The Agricultural organism

Ueli Hurter

Taking hold of and developing the farm as a living whole is one of the most important principles of the biodynamic Impulse. In particular, Rudolf Steiner introduces three concepts, he speaks of the farm organism, of the farm as an indi- viduality and in lecture 8 of the ego organisation. These concepts can be sources of inspiration in order, time and again, to come a step further in our understanding, in our observation and in our structuring and shaping of our farms.

If we conceive of an agriculture as an organism – whether it is an individual farm, a village or a valley –, then we are speaking of an organism that has been formed through cultivation from nature underlying it. The model for example can be seen in natural organisms in the way in which they are formed, especially with mam- mals. In their case the particular organs are there to totally serve the whole. Cor- respondingly in the farm organism the particular branches of farm work become organs of the farm organism. This opens up a new view of the part that is now seen as an organ, i.e. is there to serve the whole and from this whole receives a large part of its task. The organism is self-contained, that is its principle. This is possible through great inner diversity, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, through a self-contained cycle of substances via fertilizers – soil – feed.

Steiner, by introducing the term ‘agricultural individuality’, actually introduces a cultural concept into agriculture and thus transcends the framework of classical agronomy. The human being as an individuality becomes the model for the farm as a complete entity. Thus it is taken beyond the concept of the organism.

A place that has been developed in the sense of a whole entity and has been cared for over the years – farm, garden, park or valley – develops within itself all the elements, which nature has produced so comprehensively. From this strained relationship between the particular and the universal the identity of the farm is established.

Biodynamic preparations

Pierre Masson

In the eight lectures on agriculture given at Koberwitz by Rudolf Steiner in June 1924, the biodynamic preparations are the main focus of lectures four and five. After 90 years the biodynamic preparations developed from Rudolf Steiner’s spir- itual research remain a core part of biodynamic farming practice, an approach based on a spiritual understanding of man’s connection to the earth and cosmos and the concept of a self contained farm individuality.

Two complementary spray preparations

The first one, “horn-manure”, also called “500” (after E. Pfeiffer’s discovery of 500 million bacteria in one gram of the finished preparation), is made from cow manure. This manure is put into a cow horn and then buried for 6 months over winter in fertile soil. It strengthens the vitality of the soil and develops root struc- ture and helps to “push plants up from below”.

The second one, “horn-silica” also called “501” is made from finely ground quartz (as fine as flour according to R. Steiner). This is put into a cow horn and buried in the soil during summer for 6 months to gather the Earth’s summer forces. This brings a 'light effect' to the plants. It is sprayed over the aerial part of the plants and “draws the plants upwards”.

Six preparations normally added to compost and manure

Four of these preparations undergo a fermentation process beneath the earth enclosed within an animal organ sheath. In one case the preparation is first hung up and exposed to the summer forces before being buried in the autumn. A stag’s bladder is used for yarrow flowers (502), for chamomile the small intestine of a cow (503), for oak bark the skull of a domestic animal (505) and dandelion flow- ers are carefully wrapped in the mesentery of a cow (506).

Two of the preparations require no such ‘cover’. Stinging nettle is buried directly in the soil for a whole year (504) and from valerian a liquid extract is obtained directly from the flowers (507).

The transformation of living substances (soil, plants, animals and food) through the use of small quantities of alchemically transformed substances – the biodynamic preparations – is an original impulse unique to biodynamic agriculture.

Working with cosmic cycles

The effect of cosmic cycles in the practical application of biodynamic agriculture was and is taken into consideration by producers in very different ways. The approach extends from those who believe that the heavens are no longer active and that the cosmic should be sought in nature, to those who take account of cosmic cycles as exactly as they possbly can. The direct link between cosmic cycles and plants and the way it is worked out in planting calendars (especially the siderial cycle and the four element effects), touches on a great longing which many people have for a new connection with nature and the stars.

Agriculture works through the interaction of many different factors that in practice are inseparable. Each field is a fully open system. The plant grows amidst a great diversity of outer influences and responds to all these influences in a holistic way. To separate these outer influences analytically is almost impossible. Weather conditions, the local climate, the soil, the type of manuring and much else besides, all work together. Each of these conditions can affect the way a plant responds to cosmic rhythms. Another, frequently forgotten aspect, which always comes to the fore when attempting to carry out research into living processes, is the human being himself. For the cultivated plant the human being is an important part of the environment: Through his/her awareness, enthusiasm and sensitivity the human being can enhance or reduce certain influences and effects. It is interesting to look at different people on their farms or in their research gardens. Why? Because then we experience the limits to statistical research. How do we arrive at this conclusion? The natural variability and influence of human action is eliminated by statistical evaluation. We can meet farmers who work very effectively with cosmic rhythms.

