In 1924, a gathering of bereft Polish farmers listened attentively to a sincere, dark haired man. Failed rye starts and weak barley plants had bred anxiety. Promises of newly introduced chemical fertilizers and pesticides had proven empty. Concerned, farmers beseeched mystic Rudolph Steiner for help. He told them to consider celestial forces.
Macro cosmic influences, not microscopic analyses, need tending.
Steiner told farmers plants thrive in soil enlivened by forces of the sun, moon and stars. And that heavenly bodies lead earth’s elements through creative processes in ways adding isolated nutrients to soil does not. To support this, he instructed farmers to make and apply homeopathic remedies to soil and plants.
Earth is part of a cosmic dance.
As farmers embraced Steiner’s indications and crops flourished. Word spread, as did what is known as Biodynamic Agriculture. When I ate my first kale and collards grown by its methods, my belly radiated with life. Sensing a vitality not found in other foods, I came to believe,
Living forces are far more important for the plant than mere substances. **
A few weeks back, friends and I sat grappling with the outgrowth of problems these farmers first faced. Raised on artificiality, we listen attentively to Steiner’s words, which we read and discuss. We note scientists now agree soil conditions determine plant health, but analytic probes into matter don’t address supersensible realities Steiner deems essential. We are eager to learn of them.
To perceive the physical, we must penetrate what lies beyond it.
A young woman, Suzy, says, “Sarasota has more farm to school gardens than any county in Florida. I lead the program and am amazed at how many students think food comes from stores. I used to worry about the world’s woes; I’m now glad to be doing my small part to connect youngsters with nature.
“In my program, students prepare soil, grow and harvest vegetables, and make and sell food. They experience the whole process. Young kids are raring to put their fingers in the earth and get dirty. It’s infuriating to see how adults get in their way. A young boy, wide eyed, ready to bite into his treasure, froze and threw it down when his mom made a face and said, “Joey, you don’t eat broccoli!”
“It’s easy to get discouraged,” I agree. “Don Hall started Transition Sarasota about 7 years ago with dreams of building sustainability in Sarasota. His efforts towards creating local currency, community housing, and tempered county growth didn’t come to fruition as quickly as he’d hoped. The culture couldn’t cultivate them. So, he nourished barren ground with a film series on climate change and alternative transportation, workshops on food preservation and cottage industries and a gleaning project to get locally grown vegetables to low income families. Don’s work helped foster the school farm program you now lead. I’m inspired to hear of the fruit of his efforts.”
By our nourishing life’s soil through cycles of time, seed dreams grow
“Yes, “she nods. “I’m a nutritionist,” she adds. I used to watch every micro nutrient, buying ‘superfoods’ made from combinations of valued elements. Over time, I’ve changed my view of food. I’ve come to see my body as a plant and what I eat, the soil. The more something is processed the less life force it has. So, I now look to eat food picked fresh from the garden.”
“Me too,” I reply, “and I, also, try to connect students with natural life.” I tell of working with sixth grader, Zach, preparing for Florida’s State Writing Assessment. He must be able to read three passages and find support for his position on a topic. After reading two during our practice, he’s underlined little evidence. We go back and reread. I quickly see Zach doesn’t understand the title or introduction of the second passage. So, we decipher meaning of words through prefixes, suffixes and roots. We name the doer and action of each sentence to find the main point. We link descriptive words to what they modify.
After several minutes, Zach sighs and looks at me, “We aren’t going very fast.”
“Yes, but we are going deep,” I explain. “There’s always somewhere to go. Sometimes it’s forward and sometimes it’s deep. You went fast before, but did you understand anything?”
“Not much, “he says.
“It seems like we’re not getting anywhere, but we’re collecting what’s happening so we can understand and go forward.”
He sits up and listens.
“It’s like the tree out the window,” I say.
He leans forward and looks.
“It has no leaves or fruit, but it’s not dead. What’s it doing? It’s going deep to gather strength to go forward in spring.”
“Same with building a house. Do you think a house would stand if we don’t do the inside work first.”
“No, it would fall apart,” Zach says.
“But once the foundational stuff is done, you can build on it.” I add. “It’s also like eating” I continue. “Some things we have to really chew on food before swallowing.”
“Yeah, like steak,” he agrees.
“Yes, and others we can just swallow.”
“Like spaghetti,” he adds.
“Well, maybe you have to chew a little bit on spaghetti.”
“No, I just swallow it,” he states.
“Well, maybe soup or a smoothie you can just swallow,” I suggest.
As we continue our work with the third line, he comments. “We’re going deep, deep.”
“Yes,” I nod.
When we start reading the last short line, he says, “We’re not going down any more, we’re going up.”
“Yes,” I smile.
We must go deep to go far.
Friends in my study group circle smile. They know the value of inner work. They understand soil is made of decomposed matter whose elements can be reformed.
I’ve been thinking of how truncated our views are. We get most information second hand through television and the internet. Busy keeping up with what’s given, we rarely penetrate life’s surface. Like artificially fed plants, we grow depleted. But by taking in Heaven’s intuitions, meaning infuses matters.
We enliven thinking by connecting with the cosmos.
A few months back, we had a cold stretch in SW Florida. I didn’t have enough sheets to cover all plants sensitive to frost. Several days after, all the banana leaves browned, Malabar spinach vines were dark red with tawny leaves, purple leaves of the red hibiscus shriveled and dried. My yard looked dead, yet I sensed a sweet energy emanating from it.
Busied with tending to a tiling project indoors, I wasn’t able to cut off the dead branches and leaves as I had hoped, clearing and prettying things up. Weeks later when I had time to work in the yard, I noticed green banana leaves flanked the sky amidst brown ones, lively Malabar spinach shoots overtook dried leaves, small purple leaves dotted the hibiscus. Nature renewed itself.
In soil, unseen forces generate life.
As I cut the dead matter off, it occurred to me letting the garden be for a month allowed plants to draw nourishment for new growth from dying leaves.
My garden is a teacher. Each time I step from my house, I’m met by its dynamics. While beyond my understanding, they enhance my being.
Nature’s not to be controlled, but danced with in rhythm.
** Agriculture Course (Classic Edition) by Rudolph Steiner p 90