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Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education
(SARE) Farm Internship Curriculum and Handbook

Tom and Maud Powell and Michael Moss,
Sustainable Farmers, Jackson County, OR.
Technical advisor: Tim Franklin, Jacksonville, OR.
Curriculum advisor: Peter O'Connell, Jacksonville, OR.
Web advisor: National Center for Appropriate Technology, Butte, MT.

Published 2007
Updated 2010


Soil in hand | courtesy of USDA
Photo by USDA NRCS

Learning Objectives
The learner will:

  • Understand the basics of biodynamics, including the history, the approach, and the preparations


Historical Overview – Justus Von Liebig (1803-73) "father of Ag. Chemistry" - NPK

  • WWI brought NO3 (saltpeter) fertilizer made from bomb making surplus
  • Tanks became tractors
  • Poison nerve gas became insecticides, and herbicides
  • Sir Albert Howard (1873-1947) – soil=plant health , Indore compost process
  • Lady Eve Balfour (1898-1990), the Living Soil (1943), founded the Soil Ass'n (UK) and Mother Earth Magazine


Rudolf Steiner – (1861-1925) from rural Austria, studied in Vienna

  • Edited Johann Wolfgang von Goethe scientific writings – a bridge between nature and spirit
  • modern science only understands what is dead in nature, overlooks the spiritual aspect of reality
  • Introduced Anthroposophy and spiritual science
  • Led initiatives in education, health, care of mentally handicapped, architecture, theology, agriculture, economics and other fields
  • June 1924 held the Agriculture lectures in Koberwitz (then E. Germany, now Poland) to a group of farmers familiar with Anthroposophy
  • Problems that these farmers had begun to notice included: new pests (nematodes in sugar beets), decline in vigor in alfalfa (replant every 5 years, instead of 30 yrs.), decline in seed vigor in wheat, rye, oats, and increase in hoof and mouth disease in cattle.
  • From this lecture rose the "experimental circle" of farmers to implement these ideas and evaluate. By 1928 – 66 BD farms, and 148 members in Demeter
  • WWII – Anthroposophy and BD banned by Nazis
  • Now – BD is widespread in Europe, Australia, NZ, India and to a lesser extent in US and Canada


The Biodynamic Approach

  • A holistic background necessary to understand the complexity of nature
  • Becoming a student of nature: Mind –rational/philosophical, spirit-emotional, Tactile- experience of plants, animal, minerals, weather
  • Understanding the gesture of nature – "Farm as an Organism"
  • Plant and animal health is tied to the health of the land and soil
  • Reading the book of nature – pests & disease result of imbalance in the soil
  • BD aims to enhance the biological process through stimulating microbiological activity in soil and compost
  • Organic=common sense approach -> "nature knows best" (beneficial insects, compost, garlic and pepper sprays)
  • BD Approach includes a much wider scope -> sun, moon, planets, subterranean features, looking deeper into the spirit of nature
  • Aiding nature where she is weak after centuries of abuse and destructive processes
  • Not letting things run their natural course (we harvest lettuce before it goes to seed, we interrupt many natural processes, e.g. Field to forest succession)
  • Service to Earth and its creatures, diverse plantings, hedgerows, bird & bat houses, bee pastures, closed loop systems, using natural rather than technological solutions (permaculture)
  • Fighting bugs and disease are not aims, rather support the good and health and balance will result
  • Low productivity, insect pests and disease are not problems, they are symptoms. The problem is the solution


Biodynamic Preparations

  • Field Sprays: 500 – Horn Manure – supports soil humification, microbial innoculant / catalyst
  • 501 - Horn Silica – organizes photosynthesis – works with light elementals
  • Compost Preparations
  • 502 – Yarrow – Sulfur (S) and potassium (K)
  • 503 - Chamomille – Calicium (Ca), Sulfur (S), Nitrogen (N)
  • 504 – Nettles – S, K, Ca, Iron (Fe) – plant nutrition and soil health
  • 505 – Oak bark – Ca – combats plant diseases through strengthening cell wall through Calcium forces
  • 506 – Dandelion – K & Silica (Si) – Silica attracts cosmic forces to the soil
  • 507 – Valerian – Phosphorus (P) – warmth process and attracts earthworms
  • 508- Horsetail – Silica ( Si) – fights fungal conditions, good in Greenhouse
  • Barrel compost – method to apply the benefits of the compost preparations to pastures and areas which don't regularly receive compost
  • Catalysts, Inoculants and homeopathy
  • Penicillin, aspirin – not necessary to understand the entire process through which the biodynamic preparations work in order to use them


Cosmic Rhythms

  • Humans 85% water, celery 98%, milk is 70%
  • Lunar rhythms; apogee vs. perigee, ascending, & descending phases, eclipses
  • Perigee brings forces that result in poor germination, inhibited growth, fungus, disease, pests (dull, heavy rainy weather)
  • Apogee – clear and bright weather – generally not good planting time other than potatoes


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This page was last updated on: December 22, 2014