 

Livestock management

Dr. Anet Spengler Neff

The approach taken and recommended by Rudolf Steiner in the Agriculture Course, is a process of entering into the being of the animal and taking the way it lives as a starting point in order to understand it. Whoever takes this approach cannot but create the conditions that will enable the animals to reveal their true nature and make the best possible contribution to the farm. This approach will become effective when lots of individuals start to use them, pass them on to others and implement them. Farming methods will then start to change and the keeping of livestock will become self sustaining and species appropriate in more and more places.

Sustainable livestock systems are always possible when animals are able to show and live out their special capacities and are provided with the right environmental context. Livestock farming can then always contribute towards creating an intact environment and a creatively diverse, soul filled world. The only condition is that we understand the animals correctly.

A good animal-human relationship makes the development of new capacities in both animals and humans possible. Part of the reason for keeping farm animals as well as pets could well be this common development process. It is a soul development and not only one that furthers the ecological and ethical development of the food economy.

Research and Development

New Research Methods

Dr. Uli Johannes König

Already while the Agriculture Course was taking place in Koberwitz Rudolf Steiner encouraged farmers to test out his indications and use them to carry out practical research. An Experimental circle was founded during the Koberwitz conference to facilitate the exchange and sharing of experiences.

The themes touched on by Rudolf Steiner were either extremely complex (eg. the individualisation of the farm organism), or related to a field of study lying between what is physically measurable and the more hidden etheric-spiritual processes (eg. the preparations or controlling weeds and pests using the ashing technique). How such research was to be undertaken was never explicitly described. We can take from the Agriculture Course however that the ideal would be for the biodynamic farmer to become a meditant, a spiritual researcher. This was as can be imagined, a lot to ask of farmers even at that time. On the other hand Steiner warned against shouting from the roof tops about experiences gained in this way. The results gained should be understandable to everyone (in tables and charts). Looking back over the development of this alternative scientific approach, several distinct phases and approaches can be discerned.

During the first decade (the so-called pioneer phase) individual personalities developed their own very distinct methods, often without any opportunity of coming into dialogue with colleagues. This meant that many of the often remakable methods and results that were developed and collected, were frequently so poorly documented that they are of little value today. This phase came to an end in the 1970s.

A second phase occupied itself with scientific research into the methods and special questions arising out of biodynamic agriculture. It started during the 1960s and continues to this day.

A third phase may be characterised as that in which researchers follow their own journeys and then together with colleagues, reflect on and share what they have learnt on their spiritual path, in an increasingly open and transparent way. This phase began relatively unnoticed during the 1970s and came to wider prominence during the 1990s.

Research methods

Picture building methods

The so-called picture building methods (copper chloride crystallisation, rising pictures or Steigbilder and drop pictures) were developed during the 1920s in response to a question posed by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer (1920), as to how living forces could be made visible. The common feature in all these methods is that a reagent (salt, water) is prepared as a medium through which the living formative forces present in a test subject can reveal themselves pictorially. With some skill and experience these pictures can then be interpreted.

Goetheanism

In contrast to traditional analysis this approach seeks to allow the object itself to speak. Instead of breaking it down to its smallest constituents, it is explored as a whole within its surroundings. The phenomena alone are considered without drawing on analytical causal explanations. This kind of observation can be applied to single plants (in plant breeding for example) or to a whole farm.

Meditative-Spiritual Research or Using the Human Being as Reagent

Up until the 1980s it was customary in the anthroposophical movement to write nothing down on this subject. If however one takes the opportunity to read the biography of one or the other biodynamic pioneer, it soon becomes clear that there was after all quite a lot of activity in this field.

Over the last ten years this situation has changed radically. There are now a whole series of intiatives, many within the biodynamic movement, that seek answers to their questions by direct super-sensible observation. In connection with this we see another characteristic quality of our time. Many people are interested in and also have the capacitiy to make their own spiritual experiences. The more people can train these abilities in themselves, the more will they be able to test the truth of experiences made by others. The capacity for supersensible perception thus encourages a critical testing of statements made by others on the basis of one’s own abilities. The gap between the researcher who gains knowledge and the user of this knowledge starts to close. The farmer, and everyone in his own situation, can as a meditant, deepen his own powers of judgement.

Research using the methods of natural science

Ueli Hurter

The organisations which stood for biodynamic agriculture in the respective countries in the second half of 20th century took it on as an important task to get biodynamics established and ‘proved’ scientifically. Several research institutes came about, e.g. in Darmstadt/Germany, the Research Institute for biodynamic Research in 1950, in Ja?rna/Sweden the Institute of the Nordic Research Circle in 1956, in Switzerland FiBL in 1973, in Holland the Louis-Bolk Institute in 1976, in USA the Michael Fields Agricultural Research Institute in 1984. However, people also worked together with university authorities. Thus from 1973 at the University of Giessen with Eduard von Boguslawski (1905-1999) the first doctoral theses on biodynamic themes were written. The DOK trial in Switzerland has gained up an outstanding position, a trial which was kicked off by a political initiative and by state experimental bodies in collaboration with FiBL as a long-term trial; since 1977 it has been comparing three methods of cultivation, dynamic, organic and conventional (DOK) with one another.

