Creating a New Relationship with the Earth
Originally published on the White Rose Farm blog.
“Wholeness is holy,” said one participant as he summarized his take-away from the North American Biodynamic Conference held in Madison, Wisconsin. Its theme was “Sacred Agriculture: Creating a New Relationship with the Earth.”
“How is that relationship different?” asked a friend who had helped watch the farm while I was away. We sat at the farm’s kitchen table drinking coffee and eating canned apricots and cultured sour cream I had brought back from a farm in Wisconsin.
I did not have an answer for him then, but I do now: what has changed is that we now know that we need to engage our consciousness and our will to create this new relationship with the Earth. Our inner reality shapes our outer world.
For centuries, farmers lived instinctually, explained Rudolf Steiner. They planted by the moon; they grew crops; they tended livestock. They felt themselves to be part of nature, not separate from it. With the Enlightenment, western culture differentiated the intellect from the instinctual. That impulse accelerated after World War II.
In agriculture, scientists analyzed the soil, plants, and animals and developed formulas for production. Chemical nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus were added to the soil to “improve” yields; herbicides and insecticides were sprayed to control weeds and insects.
Now as we see the world around us coming apart, we can sense the error of our thinking: we can know that, as we dissect life with our intellect, we kill it. We are more than the sum of our parts, as is all life and our world. Wholeness is holy.
How do we get back to the garden? Some hundred years ago, a group of farmers in Poland noticed that the quality of their crops was declining: the thatch on their roofs was lasting, say, twelve years instead of fifteen; the potatoes lasted, say, until March, not April. They persuaded Rudolf Steiner to give a series of lectures on agriculture.
Steiner offered images of how all aspects of life are connected: earth and cosmos; plant and animal; farmer and farm; visible and invisible forces; spiritual and material worlds. He said essentially that the earth was losing it spiritual force. He gave instructions about how to make nine biodynamic preparations to re-enliven the earth. The preparations combine manure, quartz crystals, potent herbs and animal sheaths with the rhythms of the seasons.
The essential force in those preparations, however, is the farmer who consciously brings the herbs, sheaths, and rhythms together to create and spread the biodynamic preparations. The heart of the farmer is at the heart of the new relationship with the earth—a relationship that, at its heart, honors wholeness.
Sally Voris is the owner of White Rose Farm in Taneytown, Maryland. She combines a unique blend of gardening, storytelling and writing, teaching, and organizing. She has been recognized regionally and nationally for work sharing the stories of her home community of Elkridge and the Patapsco Valley.