Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was born and raised in Germany and was trained in Western philosophy and science. He was a deeply spiritual man, and his ideas about the nature of life became known as “Anthroposophy” and “Spiritual Science;” Steiner sought to find a synthesis of science and mysticism, and his ideas went beyond western cognitive philosophy to include the inner spiritual needs of the human being. (White). He was a profoundly creative man, authoring hundreds of publications, co-creating artistic forms in dance and architecture, and many practical initiatives including: Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, and anthroposophical medicine. (Lindenberg).
Many regard Steiner’s exposition on agriculture toward the end of his life as the start of the organic agriculture movement; In Poland in 1924 Steiner gave what is arguably the first course in organic agriculture in modern Europe. (Paull). In response to the proliferation of nitrogenous fertilizers and increasing use of chemicals in farming Steiner made the point that: “In the course of this materialistic age of ours, we’ve lost the knowledge of what it takes to continue to care for the natural world.” (Paul, 64). The course in 1924 laid guidelines for further experimentation and research in biological farming methods. Steiner’s agricultural methods stem from the premise that the farm is an organism and should be managed as such; he also taught bee keeping with the understanding of the hive as an organism. (Biodynamic BeeKeeping). In this way, Steiner suggested that the wisdom of the hive or farm as a whole should guide the beekeeper and farmer.
In the decades that followed, experimentation along these lines validated Steiner’s ideas and became popularly known as “biodynamic” organic agriculture. (Paull). His “biodynamic” approach to agriculture prohibits the use of chemicals and is a model of sustainable farming. Ideally, all necessary inputs are grown and supplied by the farm itself, and livestock are integrated with food-producing gardens and cover crops; methods of composting and soil fertilization are based on biological and subtler “etheric” or energetic principles. Manure is also used in a variety of ways to make liquid manures and enhance compost fertility; certain herbs are also used in herbal teas to provide homeopathic applications to bring the farm into harmony with the cosmic forces that affect plant health and growth. The unique method of stirring herbs or manure to form a water vortex enlivens the living energy and transforms the mixture, as opposed to simply chemical changes. (ATTRA).
Steiner had insight into the influence of moon phases and cosmological activity on the farm. The effectiveness of planting certain types of seeds according to specific moon phases and star signs has been scientifically verified by decades of trial and experimentation on Steiner’s teachings. Today, thousands of farms practice biodynamic methods of agriculture in over 100 countries. Biodynamic certifiers exist to certify international standards for biodynamic practices. Books, central websites, biodynamic CSA’s, and peer reviewed journal articles all exist promoting these methods despite its relatively unknown status by most of the agricultural world. (ATTRA).
Nonetheless, Steiner’s contribution to agriculture is trending upwards toward his influence in education, with Waldorf Schools growing faster than any alternative schooling methods. Steiner’s ability to translate the mysterious presence of unseen forces into practical methods for improving life should not be overlooked or disregarded. The pioneering insights and timeliness of Steiner’s agricultural methods make him worthy of honor and gratitude from the organic movement. I believe biodynamic agriculture will continue its growing trend of popularity as people become more aware of the presence of unseen forces that influence life that is seen.
ATTRA, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Project, https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=290
Biodynamic Bee Keeping
Lindenberg, Christoph. Rudolf Steiner, Rowohlt 1992, ISBN 3-499-50500-2, pp. 123-6
Paull, John. “Attending the First Organic Agriculture Course: Rudolf
Steiner’s Agriculture Course at Koberwitz, 1924.” European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 21, Number 1 (2011).
White, Ralph. “The Truth About Rudolf Steiner: Honoring one of the most spiritually gifted and accomplished figures of the Twentieth Century.”