Scientific research trials

Jürgn Fritz

The hallmarks of biodynamic agriculture are the biodynamic preparations and taking the constellations of the planets into account. Both measures can be clearly defined as variables for research trials. Research into biodynamic cultivation at universities has concentrated therefore very clearly on the application of biodynamic preparations and comparative system trials, conventional, organic and biodynamic.

In the early investigations by ABELE (1973, 1987), SPIESS (1978), KOTSCHI (1980) the testing was mainly to find out whether the biodynamic preparations significantly change the development of the plants. Essentially, the aims formulated by Rudolf Steiner (1924/1979) with the development of the biodynamic preparations were observed:

1. Harmonisation and Normalisation of Plant growth

Plant reactions to the application of preparations occurred principally under suboptimal growth and storage conditions. This appeared in the trials portrayed with yields (SPIESS 1978) and with the firmness of the cereal stalks (JOST & JOST 1983)

2. Fostering Plant Health

The outbreak of cucumber mildew was clearly reduced with the application of horn silica in comparison to the control (SCHNEIDER-MUELLER 1991). The number of bacteria germs, the decomposition and the rotting of carrots in storage was reduced with the field spray preparations (SAMARAS 1978).

3. Improvement of the nutritional Quality

The nitrate content of carrots and spinach was lowered with the biodynamic preparations in comparison to the control. With the increase in storage time for the spinach the nitrate content did not increase and the vitamin C content decreased only minimally in comparison to the control without preparation treatment (EL SAIDI 1982).

4. Enlivening of the Fertilisers and the Soil

In both the long-term fertilisation trials a higher level of microbiological activity of the soil emerged in the biodynamic variant compared to the organic variant (BACHINGER 1992, MAEDER et al. 2002).

In more recent investigations experimental questions about understanding and further developing the application of the preparations are more strongly to the fore.

Getting to the bottom of and establishing the basis for biodynamics was and is of great significance for its being accepted by society and for its ability to hold a dialogue in the modern knowledge-based society. It serves to accompany farming practice and the further development of the approach. Besides in a lot of countries farmers organised in regional groups and friends with various professional backgrounds have always seen themselves as a research community and have worked practically and through their thinking on the further development of the biodynamic impulse. In some regions, as for instance in North Germany, this kind of work has been very much emphasised and highly advanced learning communities, from the organisational side and from the subject matter, have come into being.

Aspects specific to biodynamic agriculture

The Agricultural organism

Ueli Hurter

Taking hold of and developing the farm as a living whole is one of the most important principles of the biodynamic Impulse. In particular, Rudolf Steiner introduces three concepts, he speaks of the farm organism, of the farm as an indi- viduality and in lecture 8 of the ego organisation. These concepts can be sources of inspiration in order, time and again, to come a step further in our understanding, in our observation and in our structuring and shaping of our farms.

If we conceive of an agriculture as an organism – whether it is an individual farm, a village or a valley –, then we are speaking of an organism that has been formed through cultivation from nature underlying it. The model for example can be seen in natural organisms in the way in which they are formed, especially with mam- mals. In their case the particular organs are there to totally serve the whole. Cor- respondingly in the farm organism the particular branches of farm work become organs of the farm organism. This opens up a new view of the part that is now seen as an organ, i.e. is there to serve the whole and from this whole receives a large part of its task. The organism is self-contained, that is its principle. This is possible through great inner diversity, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, through a self-contained cycle of substances via fertilizers – soil – feed.

Steiner, by introducing the term ‘agricultural individuality’, actually introduces a cultural concept into agriculture and thus transcends the framework of classical agronomy. The human being as an individuality becomes the model for the farm as a complete entity. Thus it is taken beyond the concept of the organism.

A place that has been developed in the sense of a whole entity and has been cared for over the years – farm, garden, park or valley – develops within itself all the elements, which nature has produced so comprehensively. From this strained relationship between the particular and the universal the identity of the farm is established.

Biodynamic Preparations

Pierre Masson

In the eight lectures on agriculture given at Koberwitz by Rudolf Steiner in June 1924, the biodynamic preparations are the main focus of lectures four and five. After 90 years the biodynamic preparations developed from Rudolf Steiner’s spir- itual research remain a core part of biodynamic farming practice, an approach based on a spiritual understanding of man’s connection to the earth and cosmos and the concept of a self contained farm individuality.

Two complementary spray preparations

The first one, “horn-manure”, also called “500” (after E. Pfeiffer’s discovery of 500 million bacteria in one gram of the finished preparation), is made from cow manure. This manure is put into a cow horn and then buried for 6 months over winter in fertile soil. It strengthens the vitality of the soil and develops root struc- ture and helps to “push plants up from below”.

