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 are:
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.
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.
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 study.
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.
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 soil.
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.
Over a period of many centuries, even millennia, a great deal has been written about the relationship of herbs to the human being. The focus has primarily been on attempts to discover which plants in what quantity would benefit a person who had fallen ill. The earliest decisions for treatment were probably based on wisdom derived from insights into the workings of nature and its extension to the human body, soul, and spirit. This wisdom faded to the extent that the human intellect became more dominant and devised schools of thought which followed observations of physical phenomena, logic, and speculation. A multitude of authors wrote down their discoveries, theories and experiences, many times also drawing on and including material that was presented by earlier herbalists. The age of modern science inherited this wealth of information and through methods of analysis tried to determine which substances of the individual herb lead to the traditional cure, thereby concluding which claim for curing an ailment was valid and acceptable in our modern time and which was not. The present ongoing re-discovery of herbal medicine is an attempt to find alternatives to the excessive use of the many prescription drugs which are aggressively promoted by the pharmaceutical industry, often without being able to prove sufficiently their safety. At his time Rudolf Steiner certainly was aware of the historical evolution of herb lore and of the broad spectrum of their application, and yet he was able to introduce an entirely new understanding of the effects of herbs upon the human organism as seen from an anthroposophical perspective. The relationship between herbs in general and their specific parts in particular are seen much more intimate than herbalists had envisioned them until then.
According to Steiner, three distinct functions need to be distinguished in the human organism: the nervous system, the rhythmic/respiratory system, and the digestive/ reproductive system. Each one of these has a definite affinity to one or the other part (root, leaf, or flower and seed) of the plant. The human head harbors in the brain the central point of the nervous system which regulates many functions of the body. All botanical drugs derived from roots, whether used powdered or processed into tinctures or teas, have a pronounced effect upon the nervous system. Valerian root comes to mind again, traditionally used in the form of extract or tincture to calm the nervous system. The rhythmic or respiratory system occupies the middle region of the body, where heart and lung maintain in breathing and pulsing the life functions of the human organism. This central area corresponds to the same central section of the plant, namely the realm of the leaves, mediating between root and flower. Herbal remedies of a leafy nature are the best choice to alleviate symptoms of weaknesses in the rhythmic system. Nature offers here a vast array of herbs, as for example lemon balm, sage, thyme, and mints.
The digestive/reproductive system is most attuned to the realm of flowers and seeds, which can aid to overcome minor ailments, especially in children. Good examples here are camomile flowers and seeds of caraway, fennel, or anise. If used in the form of teas, a rather weak concentration is preferred.
If this relationship between the human organism and the realm of plants is seen as an image, it would show a picture in which the human head resides in the world of plant roots and the flowers would reach with the human legs toward the sky. In other words, the human organism stands on its head, the poles of the two beings would be reversed. In applying these relationships to the art of healing with herbs, it would mean that everyday herbal beverages, for example, ideally should be a blend of roots, leaves, flowers, and seeds, while medicinal teas are composed in such a way as to have a specific part of the plant relate to one or the other system of the human organism.