"Finding the spirit in agriculture" was the topic of the Agricultural Conference at the Goetheanum in Switzerland from 5-8 February 2020. Over 900 people of almost all age groups from 48 countries took up the invitation to this event, and there was remarkable interest from across the world. In order to provide the opportunity for as many interested parties and friends of the biodynamic impulse to take part, national borders and other barriers were overcome. For instance, a live stream with simultaneous interpreting was set up for 200 Chinese who were unfortunately unable to attend the conference in person due to the precautions against the coronavirus – an opportunity that was received with great enthusiasm in China.
Over the course of the four days various facets of the spiritual orientation and dimension of biodynamic agriculture were explored and examined. Speakers from a wide range of countries with very varied cultural and religious backgrounds and traditions spoke about their personal approaches, and shared their practical exercises and tangible results with the listeners. They showed how integrating the spiritual dimension can help to better understand the current situation and face the challenges of our time, and how a person can stay true to themselves in this. At the same time the speakers gave an overview of the connections that the biodynamic movement can build to and with other organisations in civil society.
One example involved an approach to the "new" relationship to the other person through geometry, to the attitude which can lead us to a meeting with the earth as a living being and to the beings that inhabit it. Another was the search for similarities between biodynamics and the traditional cosmologies of the Mapuche Indians and the Maoris, as well as the role that biodynamic agriculture can play in the face of exclusion and social violence. These were all very diverse and moving speeches based on the personal and lived experience of the speakers.
In the afternoons a new meeting format was introduced with the Open Spaces, something which proved very popular and offered the participants the opportunity to exchange views with each other. The contributions here were also diverse and varied, such as the visit to a land art installation in the park. A highpoint was flying a drone over the Goetheanum meadow – illustrating how biodynamic preparations can be sprayed over large areas and difficult terrain.
The art which accompanied and framed the conference as an ambassador of the spirit ranged from music improvisation via performances to artistic courses. In addition, Claudy Jongstra, an internationally renowned Dutch artist who works with biodynamic wool, presented the unique installation Woven Skin.
The Agricultural Conference 2020 closed with the inauguration of the new Biodynamic Federation Demeter International which has arisen from the amalgamation of the IBDA and Demeter International. This new international organisation is a very significant step for the global biodynamic and Demeter movement. It is a contribution to collaborative development and to standardisation of the values of biodyamics, and confirms the commitment to social issues. Both at the heart of this initiative and through the entire conference there was a clear call to connect to oneself and to others, to build bridges and to work beyond the familiar for the benefit of the earth and mankind.