Despite all my experiences in recent years, I’m still sometimes taken aback by the sheer antagonism towards applied anthroposophy that emanates from some people. No sooner had I tweeted the news that Chateau Palmer, one of the most starry wine producers in the Bordeaux firmament, has gone fully biodynamic and is receiving a price premium for its wines, than someone who tweets as GinaMakesWaves re-tweeted my post to all her 791 followers with the comment: “Biodynamic agriculture offers nothing over traditional organic and it practices animal cruelty”. She then followed up this absurd statement with: “Biodynamic agriculture is a main industry of anthroposophy, both with a complex Nazi past.”
Where to begin, when dealing with such wild assertions? Actually, I’m not going to bother; such wilful misunderstandings are Gina’s issue rather than mine. All I will say is: if you want to find out whether biodynamics practises animal cruelty, just go and visit a biodynamic farm and talk to the farmers and gardeners. As for a complex Nazi past, I wish I could say that no anthroposophist had ever flirted with Nazism, but I can’t say that, because in the 30s and 40s there were a few anthroposophists who leaned in that direction; no more than I can say that no anthroposophist has ever flirted with communism or conservatism or socialism or any other kind of –ism. Because anthroposophy attracts all types of people and, as they say in Yorkshire, there’s nowt as queer as folk.
But in my experience, anthropops are on the whole very decent and caring people, give or take the odd exception – rather like the general population, in fact.
This attack on biodynamics no doubt caught me on the raw, because I had just experienced an exceptionally heartwarming celebration of one farmer’s 21 years on a biodynamic farm, Tablehurst Farm in Forest Row, East Sussex. This was a Midsummer Celebration Lunch for Peter Brown, the farmer who with
his late wife Brigitte arrived at the farm in 1994 with their three children and turned the farm into a shining example of biodynamic and sustainable agriculture that is also a community-owned farm and in addition provides a home for adults with learning difficulties. You can see on the farm’s Facebook page lots of photos of the celebration lunch (scroll down past the cows and flowers), held in the beautifully-decorated Sheep Barn at Tablehurst.
Throughout these 21 years, Peter has dedicated himself to the wellbeing of the land, the plants, the animals and the people working on the farm, without any thought for building up any assets of his own. During this time, Peter has also taken on the executive directorship of the Biodynamic Agricultural Association and has been selflessly involved with many initiatives towards more sustainable forms of agriculture.
This lunch was not just a celebration of all that Peter Brown has achieved but it was also the launch of a fundraising campaign to build an eco-home on the farm for him to live in for the rest of his days. To do this, we aim to raise £100k, not only to build a home for Peter but also to provide housing improvements for the young farmers who are starting families on the farm. As a member of the fundraising committee, I spoke at the lunch and made the following points:
• The average age of a farm worker in Britain today is 59 years
• In conventional farms, 1 or 2 men will look after several hundred hectares of land
• According to an article in the respected trade journal, Farmers’ Weekly, some of England’s most productive agricultural land is at risk of becoming unprofitable within a generation due to soil erosion
I then compared and contrasted this with what is happening on Tablehurst Farm:
• Young men and women are flocking to the farm to work and some of them are starting families here
• The farm currently has 26 employees and growth looks set to continue
• You only have to walk across the farm to feel the wellbeing from the soil rising up towards you – the biodiversity on the farm is fantastic.
It’s clear that conventionally-managed farms with their monocultures, degraded soils, vast inputs of artificial fertilisers and pesticides and herbicides that pollute the soils and water and reduce biodiversity, are pursuing an unsustainable course.
By contrast, a farm like Tablehurst offers hope for the future. It shows that there are viable alternatives that can preserve and improve our soils, do not ask more of the land or the animals than they can give, and provide employment in situations where young people want to live, learn and start families. These farms are like a kind of Noah’s Ark for our collective future, showing that feeding the world and its burgeoning population does not have to be handed over to Monsanto and other large corporations. A much better, more human future is possible and biodynamic and sustainable agriculture is showing the way.
By the way, it’s just a month after we started fundraising for housing on the farm and we’ve already raised £25k (a quarter of our target). If you’d like to help, there are more details here.