A Watershed Moment: The 2012 Biodynamic Conference
By Rebecca Briggs
Communications Coordinator, Biodynamic Association
As we return to our individual towns, farms, gardens, organizations, and lives after the 2012 Biodynamic Conference, we continue to contemplate the truly extraordinary community that came together for five days in Madison, Wisconsin. Those of us involved with the Biodynamic Association — staff, board, volunteers — feel utterly humbled by the astounding energy and commitment of the 700+ attendees who came from all over North America (and beyond!).
In purely practical terms, this conference far exceeded our wildest aspirations, not to mention our prior logistical experience. Hoping to achieve what we considered to be an ambitious 30% increase over our 2010 attendance, we instead doubled it, maxing out the space at the convention center! We were blown away to see the true national — indeed continental — representation there, as well as the broad ranges of ages and occupation. One of the most thrilling moments came when we realized how many newcomers had been drawn to learn about biodynamics and sacred agriculture: a majority raised their hands when Executive Director Robert Karp asked who was at a biodynamic conference for the first time. We heard again and again from newcomers who felt drawn to travel to Madison because it just “felt like something they should know about.”
Whether newcomer or experienced practitioner, the conference offered many paths for learning more about biodynamics, from both practical and spiritual perspectives. Approximately 150 people attended pre-conference events at Angelic Organics Farm and Learning Center, such as intensive full-day workshops with Farmer John Peterson on the social organism of the farm and with Tom Spaulding, Deb Crockett, Dana Burns, and renowned biodynamic beekeeper Gunther Hauk on farm-based education. Many gatherings occurred before the conference as well, bringing together groups such as farmer-mentors, biodynamic apprentices, and biodynamic researchers to connect with and learn from each other. Forty-eight workshops at Monona Terrace provided a plethora of opportunities for education and inspiration, ranging from dairy farming to water dynamics to sacred urban gardens. Supplementing all these educational offerings were the inspirational keynotes offered by a panel of leading biodynamic farmers on how they put sacred agriculture into practice on their own farms, by Charles Eisenstein on the spiritual crisis in our economic system, and by Dennis Klocek on the practice of sacred agriculture. Add to this picture the more than forty exhibitors, the locally sourced organic and biodynamic foods, the biodynamic research poster session, the open space networking and sidewalk consulting, the celebratory evening of sacred stories and songs, the rambunctious dancing, the stunning lakeside setting of Monona Terrace…and, well, it’s hard to convey it all!
But the true meaning of the event, the long-term import, goes well beyond numbers and statistics. We have heard from so many about the spirit and energy that was palpable there. Many of us came away with a new understanding of biodynamics’ place in the world. Through the theme of this conference, we introduced the concept of “sacred agriculture” to the world, and the response was overwhelming and positive. We see tremendous desire for creating a sacred relationship with the earth, and a feeling from newcomers almost of a homecoming, or perhaps of a home-“finding”.
Finally, we extend our utmost gratitude to all the conference attendees, presenters, exhibitors, and sponsors — who quite literally made the event what it was.
As we work to take the momentum of this event into the future, we find ourselves pondering how best to serve the energy that coalesced at this conference. We get the sense that this was a watershed event, that biodynamics is maturing into a new space and reality, capable of embracing and inspiring many people, perspectives, and sacred traditions. We look forward to the next steps in the journey.
For a slideshow of more photos from the conference, click here.