(With my cow “Rhone” 1979)
Farming: tilling the earth, growing crops, tending animals, rejuvenating soils… seems to me to connect us with the whole earth, all regions, all people, all things in a very natural and common place manner, while at the same time being something sacred.
Tending a farm, as if it were an individual.
For me, Steiner’s single most remarkable insight – which was at the same time a suggestion – was for us to learn to see and care for a farm, as a whole, as if it were much like and individual human: with its own consciousness, feelings, energies and physical body. This conjures up many perspectives, but immediately the notion of respect, love and attentive care.
It also focuses attention on the issue of balance and biodiversity, self-sufficiencies and independence. For example, Steiner suggested out of this perspective, to see if one could maximise biodiversity and self-sufficiencies by having as much complimentary production on farm as possible: field crops, horticultural crops, animals, fruit and forestry – while looking to supply the manures needed for both field crops and horticulture, indeed also the fruit crops, from the animals one has oneself, becoming – in this example – manure / fertiliser self-sufficient. It was suggested as an ideal, not a dogma, but the logic is not lost on us today as we look at cost effectiveness, local resource use and replenishment and locally developed biodiversity.
Naturally, not all farming operations can revert to highly diverse systems, as specialisation has taken hold and this often has long-term economic and management implications. Yet, the wisdom of multiple, diverse cropping and animal systems and their mutual benefits is something well worth considering. Whether orcharding or growing wine grapes, as an example, or dairy farming, introducing a more biodiverse production system does not have to mean only more work, but done well and with forethought, can mean a reduction in costs and more economic stability. Introducing intensive, biodiverse cropping systems, mixed culture in the garden or poly-grazing animals can also help restrain and reduce the disease, pest and weed cycle.
Clearly, biodiversity and the effort it takes in agriculture, is also an issue of scale, technology and economic design. The rewards, however, can be substantial in terms of quality, long-term health and indeed also sustainable economics of one’s farm or garden. We discuss these both in general, but also with specific farm examples in our courses and when desired, in-depth about your farm in our individualised consulting.
(Cereal grains ripening in between grape vines! Summer 2014)