The Consciousness Underlying Agriculture

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By Bruno Follador

Bruno Follador discussing compost at the research site where he works in East Troy, WI

Despite the growing awareness of the political and economic drive behind the industrialization of agriculture, seldom is there an in-depth discussion about the mode of consciousness that allowed the development of this mechanized and destructive form of agriculture.

The sustainable agricultural movement, in a way, arose out of the perception of the symptoms and consequences of our disassociation from nature. Innumerable actions and movements are being taken to counter issues like climate change, the honey bee colony collapse disorder, destruction of our forests, and the proliferation of GMOs. Often the symptoms are said to be the cause of the problem. We might have heard that the bees are dying because of the GMOs, pesticides, climate change, etc. But could there be something deeper underlying the tragedy of industrial agriculture and our current environmental and social problems?

I believe that Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, one of the pioneers of biodynamic agriculture, began to address the essence of the problem when he wrote:

“The whole problem is primarily a moral one. Our future depends upon our choice between death forces and life forces; upon whether or not we will return in humility to the soil. The great questions are: Will we return to a philosophy of life which lays stress upon growth? Will our youth be educated in the spirit of growing things, and of service to life? Will they learn that it means more than money to plant our seeds and harvest crops? If the right inner attitude towards the soil penetrates the human race again, a renaissance of rural life will begin, and not only will new resources be created for our population, but spiritually we will be ‘safe’.”

In the light of these words, I have been working with the Biodynamic Association and Michael Fields Agricultural Institute to develop a weekend workshop, More Humus, More Humanity: Insights and Practices out of Biodynamic Agriculture, which will give a historical context of the coming into being of the impulse given by Rudolf Steiner for the renewal of agriculture and what is now called biodynamics. Through the workshop, I will also strive to provide a current context for this work so that its insights and imaginations can come into a practical perspective. A core component of the workshop will be to explore agriculture and biodynamics through Goethean science. We will discuss how Goethean science can deepen our understanding of the current social and ecological crisis, and how we can use it to develop a greater sensitivity towards the nuances and subtleties of our agricultural landscape, farm individuality, Nature, and the movements of our Earth.

The following questions will form our focus: How do I develop an inner organ of discernment as I work and co-create with Nature? How do I become aware of the creative forces of growth in Nature? And how do I begin to take responsibility towards these forces of growth?

At the beginning of twentieth century, Rudolf Steiner was already calling our attention to the fact that “the interests of agriculture are bound up with the broadest spheres of human life…there is practically no field of human endeavor that does not relate to agriculture in some way. Seen from whatever perspective you choose, agriculture touches on every single aspect of human life.”

Biodynamic agriculture is not simply concerned with good nutrition or farming practices that cause the least harm to nature. The agricultural foundations laid by Rudolf Steiner have a deeper significance illustrated beautifully by the German ethnobotanist Wolf D. Storl: “Biodynamics is a human service to the Earth and its creatures.”

So, within this context, this workshop is not only for farmers and gardners but also to anyone interested and concerned with the present and future of our dear Earth and its people.