The second one, “horn-silica” also called “501” is made from finely ground quartz (as fine as flour according to R. Steiner). This is put into a cow horn and buried in the soil during summer for 6 months to gather the Earth’s summer forces. This brings a 'light effect' to the plants. It is sprayed over the aerial part of the plants and “draws the plants upwards”.

Six preparations normally added to compost and manure

Four of these preparations undergo a fermentation process beneath the earth enclosed within an animal organ sheath. In one case the preparation is first hung up and exposed to the summer forces before being buried in the autumn. A stag’s bladder is used for yarrow flowers (502), for chamomile the small intestine of a cow (503), for oak bark the skull of a domestic animal (505) and dandelion flow- ers are carefully wrapped in the mesentery of a cow (506).

Two of the preparations require no such ‘cover’. Stinging nettle is buried directly in the soil for a whole year (504) and from valerian a liquid extract is obtained directly from the flowers (507).

The transformation of living substances (soil, plants, animals and food) through the use of small quantities of alchemically transformed substances – the biodynamic preparations – is an original impulse unique to biodynamic agriculture.

Working with cosmic cycles

Jean-Michel Florin

The effect of cosmic cycles in the practical application of biodynamic agriculture was and is taken into consideration by producers in very different ways. The approach extends from those who believe that the heavens are no longer active and that the cosmic should be sought in nature, to those who take account of cosmic cycles as exactly as they possbly can. The direct link between cosmic cycles and plants and the way it is worked out in planting calendars (especially the siderial cycle and the four element effects), touches on a great longing which many people have for a new connection with nature and the stars.

Agriculture works through the interaction of many different factors that in practice are inseparable. Each field is a fully open system. The plant grows amidst a great diversity of outer influences and responds to all these influences in a holistic way. To separate these outer influences analytically is almost impossible. Weather conditions, the local climate, the soil, the type of manuring and much else besides, all work together. Each of these conditions can affect the way a plant responds to cosmic rhythms. Another, frequently forgotten aspect, which always comes to the fore when attempting to carry out research into living processes, is the human being himself. For the cultivated plant the human being is an important part of the environment: Through his/her awareness, enthusiasm and sensitivity the human being can enhance or reduce certain influences and effects. It is interesting to look at different people on their farms or in their research gardens. Why? Because then we experience the limits to statistical research. How do we arrive at this conclusion? The natural variability and influence of human action is eliminated by statistical evaluation. We can meet farmers who work very effectively with cosmic rhythms.

Seeds and biodynamic plant breeding

Peter Kunz

Plants in their whole being are far more than what is perceived by today’s science. Reductionist thinking considers a plant to be a complicated biological mechanism. Plants are living beings which live in relation to other elements in their surroundings, form substances and develop their own contexts. They become qualitative images of their environment. One of the most important goals of biodynamic plant breeding is to enable plants to adapt to the specific conditions on a farm.

Seed is an essential commodity. Without seed there can be no harvest. Farmers and gardeners need it to grow all manner of produce. For a long time it has been common practice in industrialised countries for farmers to buy in seed and only occasionally to produce their own.

Varieties developed using conventional breeding techniques can often only achieve the claims made of them within an industrial agriculture system including all its inputs (fertilizers, weed killers, pesticides, growth regulators etc). Agriculture frequently has to adapt itself to these new industrial varieties. All forms of organic agriculture that consciously reject these inputs need plant varieties that can thrive under conditions that are mostly not ideal, are resistant to pests and diseases and yet can produce good yields of high quality.

Livestock management

Dr. Anet Spengler Neff

The approach taken and recommended by Rudolf Steiner in the Agriculture Course, is a process of entering into the being of the animal and taking the way it lives as a starting point in order to understand it. Whoever takes this approach cannot but create the conditions that will enable the animals to reveal their true nature and make the best possible contribution to the farm. This approach will become effective when lots of individuals start to use them, pass them on to others and implement them. Farming methods will then start to change and the keeping of livestock will become self sustaining and species appropriate in more and more places.

Sustainable livestock systems are always possible when animals are able to show and live out their special capacities and are provided with the right environmental context. Livestock farming can then always contribute towards creating an intact environment and a creatively diverse, soul filled world. The only condition is that we understand the animals correctly.

A good animal-human relationship makes the development of new capacities in both animals and humans possible. Part of the reason for keeping farm animals as well as pets could well be this common development process. It is a soul devel- opment and not only one that furthers the ecological and ethical development of the food economy.

