“The Biodynamic Farm – Developing a Holistic Organism” and “Biodynamics in Practice – Life on a Community Owned Farm”
Posted 14 September 2011, by Staff, Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Bio-Dynamics, Inc., jpibiodynamics.org
BOOK REVIEWS – NEWLY RECEIVED TITLES:
JPI (Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Bio-Dynamics, Inc.) has recently added the following new titles
Osthaus, Karl-Ernst, The Biodynamic Farm – Developing a Holistic Organism, Floris Books, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, 2010. (First published in German in 2004). 93 pp. $14.95
To my knowledge this is one of the few available titles in biodynamic literature that makes an effort to address Rudolf Steiner’s concern that the farm “individuality” ought to possess the ‘due amount of cattle.’ Steiner expressed that concern at the very beginning of the second lecture of the Agriculture course, and while many people have subsequently spoken and written about the farm individuality, the author of this book has managed to translate that term into a practical example of how that individuality manifests through the animal kingdom on a specific farm. In developing his own farm, Karl-Ernst Osthaus apparently took very seriously the question of determining the “due’ number of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and other animal members of proper biodynamic farm individuality.
While his experience must be seen in the context of his particular farm, it is most helpful to have such a picture available in developing one’s own farm. He gives a very specific emphasis to the development of hedgerows between fields not only as a “fence” to separate pastures, but also as important forage for the livestock and habitat for the birds, insects and other wild animals.
It would have been most helpful if the author had provided more details on exactly how he arrived at the several livestock populations. Regrettably, he is deceased, and one cannot seek answers to some of the questions that might arise when reading some of his statements and conclusions. However, that forces one to arrive at answers for one’s own farm individuality, which is precisely how it should be for the biodynamic practitioner.
The one major criticism of the book I found is his description of the production of the preparations in the latter part of the book. In several instances, his description deviates from Steiner’s indications in ways that I would judge quite serious and such as would affect the ultimate efficacy of the finished preparation. Digging up BD #501 at Michaelmas does not qualify as “late fall” as Steiner’s instructions state. BD #502 is made in early summer, hung in a sunny place, buried around Michaelmas and dug up at Easter, and the contents of the bladder are stored in an earthenware pot. This is a process which ignores Steiner’s requirement that the yarrow spend a full year in the bladder. Unfortunately, the time frame described seems to be a practice that is widely followed among biodynamic practitioners, to the probable detriment of the finished preparation. In like manner, the author’s description of the making of BD #504 omits the indication Steiner gave that the stinging nettle should spend the winter in the earth and through the following summer. I believe most sincerely that we cannot allow ourselves to blithely ignore the complete indications Steiner gave for the making of the biodynamic preparations. To do so can only be a detriment to achieving the maximum quality and effectiveness of the resultant preparations. It is most distressing to realize that somehow over the years certain modifications have crept into the instructions for making the preparations and are subsequently perpetuated in otherwise valuable biodynamic writings.
Petherick, Tom, Biodynamics in Practice – Life on a Community Owned Farm, Impressions of Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch, Sussex, England. Photography by Will Heap. Sophia Books (an imprint of Rudolf Steiner Press), Forest Row, England. 132 pp. $38.00
This book features an abundance of photographs (thus the expense) detailing the transition of two struggling farms to ownership by an entire community. These two farms in the immediate neighborhood of Emerson College in England formed a cooperative beginning in 1995 with the people living in their vicinity to establish themselves as a major focal point of the community. The text and the photographs describe the many aspects of both farms and the important role they have within the surrounding community. The message of the book is stated as follows: ‘Biodynamics seeks the holistic and interrelate health of the diverse creatures and beings composing a farm, including human beings and the wider, surrounding community.’ Biodynamics is identified as not just a “method” but a whole approach to life. The model developed here is one that may be highly appropriate for emulation in England, but it is probable that other parts of the world will need to develop their own unique models of biodynamic farming support within a surrounding community. One such example that comes to mind is the Sekem endeavor in Egypt.
The lack of captions for the photos in at least a few cases is a drawback to the message being communicated, but altogether the book presents a very positive case for biodynamic agriculture as an important factor in influencing the culture within society as a whole.