of
the enterprise and its workers, and these supporters each receive a share
of the produce as the season progresses. Thus consumers become connected
with the real needs of the Earth, the farm and the Community; they rejoice
in rich harvests, and remain faithful under adverse circumstances.