Farmers show us the way to make a difference
As every year at Whitsun we celebrate World Biodynamic Day. This year’s World Biodynamic Day has special significance as we will celebrate the hundred years of the ‘Agriculture Course’ by Steiner next year in 2024. It is a day to reflect on the nearly centur-long practice of biodynamic farming, but also to thank our farmers for their daily work and to recognise their expertise in good farming practice. It was farmers who took the initial ideas and put them into practice. Their constant development and passion for farming remain at the core of the biodynamic movement. Farmers are the best inspiration for making a practical positive change in the face of current challenges all around the world.
Tribute to our farmers
For this year’s World Biodynamic Day, we celebrate farmers around the world. They work tirelessly to provide the good food that feeds us while respecting animals, plants, soil. Their work goes far beyond farming as they also take on the responsibility of caring for our environment. Farming means to interact with nature, to work hand in hand with it, to nurture it as much as nurturing us. One does not go without the other. Farmers have, therefore, a much broader responsibility that requires a constant development and dedication.
When Rudolf Steiner gave his eight lectures at Whitsun in 1924 on the ‘renewal of agriculture’, later published as the ‘Agricultural Course’, he spoke of ‘peasant wisdom’ in recognition of the deep understanding of farmers. In his view, farmers know best what works on their farms, what practices to apply, what changes to make. The knowledge acquired through experience and the search for constant improvement is what grounds their work and enables them to make informed choices.
You, from your practical work, will know far better than we can know in Dornach, what is the nature of your soil, what kind of woodland there is and how much, and so on; what has been grown on the farm in the last few years, and what the yield has been. We must know all these things, which, after all, every farmer must know for himself if he wants to run his farm in an intelligent way— with ‘peasant wisdom.’
Rudolf Steiner, Agriculture Course, Address to Members, Koberwitz, 11th June 1924.
At a time when farmers receive little recognition for the work they do, it is important to remind ourselves of the crucial role they play for our health and the environment. We also must acknowledge their experiential wisdom, which enables them to act for environmental, social, and economic viability. Empowering farmers to do this is at the heart of the biodynamic movement.
Human development is therefore at the core of biodynamic farming alongside plant and animal development. In taking the decisions for their farms, the farmers integrate themselves into farm. They have a core of responsibility and must grow together with the plants, the animals, and the farm itself. Capacity building supports this role in supporting the development of farmers and the farm itself, while adapting to various external constraints. Farmers benefit from learning, training, and knowledge exchange.
Constant development is not one long quiet river. It is a rather stony and rocky path with obstacles to overcome, and new pathways to find. Farming is full of challenges which require persistence and determination. When working with nature, there is always an unknown component that must be embraced to unfold the connection with nature to its full potential. It is this difficult path that supports farmers to grow and confers them with a valuable expertise.
Continue to work towards your vision and develop the patience and persistence to overcome the challenges on the way. There will be problems all the time. But on the one side, you will learn from them and develop yourself. On the other side, I can assure you that you can overcome all of them with a lot of enthusiasm and love for the world and love for other people. In the end, I can also tell you from my own experience that you will feel happy doing so every day. This is a very important — general feeling that I wish for everyone in the world.
Helmy Abouleish, President of the Biodynamic Federation Demeter International, in an interview for the World Future Council Podcast “Good Council” – 11th May 2022.
In the end it is the passion for farming that makes the difference. It is what enables farmers to continue to meet challenges and to find joy in their daily practice. Biodynamic farmers are not only committed to providing the best possible food, but also to work hand in hand with nature caring for our environment. This is one aspect that brings joy in farming, to know that your work goes far beyond food production, that it is vital to our ecosystem.
Believe in making a difference
In this regard, farmers are an example for us all. They show us how passion, determination and development enable them to take care of our planet, to contribute to something much wider than their daily work. Our vision for biodynamic farming is an ongoing and ever-evolving collaboration between human beings and nature, in which both can flourish. Given the current climate crisis, we cannot afford to compromise the well-being of our environment. Our devoted farmers are well-aware of our shared responsibility towards the protection of our planet.
We hope that World Biodynamic Day will inspire you to fight for what you believe in, to protect nature and work for positive change in the world, and to believe in your own capacity to overcome the challenges that we face now. Only passion and determination give us the strength we need to tackle today’s challenges.