2024 marks the centenary of biodynamic agriculture. There will be many celebrations at international, national, regional and local level. Many of these events and many articles will refer to the "Agricultural Course" by Rudolf Steiner. On the one hand this expression refers to the book that is available on the market as GA 327 (as a hardback, a paperback and in many translations) and on the other it refers to the events in Koberwitz (now Kobierzyce, Poland) in June 1924. The Section has set itself the task of providing the biodynamic movement and the public with both the"Agricultural Course" book (as part 1 of the project) and the "Agricultural Course 1924" event (as Parts 2 and 3 of the project) in the most relevant form possible. In so doing they are undertaking a task to which all sections of the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum feel a commitment, and are also fulfilling an expectation and request from the biodynamic movement. It should also be mentioned that, since their inception, the Agricultural Course and the biodynamic movement have provided valuable contributions to practice, science, publications, policy work and market development for many people and organisations in the organic movement and for greening agriculture. There is therefore a responsibility now to present the biodynamic impulse as well as possible for the second century of its activity.
On the occasion of the centenary the Section considers it to be its responsibility to reappraise this source, and to make it available in as pure a form as possible to the movement and the world. In order to achieve this goal, the Section for Agriculture has created a working structure and outlined a work programme.
The source for the text of the Agricultural Course is complicated. The official stenographer was probably Kurt Walther from Berlin. His shorthand reports and the corresponding fair copies are lost. The Goetheanum Archives hold typed texts for some of the lectures. They contain hand-written corrections and, including these corrections, correspond to the text of the printed book. The question is whether these are the fair copies made by Kurt Walther.
Günther Wachsmuth published the first two editions in 1925 and 1929. It appears as though he still had access to the fair copies and possibly also the shorthand notes by Kurt Walther.
In addition, the Rudolf Steiner Archive has shorthand notes by Lilly Kolisko for some of the lectures, which have now been transferred to fair copies by Matthias Buser as part of this project. These texts contain many differences from the text in the published book, some of them important ones. Comparing the texts and evaluating the differences is very complex. All the important discrepancies will need to be documented for the new edition of GA 327.
We need to ask ourselves whether there is yet further source material for the Agricultural Course? In comparison to the effect of the Course, little material has been found in the archives. We are appealing to the whole biodynamic movement and through the anthroposophical media in order to create the possibility of bringing to light further source material from private archives and estates.
The project group and the leaders of the Section (Jean-Michel Florin and Ueli Hurter) and the Circle of Representatives all believe that there is an urgent need for a scientific historical account of the events, people, places, etc. associated with the Agricultural Course in 1924. The accounts that exist have all been written from the inside with many personal details and a fundamental enthusiasm for the Course. What is now needed is a historical account that addresses the interested public, that puts together the important facts, is well illustrated and is available in a convenient form (approx. 100-120 pages) and can be translated without undue effort. The target audience is the worldwide biodynamic movement, the interested public, all students and trainees, journalists, etc. This need also arises due to the fact that opponents of anthroposophy spread a false picture of the founding events, e.g. in France and the USA.
There is a first draft of how the contents will be structured. The authorship is still undecided, negotiations are in progress.
The result will be a German book that should if possible be finished by the end of 2022, so that it can be published in other languages for the centenary.
There is a lack to date of a systematic collection of material that would allow Rudolf Steiner's 1924 Agricultural Course to be put into context. A collection of materials of this kind should be undertaken as a separate aim of the project and made available on the Internet. It would involve such things as materials from Steiner's research e.g. the agricultural works in his library, the systematic recording of his conversations with agricultural experts before and after the Course; a collection of reference works on the status of agricultural research in Germany after the First World War and on the economic situation of farms in these years; and contextualisation with other sources of the organic movement, such as e.g. Albert Howard, etc.
This collection of materials could be presented in the form of notes on the text of Steiner's agricultural lectures, which would result in a commentary volume. This type of presentation of the contextualisation was chosen by other sections. We currently think that a collection on the Internet which can be constantly updated is more helpful and is more accessible to interested parties throughout the world.
The authorship in the narrower sense is still undecided; the project group will no doubt set up the initial foundation of this collection as this will of course arise during the working process.
Project Part 3 is planned for 2022/23.
Biodynamic farmer, Co-Section Leader of the Section for Agriculture since 2010. Co-initiator of the celebration of the 90-year anniversary of the Agricultural Course in 2014 with the publication of "Agriculture for the Future". Familiar with matters related to the sources and the editorial board for 40 years, partly due to his connection to Ernst Becker. Project leader and initiator of this project along with Albrecht Römer.
Former farmer on the Lehenhof on Lake Constance, Board of Directors of the Lehenhof until end of 2019, member of the Section and Circle of Representatives of the Section for Agriculture for 40 years. At the 90-year anniversary of the Agricultural Course in 2014, Ueli Hurter and Albrecht Römer both became aware of the necessity of developing an accurate and clear historical awareness of the events 100 years ago. Albrecht Römer is co-initiator of this project.
Former biodynamic farmer on the Falbrigenhof in Biel, Agricultural Course lecturer on the independent training in Switzerland with publications (contributions to the Agricultural Course by Rudolf Steiner, 2nd edition, January 2019 Initia Verlag Uelzen); co-publisher of two papers by Nicolaus Remer, doctor of history. A few years ago Rudolf Isler gave a folder with comments and uncertain points in the Agricultural Course to the Section and the Archive and stated his willingness to be involved in a new edition.
Martin von Mackensen
Farmer on the Dottenfelderhof, head of the Agricultural School Dottenfelderhof, has a very large network of contacts. He contributed to the revision for the 1999 edition and has been involved with questions about the sources and the publishing of the Agricultural Course with Ernst Becker for 30 years.
Scientist, long-term co-worker in the Natural Science Section, former editor of the periodical "Das Goetheanum", publications and training courses. Since 2016 co-worker in the Archive as editor of GA volumes. As an editor at the Archive and long-term co-worker at the Glashaus, he has an ideal background for the task. The Section has been able to sign a contract with the Archive, allowing 35% of Hans-Christian Zehnter's working hours to be pledged to this project for 2020/21.
Co-worker at the Section for Agriculture, responsible for graphics, web design, communication and publications. He is an assistant on this project.