Biodynamic nutrition

Renate Lendle

In his introduction to the Agriculture Course, Rudolf Steiner presented a revolu- tionary approach to nutrition that stood in direct contrast to the prevailing scien- tific picture of the time. The accepted version was: We build our physical body out of the earthly food we eat. For Rudolf Steiner this was true only for the head or more precisely, the nerve-sense system. The material nourishment is mainly used to provide energy for our muscular movements and supplying the inner organs. The building up of substance in the body occurs through the uptake of substances through our sense organs, the eyes, the skin, breathing, that is, from the cosmos. Forming a picture of this is not easy. It is helpful to consider how much substance is needed for the cyclic renewal of the human body. The quantity required is actually very small. The amount taken in via our daily food is many times greater. In digesting it the forces contained within the food are released and serve to stimulate the body and in a certain sense provide a ‘model’. Therefore it is essential that the food itself is as healthy and vital as possible, so that we are able to open up its forces for ourselves. It largely dependent on the forces that we are able to take up through food, whether we are able to manifest our intentions in the world or not. Biodynamic agriculture produces food for body, soul and spirit.

New Social and Economic Structures

Änder Schanck

Already in the early part of the last century the biodynamic movement started to develop standards and a system of Demeter labelling to enable customers to find the products grown in this way.

However, only by addressing and trying to reform the social and economic context within which the whole of agriculture is entwined, can alternative forms of agriculture succeed.

In the Economic course of 1922 Rudolf Steiner stated that the division of labour is right for our time and reflects an advance on the principle of self sufficiency. In the same course however he made clear that agriculture is an exception to this and must supply its own needs if it is to remain healthy. He then made the very strong point that these modern developments would need to be addressed through so-called ‘associations’ if his ideas for a threefold ordering of society were to be realised. The key players in the economy – he generally referred to them as representatives of production, trade and consumption – must come together and collectively find solutions to the issues that effect them for in the social realm a decision taken alone is always wrong. He continually called for these associations to bring thought and common sense into the anonymous market place.

What is the origin of biodynamic agriculture?

Ueli Hurter

Biodynamic agriculture did not arise gradually, rather it had an absolutely clear starting point: the agriculture course, which was held at Whitsun 1924 in Koberwitz by Rudolf Steiner. For 10 days a specialist course for agriculture was given out of the stream of anthroposophical work. It amounts essentially to eight lectures, which were taken down in shorthand and after the course published step by step as a book. We call this book as well as the historical event the ‘Agriculture Course’ even to this day. For outsiders it is surely amazing that this Agriculture Course as a historic moment as well as a text even today can be the wellspring for thousands of people and for the biodynamic movement as a whole.

Rudolf Steiner was asked to hold the course on agriculture by farmers he was connected with. These farmers sensed the necessity of a radical renewal of this area of life and work. Steiner went into the questions of the farmers, and thus in some places in the lectures there are direct references to the traditional and modernistic conditions, in which the participants found themselves. On the other hand, Steiner as a spiritual researcher dealt with a lot of issues by tackling the principles involved and opened up profound viewpoints and broad perspectives on the productive relationships between soil, plant and animal in agriculture. Moreover, Steiner introduced completely new practical measures, more than anything else, the preparations.

Already at that time in Koberwitz the Experimental Circle of anthroposophical farmers was founded. This association then co-ordinated the practical trials in the various regions, took on the production and distribution of preparations, encouraged research projects, organised conferences, a journal was founded, etc. In a similar vein right up to the present day in a lot of countries associations have arisen to foster the biodynamic impulse and they are the organisational backbone of the movement as they have always been.

The name ‘biodynamic’ (i.e. biological-dynamic) does not originate from Rudolf Steiner, but was introduced in the early years after the Course. The reports go that the one group emphasised more the biological or the laws of the living realm and the other group more working with the forces or the dynamics. The term bio(logical)-dynamic then arose as a synthesis. Demeter as a term and trademark was introduced in the early 1930s as a sign and stamp of quality for the products. In 1977 Demeter International was founded in order to coordinate the politics of trademarking in a federal manner.

The Science Section at the Goetheanum was the most important contact point for the people and the work on the farms. In the first winter after the Agriculture Course, in 1925, the first Agricultural Conference was held at the Goetheanum. Since then such a conference has taken place every year to the present day. This conference is an important event in the course of the year and also viewed from a historical perspective for people who are connected with the biodynamic impulse. Every year it has a topical theme as its focus and consists of reports of people’s experiences, reports of research, of basic anthroposophical study and artistic contributions. From its modest beginnings it has developed into an event where 700 people gather from over 30 countries.

In the biodynamic movement people are consciously aware that the principles and basic indications of the Agriculture Course are relevant for a greater period of time. Gaining an understanding of them and putting them into practice must be done anew by each generation. The question of the current development potential of the biodynamic movement depends essentially on the possibilities of the individual in the present and his or her ability to work together with others.

