The Agriculture Conference 2016 will take place from 3rd to 6th of February.

Theme of the Year 2015/16

Our Earth – a Global Garden?
Cultivating an Active Relationship to Nature

The garden as an individual and unique place

Like the human being everything alive needs protection if it is to develop in a healthy way. It needs to create a boundary between itself and its surroundings without cutting itself off. This is the archetype of a garden. A garden is essentially a place on the earth to which I connect myself personally, a place that I work intensively, care for, observe and enjoy. It is a place which we are continually developing through our devoted activity, in which we bring the various elements and beings into relationship with one another: Earth, water, warmth, plants and animals. Through this evolutionary development becomes possible.

At the heart of all gardening activity whether it be on a balcony, an allotment, orchard, vineyard, plant nursery, landscape garden or farm, it is the plant which provides nourishment to animals and humans. This also applies to market gardens and to both small and large scale farm enterprises. In all these situations it is about creating a self contained and individualised place that contrasts with the many 'non-places' such as those huge areas of mono-culture, airports, motorways etc. Seen from above every diversity conscious mixed farm is a kind of 'garden'. How can we strengthen this 'garden consciousness' on our farms and in our gardens? Could it help to enhance resilience and adaptability and/or alternatively improve fertility and quality? How can we increase the number of such 'individualised' places, develop them and encourage the farm's further evolution?

A living organism always exists within a certain boundary: There is no such thing as unlimited growth. How can farming be carried out on a human scale? Till what point am I able consciously to penetrate and be responsible for my garden, park or business? Is it always necessary to grow and mechanise? Are there successful examples of intensification on an inner rather than outer level?

The garden as a place of soul nourishment

To the outer aspect of gardening can be added a corresponding inner one. In so far as human beings can take care of the nature around them, they can also take hold of their own 'wild' inner forces. For many people and especially young people gardening offers a unique opportunity for becoming grounded. How can we use these possibilities for inner cultivation (self development, education, social care, therapy) and make them available to our fellow citizens? Initiatives such as school gardens, therapeutic gardens in hospitals, homes etc., demonstrate the potential of this. The possibilities are far from being exhausted. How can our modern, large scale and highly mechanised farms provide a learning or even healing environment? How could it be made economically and socially viable?

The garden also radiates beauty – something which is essential for our desolate landscapes and restless conurbations. Can a landscape aesthetic be developed further using a biodynamic / anthroposophic approach? Beauty is not simply decoration but can enable the inner nature or being of a material to radiate and express itself. Beauty exists for everyone as a common good. How can beauty become an integral part of every horticultural and agricultural enterprise and make economic sense?

The garden as a resource for social renewal

This raises the question: How can the relationship between town and country be improved? How can we open the doors of our farms to as many people as possible? How can we strengthen links with backyard gardeners, help them to form a network around the farms and make organic and biodynamic approaches more accessible. Urban gardening has become fashionable. Are there examples of urban gardens being managed biodynamically? Is it possible to see a whole town as a garden? How can this impulse be strengthened?

In many countries gardens and small farms are essential for survival with regard to food sovereignty, conservation of resources etc. The World Agriculture Report states: “Small scale, labour intensive peasant farms whose strongly resilient production systems grow a diversity of crops, are the guarantors and a source of hope for a supply of food that is sustainable on a social, economic and ecological level.” What can we learn from this?

The new theme for the year has thus been sketched out: Can we create a new 'garden' on our farms and in our cultivated landscapes by developing a certain intimacy, diversity of approach and greater connectedness between ourselves and the kingdoms of nature?

How to work further with this theme?

- Use, translate and publicise the above text and its formulation of the year's theme

- Recommend working on this them at every opportunity (meetings in various circles)

- The next Michael Letter “Man in his Macrocosmic Nature” (GA26) accompanies the theme.

We would like the process of developing and working on the theme for the year and its culmination in next year's Agriculture Conference, to be a collaborative and participative effort. With this in mind we invite you all to join and work with us on this task.

Reading list:

Bockemühl, Jochen “Awakening to Landscape” Verlag am Goetheanum

Mensen J, Otter “Gartenpark am Goetheanum” Pforte Verlag

Kaiser, C. “Gärten der Zukunft”, Verlag Freies Geistesleben

Fuchs, N 2014 “Evolutive Agrakultur” Verlag Lebendige Erde

Steiner, Rudolf “Agriculture” Rudolf Steiner Press – especially lectures 2 and 7

Steiner, Rudolf “Man as a Symphony of the Creative Word” Rudolf Steiner Press

Steiner, Rudolf “Spiritual Ecology”

This is just a provisional list of titles. If you know other books (or films) linked to this theme, please send the title to the Agriculture Section. We will publish a list on the website.