In the 1920s Countess Johanna (1879-1966) und Count Karl von Keyserlingk (1869-1928) were managers of large agricultural estates for the “Rath, Schöller and Skene” group. The estates were in an north-eastern part of Germany called Silesia (now Poland). The countess and count were also avid anthroposophists, working on developing various enterprises with a spiritual-ethical framework. Although not alone with the wish, more than any others, they convinced Rudolf Steiner to give an agricultural course and he did so at their estate in Koberwitz (now Kobierzyce) in June of 1924.
(The Koberwitz Estate and one of the cow barns. Pictures from June 1924)
The “Agriculture Course” that Steiner gave – held in Koberwitz at the chateau of the agricultural estates – was embedded in a larger “anthroposophical conference” that was held both at Koberwitz and in the nearby city of Breslau (now Wroclaw). During the Agriculture Course, two groups, working together were formed into what was called: “The Agricultural Research Ring and Working Group of Anthroposophical Farmers of the Anthroposophical Society.” This association of both researchers and farmers was formally led by Count Keyserlingk until his resignation in 1928. It was after this time, that the name “The Biological-Dynamic Method” (today shortened to “biodynamics”) emerged and replaced the term “anthroposophical agriculture.”
Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was a spiritual philosopher, educator and social activist whose philosophy, spiritual-scientific research methods and cultural movement all were called “anthroposophy.” His agriculture course was based on his philosophy and research into the spiritual and practical aspects of renewing agriculture and was meant to help launch a movement similar to the anthroposophical medical movement – applying anthroposophical insights to practical vocations. Steiner’s books and lectures (including his Agriculture Course) are available in English through several publishers (see list on may “Read” page).
Lili Kolisko (1889-1976) was a close student of Rudolf Steiners and was present at the Agriculture Course. She took exacting stenographic records of the entire event. With Rudolf Steiner’s assistance, she had previously established her “Biological Institute of the Goetheanum in Stuttgart” and it was there that she began many long term research projects to establish scientific data for the specific, practical suggestions Steiner had given for agriculture. Previously, she had been working, together with her husband Dr. med. Eugen Kolisko, on developing anthroposophical medication for Bovine Foot and Mouth disease. Furthermore, her research into etheric formative forces, was considered significant pioneering work by Steiner. She published (under her and her husband’s name), an incredible book called “Agriculture of Tomorrow,” which is available at Kolisko Archive for purchase and at libraries.
Franz Rulni (1894-1981) was also at the Agriculture Course in Koberwitz. From 1948 to 1979 he published the first anthroposophical – biodynamic agricultural calendar (see above) and was a farm advisor to many of the early biodynamic farms.
Adalbert, Count Keyserlingk (1905-1993) was also, as a young man, at the original Agriculture Course (at least for part of it), that his parents (above) had hosted with Rudolf Steiner – and spent a good part of his life promoting anthroposophical agriculture and anthroposophical medicine (he was also a licensed physician). He wrote two books about his and his parents agricultural work, which have also appeared in English (see below). Adalbert was a friend and mentor of mine.
Naturally, there were many other pioneers in this movement well worthy of mention from both the early years and since.
Today, there are many individuals and groups using the methods suggested by Steiner on every arable continent, in many countries and under many different ecological and climatological conditions.