Complementary to this are the knowledge and the will needed to co-operate increasingly with others in alliances. This applies to the co-operation within the biodynamic movement as well as to the co-operation with the organic movement and with civil society across the world. The World Agricultural Report, which was published in April 2008, clearly showed that ecological, regional, multifunctional agriculture, based on knowledge out of experience can best master the challenges of the future. The biodynamic movement as a pioneering movement of organic cultivation and as one of its most innovative groupings, as it has been all along, wants to and is able to make its contribution to this great challenge.

 

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Contents and red thread of the Agriculture Course

Ueli Hurter

The content of the Agriculture Course 

First lecture

Rudolf Steiner began the first lecture by describing the difficult economic situation that agriculture finds itself in and said that as well as widening the horizons of agriculture itself, the development of a more healthy economy would also be an objective of the course. Right at the start he extends the context of what is relevant to agriculture to include the very circumference of the universe. He gives the example of the compass: The reason why the compass needle points to the north is not to be found within the compass but in its connection to the magnetic field of the whole earth. The plants are likewise connected with their entire planetary surroundings. The outer planets saturn, jupiter and mars work via siliceous substances upon the nutritional qualities of plants and the inner planets moon, venus and mercury via the calcium substances upon their reproductive power.


Second lecture

In the second lecture the concepts of the agricultural organism and individuality are introduced. In comparison to the human being the agricultural individuality is standing on its head, the soil being equated with the diaphragm. The functions of silica, calcium, clay and humus are described. The plants in all their diversity and differentiation stand fully within the cosmic rhythms of life. Animal life is partly emancipated from these influences and human life to an even greater extent,. Farm animals provide the manure which is so essential for developing the fertility of the site. The agricultural activities of soil, plant and animal are embedded within the polarities of above and below, sun and earth, cosmic and terrestrial etc.. The greater planetary structures of life are reflected in the lesser structures of life of the agricultural individuality. How the one corresponds with the other is described using examples including that of seed formation.


Third lecture

In the third lecture Rudolf Steiner speaks of the substances which make up protein, the bearer of life on the earth: Sulphur, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen hydrogen. These substances are the carriers or the physical manifestations of active spirit principles and they are described in the following way. Sulphur is the expression of spiritual forces that bring about materialisation, carbon is the bearer of creative and formative forces, oxygen is the carrier of life, nitrogen of the sensitivity-bearing forces and hydrogen has the task is to lead the material back into the spirit. These 'five sisters' are accompanied by calcium (craven desire) and silica (aloof gentleman). It can be sensed how spirit activity, qualities of soul and a living vitality are expressed within these processes.


Fourth lecture

The fourth lecture sees a transition from fundamental principles to practical indications. The working together of forces and substances is presented using a further example, nutrition. The perennial nature of trees is characterised and leads on to a consideration of compost and the processes of humus formation. The care of compost is addressed in a practical way. The way materials should be layered, how lime can be used, the kind of covering needed are spoken of very concretely. The listeners are encouraged to use their noses to determine whether the compost is developing in the right way. Then comes an encouragement to improve the manure still further. This leads to a description being given of the making and using of the horn manure preparation. A ground breaking innovation that was introduced in all its simplicity. The silica preparation is then briefly described. These two prparations supplement one another 'the one pushes from below, the other draws from above'. Horn manure preparation promotes a healthy soil and stronger rooting, horn silica enhances quality in the leaves, flowers and the formation of fruit.


Fifth lecture

In the fifth lecture the compost preparations are described. By way of introduction more basic information is shared on manuring. Readily soluble mineral fertilizer is not able to stimulate life, traditional farmyard manure manure should be treated in the best possible way and applied. Despite all this the farm still has a deficit of forces since more leave the farm with the harvest than can be replaced by purely natural organic processes. A balance can be regained by using dynamic measures, the preparations.


First the yarrow preparation is described: Yarrow flowers (Achilea millefolium) are gathered, moistened and placed the bladder of a stag. The filled bladders are hung up in the sun over summer and dug into the soil in the autumn.They spend the winter in the ground and in spring when they have been dug up they will have turned into a humus-like substance which can be stored until the manure, compost or liquid manure is ready to treat. Only very small homeopathic amounts are needed. This preparation supports the potassium process. 
For the second preparation the flowers of chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) are collected and dried. In autumn the flowers are moistened and filled into the small intestine of a slaughtered cow. These chamomile sausages are al so buried in the earth over winter and dug out in spring. Its use supports the calcium processes. 
The third is the stinging nettle preparation. Nettles (Urtica dioica) are cut down just before flowering, wilted a little and buried without any animal sheath. They stay in the ground for a whole year. This preparation helps the soil to become intelligent; it guides the nitrogen processes in the right way. 
Next comes the oak bark preparation. Fresh oak bark if possible from the English Oak (Querqus robur) is ground up finely and placed in the skull of a domestic animal. A wet place is chosen in which to bury it over winter. This preparation supports plant health.


