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The WellGrounded Education of

Evan Folds The rise of Progressive Farms and an ancient idea whose time may have come — again

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By Barbara J. Sullivan • Photographs by Mark Steelman

ow many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Wrapping your head around that is a little bit like talking about biodynamic agriculture, how it works and whether there’s a lot more about plant life than we can ever know from a purely cognitive point of view. The difference, however, is that with biodynamic agriculture, there’s solid science to go along with the metaphysical speculation. We know, for example, that one tablespoon of soil contains somewhere around fifty billion microbes, a little less than half the number of human beings who’ve ever lived on Earth. That’s a humbling thought and one that’s almost as hard to visualize as angels on pinheads, but if you had access to an expensive enough lens you could verify it for yourself. This diversity of micro life turns out to be the key to just about everything. If you understand healthy soil to be 62

Salt • Januar y 2015

the foundation for diverse plant life and plants to be essential for the survival of animals, including humans, then those fifty billion microbes matter — as do the ten thousand or so species represented in that same tablespoon of soil. Back at the turn of the twentieth century, the Austrian philosopher and architect Rudolf Steiner (the same man who created the Waldorf school movement) gave a series of now famous lectures on biodynamic agriculture in response to new problems farmers were experiencing with plant and animal diseases — problems caused by the recent introduction of chemical fertilizers. The gist of Steiner’s message was holistic: The soil, the crops and the animals of any given farm constitute a single living system and should be treated as such. Steiner is considered by some to be the father of organic farming. He rejected man-made chemicals in favor of manures and natural composts and advocated planting according to an astrological calendar. The Art & Soul of Wilmington

January Salt 2015  

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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