The Biodynamic® method of farming describes not only a form of agriculture but also a philosophy. Biodynamics® strives to articulate the individuality of each farm and to recognize and engage the myriad subtle influences of the cosmos on the soil and plant growth, including rhythms of the day and seasons of the year, as well as the effects of the sun, moon and planets. In this way, Biodynamic® agriculture is characterized by an awareness of not only the visible, material world, but also influences streaming from the invisible world. Biodynamic® farming considers the farm as a living organism and regards the maintenance and improvement of soil life as key to preserving the soil’s fertility. Good soil husbandry means nutrient self-sufficiency so that synthetic chemicals are not necessary. Read on for an in-depth discussion of Biodynamics®, including the origin of Biodynamics®, how the Biodynamic® method goes beyond organic farming standards, the influence of the cosmic rhythms, and the whole farm organism.
Any discussion of Biodynamics® begins with a discussion of Rudolph Steiner. Who is Rudolf Steiner? Many of those who knew and worked with Steiner in the early part of the 20th Century considered him a seer. Others saw him as a clairvoyant, and still others a pioneer and teacher in many different subject areas. During his lifetime, he wrote over thirty books and gave approximately 6,000 lectures covering a vast array of topics such as agriculture, medicine, education, childhood pedagogy, philosophy, astronomy, science, economics and much more. Steiner’s teachings comprised a comprehensive worldview that he called ‘anthroposophy.’
Paradigm Shift in Thinking
To truly practice the art of Biodynamic® agriculture, one must recognize, understand and engage in the foundational premise of Steiner’s teaching: “Spirit is never without matter and matter is never without Spirit.” Regardless of an individual farmer’s location, environment or cropping plan, the basic principles of Biodynamic® practice require the practitioner change not only his or her thinking, but change the way he or she ‘sees’ the world around. Most people accept that gravity, radioactivity, radio waves and the wind exist, but how do we know these things exist when we cannot see them? We ‘know’ these things exist because we can feel or see the results of wind and gravity; or we have instruments that can ‘measure’ radioactivity or sound waves.
In addition to looking at the world from a truly holistic perspective, Steiner’s gift to Biodynamic® agriculture was the indications given regarding the making and use of what are known as Biodynamic® ‘preparations’ (BD preps). The preparations are used for soil and plant enhancement or to assist in the composting process, as with the compost preparations mentioned by Ehrenfried Pfieffer.
Like the Biodynamic® preparations, Steiner discusses the role of the cosmos and the planets of our solar system. In early chapters and chapter 6 of the Agriculture Course, more specifics are provided regarding the role and influence of the nearby planets of the Moon, Venus and Mercury (those planets between the Earth and the sun) and the distant planets of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn (those planets between the Earth and the greater cosmos). The lectures discuss the influences of these planets upon the soil and the plants. Pfeiffer tells us in the preface to the Adams edition of the Agriculture Course, “In reply to a question about plant diseases, Dr. Steiner told the writer [Pfeiffer] that plants themselves could never be diseased in a primary sense, ‘since they are the products of a healthy etheric world.’
From the beginning of the Agriculture Course, Steiner lays out the idea and necessity of creating a farm individuality and treating the farm as an integral organism. The creation of this farm organism is the result of ‘seeing’ the world differently, using the Biodynamic® preparations, and mindfully engaging the rhythms and cosmic forces that are given freely to the Earth. This is not always easy in a world that is driven by short-sighted financial/economic motives and regulatory pressures. Despite the difficulties in running small- and medium-sized farming operations, it is the task of Biodynamic® farmers to strive toward the goal of a completely closed system whereby nothing is imported into the farm and the farm produces all of its own fertility with its own livestock and cropping combinations.