The fifth preparation is the dandelion preparation. Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinale) are gathered in spring and dried. In autum the mesentery of the slaughtered cow is used to enclose the moistened flowers. It is then also buried over the winter. Its use supports the silica processes. 
Finally there is the valerian preparation. Flowers of valerian (Valeriana officinalis) are collected and fresh pressed. Left in the sun for a while and stored in bottles, the juice keeps well. Like the other preparations it is added in very small amounts to the various farm composts. This preparation supports phosphorous processes.

 

Sixth lecture

The sixth lecture addresses questions around weeds, pests and plant disease. In order to achieve something in this field, the grand macrocosmic pictures presented in the first two lectures are now methodically applied. Annual weeds are particularly noted for their strong reproductive capacity. This comes from the inner planets, especially the moon. How can the fields and the weeds growing on them be treated so as to hinder the appearance of so many weeds? Seeds of these weeds can be gathered and burnt. The resulting ash is then sprinkled over the fields. Repeated for up to four years, this treatment will impede the growth of these plants on that location. With animal pests the principle is the same but more complex in practice. The field mouse is given as an example, the skin of the mouse is burnt when venus is in scorpio. With insects – the example of the root nematode is given – burning takes place when the sun is in taurus. Finally the problem of plant disease is addressed. This is essentially about diverting the excessive moon forces which are strongly mediated by water. This is achieved by treating the areas affected with a tea made from the common horsetail (Equisetum arvense).


Seventh lecture

The seventh lecture deals with the principles and practice of landscape design through agriculture. The formative-structuring function of the tree is described in relation to its surroundings: Fruit forming processes are concentrated in the tree's crown, its life is carried in the cambium while among the roots life activity is relatively weak. The insect world is very intimately linked into this structuring. Special mention is made here of earthworms 'these golden creatures'. The birds living with the trees form a connection to the woodlands and the wider circulation of air currents. The butterflies flutter around the flowering herbs. The influence of forest areas and the function of moist biotopes in reducing the effect of parasites and disease pathogens, is described. A reduction in the farm's productive area in favour of ecological balance can bring overall benefits to the farm. This could even become a statutory requirement – said Steiner in 1924! Hedges were mentioned as a healthy source of leaf fodder for ruminants. To conclude he turns to the wider processes of 'give and take' in nature. 'The plant gives and the animal takes in the household of nature'

 

Eighth lecture

The eighth lecture concerns the feeding of livestock. The nature of animals, plants and their relationship to one another was once again described. Animals have clearly developed polarities between their nerve-sense and metabolic-limb systems. Terrestrial substances and cosmic forces are active in the head region while in abdomenal region there are cosmic substances and terrestrial forces. These relationships were then contextualised for the human being: The brain is made of material substance while the thinking process involve forces of cosmic origin. The human 'I' is able to think upon the ground of the brain. The animal is unable to develop thoughts and so this untapped potential for ego development remains latent, not in the brain, but in the content of its intestinal tract. If this material excreted as dung is brought to the roots of plants as a manure fertilizer, its 'ego-potentiality' will bring about optimum plant growth. These plants are then eaten by the animals. In this way a farm becomes a closed organism in a wider spatial and temporal sense, an individuality. 
Some very specific feeding recommendations are then given. The root is particularly suited as a food for nourishing the head region and it is from the head of a young animal that the rest of its organism develops, hence the importance of feeding carrots to young calves. Good hay and linseed is added to the diet of young cattle so that the healthy formative growth forces have room to develop. For the feeding of dairy cows the green leaf is the most important plant organ, especially leguminous plants like clover and lucerne. This can be supplemented with flowering plants and seeds by for example grazing herb-rich pastures or feeding herbs. With fatstock including pigs 'those wonderful heavenly animals' plants should be chosen whose seeds contain plant oils and fats. Attention is also drawn to the importance of a good salt quality. These principles need to be adapted to individual situations. Finally at the end of the course the focus returns to a farmer's own responsibility and sense of judgement: 'It makes a big difference whether these things are spoken about by a farmer or by someone with very little connection to agriculture'.

 

Regarding study of the Agriculture Course

The eight lectures and question and answer sessions can be read and studied in many different ways. They can be read from a practical point of view, how should something de done? Agronomic aspects can also be considered, how can plant growth, manuring or the nature of an animal be understood? Or from an anthroposophical viewpoint, how is the theory of evolution or the relationship between spirit and matter presented? Each one of these approaches has been used by successive generations over the last 90 years and each has its own value.

Steiner always saw the results of his spiritual scientific research as being an extension of current knowledge within a particular field both in practice and in theory. He developed spiritual science methodology and presented it in a very transparent and publically accessible way. A basic understanding of anthroposophical principles was a pre-condition for participating in the Agriculture Course.

