Alliances for the Next Generation: Reflections from the 2013 International Biodynamic Conference, Part One
By Thea Maria Carlson, Education Program Coordinator
I arrived in Dornach on Wednesday at noon, walking through gentle sleet from the train station to my homestay house, then up the hill past the Goetheanum and down the other side to the Youth Section. Entering into the ground floor of the warm orange building, the kitchen was buzzing with activity, eight people absorbed in preparing lunch. I hesitated at the doorway, removing my wet jacket and wool hat, and then a young blonde woman looked at me and smiled — “Thea!”
Laura left her pasta sauce simmering on the stove to give me a hug, and then grabbed Clemens by the arm — the other face I recognized from skype conversations last year. Soon we sat down to eat with the vibrant group of young people that had come from Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Germany and Norway for the 2013 International Biodynamic Agriculture Conference.
Laura introduced me as the coordinator of the “original” BING in North America, which quickly led someone to ask, “What is BING anyway?” So I told the story of the youth gathering before the 2010 North American Biodynamic Conference, and the hunger of those 50 people who gathered to form an ongoing network. Then the creation of the Biodynamic Initiative for the Next Generation – a web page, an e-newsletter, a facebook group, and most importantly, more in-person gatherings to connect and share. Then Laura jumped in to tell of forming BING in Norway, and the unfolding of the possibility of a global BING network. The conversation continued around the table about young people’s efforts in biodynamics around the world, and then we walked up the hill for the beginning of the conference.
The theme of the conference was “Alliances for Our Earth,” and the highlight for me was the alliance building workshops held each morning from Thursday through Saturday. The conference’s 550+ participants divided into 16 groups, each on a different theme: bees, urban agriculture, farmer-consumer alliances, livestock breeding, regional development and others, along with our workshop with Laura and Clemens — “Biodynamic agriculture in the next generation”. Each workshop met for three days in a row, building and deepening through a process keynote speaker Nicanor Perlas characterized with three words: focusing, transforming and shaping.
On the first day of our workshop (focusing), about 30 people from 5 continents — ranging from college age to near retirement — gathered to work together. Clemens and Laura brought the question “What does biodynamic agriculture want to be in 35 years?” and in small groups we shared pictures of the future, practicing “active listening” to each speaker in turn. A young man in my group said, “Biodynamics might look quite different in 35 years. Young people need to keep the fire burning that previous generations have kindled, but to do that they need to add new wood.” After the small group conversations, we returned to the large circle for a plenary, where participants shared emerging themes:
- New ways of organizing farm work – cooperative arrangements, allowing farmers to be less specialized, making room to combine farming with other kinds of work
- Radiating out and broadening the influence of biodynamic farming beyond “biodynamic” to other farms and farmers, non-farmers, and society
- The balance between core and periphery, personal development and work in the world
On the second day (transforming), we began with eurythmy, moving through gestures representing the position of the human being between heaven and earth, and exploring the connection between past, future and present. Then, in new small groups, we were asked to identify and share the moment we had the feeling that our picture of the future could be realized. Clemens encouraged us to talk not just about what happened, or what we thought, but exactly how we felt in that moment. At my table, each person’s moment related to connecting with other people, coming to clarity through meeting and finding a common thread. For me, a pivotal moment was standing on stage at the 2012 North American Biodynamic Conference, were I felt the warmth, openheartedness, and excitement of the conference’s 700+ participants radiating toward me and my own centered warmth within.
The third day (shaping) centered on the question of how can we best serve the biodynamic agriculture of the future? We began again with eurythmy, bringing the gestures of the previous day along with moving “I,” “you” and then “we.” Then in small groups we shared what we thought was necessary to help us meet and work with the picture of the future. We talked about connecting, being with the farm, developing a relationship with the land, and very importantly, letting go. Returning one last time to the large circle, we were invited to share closing thoughts, but the collective mood was one of fullness, and no more words seemed necessary. Instead, we shared several minutes of deep silence. And then we moved on out into the world.
Thea Maria Carlson is the Education Program Coordinator for the Biodynamic Association. She is a farmer, organizer, educator, and artist with roots in California and the Midwest, where she currently lives.
This is the first of two reflections Thea will share on the 2013 International Biodynamic Agriculture Conference. The second will focus on the meeting of the “young biodynamic movement” organized by BING global. Read Part Two here.