The Agricultural Conference on Preparations will take place from 7 to 10 February 2018 at the Goetheanum in Dornach.

Theme of the year 2017/18

The Biodynamic Preparations

practical - investigative
personal – spiritual
public – communal

The preparations lie at the heart of biodynamic agri-culture. They are unique in relation to the many other new developments in agriculture. Unlike nitrogen fertilizers, agro-chemicals and GM technology which lead to an ever greater mechanisation of agriculture, they provide a way of strengthening the human element. This approach, which goes way beyond simply protecting life, has been carried out by the biodynamic movement for over three generations and there is today renewed interest in the preparations. This is true for farmers, gardeners and wine growers as well consumers and the wider public. We want to take up this theme over the year with the aim of stimulating a strong impulse to work with the preparations. We would like to explore the preparations in three different ways:

Practical - investigative
The preparations demand in the first place, practical engagement. If they are not made, they won't exist. Making the preparations is a skilled practical procedure that mainly involves the harvesting of flowers, their containment in materials of animal origin and their maturation through the seasons to become humus-like substances. Expertise can be acquired with this work and we can all learn from each other. After they have been made and stored the preparations are ready to be applied. Here too there are a wide range of practices and many open questions. How does hand stirring compare with machine stirring? When is the best time to apply them? The effects of the preparations can be experienced in the health and balance of the farm over many years. Only relatively seldom can direct effects be observed – which makes an exchange about them particularly interesting.

Understanding can arise from practice. The phenomena relating to the plants used, the animal organs and the processes of transformation can be understood with the help of phenomenological studies. These can provide deeper insights into the workings of nature. Classical scientific knowledge about minerals, plants and animals can also help towards understanding the place of the primary substances in nature. Both classical and more recently developed research methods can be of help in understanding how the preparations work – an area open to wide discussion.

Personal - spiritual
The nature of the preparations is such that a personal relationship needs to be developed with them. This means that each person makes the preparations in their own way. It is also an appropriate approach comparable to the personal interpretation accorded to a piece of music. Only by developing a personal connection is it possible to gain a deeper understanding of the preparations. It is as though the effect were due to the "combined interaction of Man and preparation". What qualities does this personal relationship have? Is it possible to be so personal and subjective that all objectivity is lost?

This intimacy with the preparations makes it possible to have a sense for their spiritual dimensions. According to Rudolf Steiner it is about activating new spiritual forces in the world of nature so that they can continue nourishing us. What is this spiritual-evolutionary relationship between human beings and nature? What is coming to an end and what is being born? With what part of my nature am I able to take responsibility for and co-create this partnership between human being and the earth.

Public - communal
The preparations are now in the public eye. Every week new publications appear in the popular press or in scientific magazines, books and films in which the preparations are written about or presented in picture form. The extent to which this occurs is something quite new. The days when the preparations could be shyly referred to at the end of a farm walk are long since past. People are open and ready to hear about the preparations. How should we present them to the public? How do we do justice to the practical mundane aspects as well as those of a personal-spiritual nature? Can we find our way between the banal and the sacramental?

Apart from the wider public domain there is also the more immediate community around the place where the preparations are made and used. The social context surrounding the preparations may be developed in different ways. We can share our methodology with one another. We can also empower each other and make these preparation days into festive occasions for the communities living around the farms.

We would like to encourage you over the coming year, to take the preparations as a theme for your work on farms, in regional groups and nationally. A good basis for this work is the recently published study: "The Biodynamic Preparations in Context – individual approaches to work with the preparations, case studies of worldwide practice". It was published by the Agriculture Section in autumn 2016 and is available in English and German and as a pdf document.

The International Agricultural Conference at the Goetheanum from 7th to 10th February 2018 will be on the theme of the preparations.

The Section for Agriculture is keen to receive any comments and suggestions you may have regarding both the year's theme and the next conference. A list of reading material related to the theme will be published and kept up to date on the website of the Section.