A sure fire way to turn a mild interest of mine into a burning desire for further knowledge is to send an unsolicited and dismissive comment relating to that interest while essenially informing me that study of that topic it isn’t worth my time.
A few weeks ago, I marked “Interested” in an Intro to Biodynamics event that was posted in a Permaculture group that I’m involved with.
A friend saw this and within an hour, had messaged me and said, “Hey, I saw you were interested in a workshop, so I wanted to warn you, Biodynamic agriculture is snake oil.” He then linked a brief article on Skeptoid that attempted to debunk the idea of the practice of Biodynamics. I even read the full article (which failed to give a decent argument) before replying to him. My reply was “Thank you. I find Rudolf Steiner’s work interesting but I won’t bet my life savings on it.”
That was the end of the conversation. Now I know this friend means well. He’s of the scientific materialist mindset so any conversation that brings the aspect of spirituality into the practices of growing food probably doesn’t jive with him.
However, it definitely jives with me.
But I couldn’t shake my visceral, contrarian reaction to being told that I shouldn’t pursue something based on someone else’s opinion. Doesn’t that sound awfully familiar lately? Like we’re not encouraged to think critically? Trust the science?
Maybe it wasn’t meant in this way, but I perceived those words like a billboard across the interstate:
“Don’t Question Authority, as there’s only One True Authority and One True Way.”
I went to that kind of church growing up and it’s a big reason why I have such a rich and interesting set of spiritual practices now as an adult. I knew there was no way that I had somehow randomly managed to find the one, true and most accurate path of faith in a tiny community in East Tennessee. I’m not afraid to be wrong. I’m also not afraid to ask difficult questions.
This world is too complex, in a universe too large and expansive to squash belief systems into tiny, neat boxes. I’d rather consider all the possibilities.
Materialism is just incredibly boring.
I could write about Rudolf Steiner here, but really, I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of his work. The depth of his work is astounding as he wrote and lectured so prolifically, I could probably devote the rest of my life to deciphering his words alone, not to mention those who were inspired by him.
In the most basic of terms, Steiner believed that growing food and plants wasn’t just a matter of making sure the plants had the basic building blocks of soil nutrients available, but that there was an alchemical process happening on both a material and energetic (or etheric) level. He wondered if it wasn’t the nutrients themselves that the plants thrived on, but the kind of energy that the nutrients contained that resulted in growth.
He experimented with varieties of what he called “Preparations” in order to raise the energetic energy of the soil and soil organisms that the plants would feed on.
In a way I can’t exactly describe, I am able to detect a life force, an etheric energy (among other types of energies) in most moments and I’m very interested in finding ways to incorporate this into the way I design and implement food systems.
Steiner actually used (and taught others how to perform) the scientific process for these experiments. He set a hypothesis, had a control site and documented his findings. Dozens or (or maybe even hundreds) of books have been written on this topic. Secrets of the Soil by Bird and Tompkins is one I’m working my way through right now. Radical and Regenerative Farming and Gardening by Frank Holzman is another more recent work.
“Nutrient Dense” is a phrase being thrown around frequently in the Slow Food, Hyper-Local, Farm to Table circles lately but I have yet to see any proof or description of what that actually means.
There is an organization that is actively developing spectrometry technology that will allow an individual to determine the nutrient density of food. I’m following this research closely and planning to sign on as a supporter in order to access that technology and pursue this line of research.
So it may be possible to gauge the actual nutrient density and content of food. It may be possible to prove that biodynamically grown food is healthier, but even if that can’t be proven, where is the harm in infusing an energetic element into the act of cultivation and recording and sharing those results?
The term “snake oil” came about when lay people were claiming fraudulently and with no proof, that they had a concoction that would cure an ailment. It seems now this term gets applied to any approach that stands outside mainstream understanding or acceptance.
One critical factor here is that Biodynamic growing methods are proven to provide healthy food while rebuilding and creating a more resilient soil structure by not only replacing, but increasing the amount of nutrients available to the next generation of plants.
I also keep encountering further evidence that the bulk of what causes illness and debility in humans is malnutrition.
I have a desire to engage with both the scientific and spiritual elements of cultivation and design and to be fully transparent with my customers and community about this process so that they can design their own systems, perform their own experiments and record their experiences.
So now I’m planning to have test plots and control plots as part of studying Steiner’s Preparations and other methods of Biodynamic food production. And I’m willing to spend a significant part of my savings in order to do so. What right do I have to assume that this earth, this amazing creation I can touch and engage with at every moment, is just a collection of minerals and chemicals with no life force behind it?
As we move into the fall, I’m going to steer Strong Roots Resources in a direction that brings multiple energies and actions together in order to explore these mysteries and then present my findings in a way that is valuable and beneficial to those who accompany me on the journey.
I invite those with an open mind to come along for the ride.