|Written by Jeff Poppen|
|Wednesday, March 6, 2013|
After gratefully appreciating the hosts of this lecture series, the first thing Steiner makes clear is that no one should talk about agriculture unless they have a sound basis in it, and really know what it means to grow grain, potatoes or beats. He includes the social aspects, the organizational aspects, and the economic principles.
The social aspects of agriculture are mentioned first, and echo Tolstoy’s observation that the people involved are of the utmost importance. Society in rural areas develops out of families. Everyone knows each other and their peculiar talents, habits, and personalities. This allows for an equitable distribution of work and goods because it is all on such a small, community-based scale.
Agriculture and civilization grew up together and remain inseperable. In several passages, Steiner describes himself as a peasant, and honors the wit, observational skills and instinct of country people. He goes so far as to credit his education more from this than the extensive academic training he consquently acquired.
Recent history suggests that when peasants move to cities, the practical intelligence they bring with them creates an economic boom for that country, lasting approximately two generations. We saw this in Europe during the industrial revolution, later in America and now in Asia. Education removed from agriculture loses its sound basis.
How a rural society takes care of itself remains best left to those who are farming there. Humbleness, compassion and practical sense become ingrained in one who cares for land, plants and animals. Not that something can’t be learned from urban environments, but social aspects are generally kinder in the country, and best left up to them.
The same is true or organizational aspects of a farm. It seems obvious that those who are in constant touch with the land should be the ones who know what to do. Again, insights gained from the synergy of city talent (with roots inevitably in farming) can be gleaned through by farm organizers, who can use what they need.
But it lowers quality, happiness and health for non-farmers to organize farms. The detrimental effects of agribusiness demonstrate this quite clearly. Organizing for short term profit rather than long term sustainability creates disorganization on farms.
Look at the word organize, and you can find organic. Life arises through organization. Who will best organize a farm so it consistently yields high quality crops and remains able to do so with a minimum of inputs? The farmer will.
The economic principles in farming also need to remain in the hands of the growers. They are the ones who know how much it costs to grow it again. Too much interference by middlemen, marketers, and giant corporations is always paid for by those practicing agriculture.
Supply and demand create price fluctuations that don’t reflect the costs of production. First and foremost this must be covered. Farming need not be gambling. Once the farmer is fairly compensated, then and only then should others concern themselves with the price of farm products.
Steiner affinity with Goethe surfaces when he mentions influences coming from the entire universe affecting what people erroneously consider to be self-contained entities. A pre-requisite to understanding the biodynamic method is the realization that all things in nature are interconnected. Instinctual knowledge reflects their truth, and science seems to be coming around.
For example, the rare English Bluebell is now known to acquire 15 different species of fungi to be present in the soil for it to grow. Some of these fungi stretch out for miles underground. Construction at a distance of five miles from the patch cuts off the fungal hyphae and kills the English Bluebells.
The inter workings of nature are the study of farmers, centuries of observation have led to crop and animal rotations, the proper utilization of the various species and the secrets of manuring. The introduction ends with more pouring out of gratitude and the notion that the instincts farmers had were quite specific and reliable. They were part of the interrelationship in nature.