The particular agricultural, social and scientific context of the 1920s naturally colours the way Steiner spoke especially since he always sought consciously to link on to the concrete conditions of the time. From an increasingly distant historical perspective however, such time limited aspects can be ever more clearly distinguished from the essential core principles that were presented. It remains the case however that even after 90 years we have not nearly exhausted what can be gleaned from the wisdom of this course on so many levels. Many people have experienced and continue to experience the Agriculture Course as a source of inspiration and engagement for their work on the field, in the laboratory, kitchen, shop or office – and we can well imagine that this will remain the case for many years to come.

 

The position of the course in the world

To start with the Agriculture Course was only available on loan to a few people as a numbered manuscript. In the 1950s it was published as part of Steiner's Complete Works in the form of a book. The eighth edition is currently on the market with over 10,000 copies being sold. It has been translated into over 25 languages. Interest in the course is continually growing. The thoughts and images contained in these lectures have also influenced the entire organic and ecological farming movement. Rachel Carson was for instance inspired via her friend and biodynamic gardener Marjorie Spock, to write her seminal book 'Silent Spring' (1962). It is significant that the World Agriculture Report (2008) in considering the future direction of agriculture, came to conclusions that were already expressed using other words in the Agriculture Course on both a principle and detailed level. Even with regard to the economic questions which have become so urgent today in the field of agriculture and food, important ideas were sown during the 1924 lectures. 
In conclusion it can be said that many treasures hidden in the Agriculture Course are yet to be uncovered and that its historical mission is still unfolding. We very much hope that wider public interest in the principles and practical indications found in Rudolf Steiner's Agriculture Course will continue to contribute in a significant and meaningful way towards an agriculture of the future.

The Agricultural Course (GA 327) is available in the following languages

Afrikaans

Steiner, R. (2009). Lewenskragtige Boerdery. Die basiese Landboukursus van 1924. Biosinamiese Lanbouvereingiging van Suider-Afrika, Stellenbosch. ISBN: 978-0-620-44394-4

German
Steiner, R. (1999). Geisteswissenschaftliche Grundlagen zum Gedeihen der Landwirtschaft - Acht Vorträge, gehalten in Koberwitz bei Breslau vom 7. bis 16. Juni 1924. Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach.

English (USA) 
Steiner, R. (1993). Agriculture. Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriuclture. Bio-dynamic farming and gardening Association, Inc. Kimberton, Pennsylvania. ISBN: 0-938-250-37-1

English (UK)
Steiner, R. (1974). Agriculture. Bio.dynamic Agricultural Association, London. ISBN: 0-9503780-4-6

Finnish
Steiner, R. (2004). Maatalouskurssi. Biodynaaminen Yhdistys ry, Tampere. ISBN: 951-9442-35-9

French
Steiner, R. (1993). Agriculture. Fondements Spirituels de la méthode bio-dynamique. Editions Anthroposophiques Romandes, Genève. ISBN: 2-88189-058-X

Hebrew (IL)

רודוף שטיינר (1998). חקלאות ביו-דינאמית. הדרך הטבעית לחיים

בריאים וטובים יותר. הוצאת אסטרולוג, הוד השרון, ישראל

Italian
Steiner, R. (2003). Impulsi scientifico-spirituali per il progresso dell' Agrigultura. Editrice Antroposofica, Milano.

Japanese
ISBN978-4-7565-0087-8   C0061

Latvian
Steiner, R. (1995). Garigo zin?t?u pamati lauksaimniecibas uzplaukuma sekm?šanai. Riga.

Polish
Steiner, R. (2003). Kurs rolniczy. Podstawy myslenia ca?osciowego w rolnictwie ekologicznym. Bielsko-Bia?a.

Portuguese
Steiner, R. (2000). Fundamentos da agricultura biodinâmica. Vida nova para a Terra. Editora Antroposófica, São Paulo, Brasil.

Russian
ISBN: 5-88000-037-0 URL: bdn-steiner.ru/cat/Ga_Rus/327.doc

Serbian/Croatian
Štajner, R. (2010). Poljoprivredni Kurs. Duhovnonaucne osnove za napredak poljoprivrede. Jezgro, Vršac. ISBN: 978-86-88527-01-9

Slovenian
Steiner, R. (2011). Temelji uspešnega kmetovanja v o?eh duhovne znanosti. Kmetijski te?aj. AJDA Vrzdenec, Lubljana. ISBN: 978-961-92468-5-6

Spanish (ES) 
Steiner, R. (2009). Curso sobre agricultura biologico dinamica. Editorial Rudolf Steiner, Madrid.

Czech
Steiner, R. (1996). Zem?d?lský kurz . Kosmické a terestrické podmínky zdravého zem?d?lství. Pro-Bio Šumperk, Šumperk.

Hungarian
Steiner, R. (1963). A mezögazdálkodäs gyarapodásának szellemtudományos alapjai. Elöadások a biodinamikus gazdálkodásról. Genius.