How does Nature work? It is an overarching question that has a surprisingly simple answer: Mother Nature is the beginning and the end; she will always win. As the great Viktor Schauberger once told us, “Comprehend and copy nature.” We have strayed so far from this critical truth and it is literally and figuratively crippling us in so many ways. There is no sector of society that makes the point more abundantly clear than in agriculture. Humanity is defined by agriculture. It was not until hunter-gatherers envisioned and put into action the concept of domestication and planting food crops that we put down roots and began the experiment in consciousness, and the process of specialization and industrialization that has come to define the modern world.
Our intelligence and industry have generated great wealth, but at the same time have taken us further away from nature than we have ever been. In the modern world, one must have intention to spend any sort of considerable time in nature and know her intimately.
In my evaluation, the most important challenge we face in modern times is to consciously reintegrate humanity back into resonance with the natural rhythms that produced us. This work begins within, and in the development of our perspective. And from perspective comes action.
The very act of agriculture is the manipulation of the natural environment. Do we consider the soil as a checking account free to spend, or a savings account for the future? Do we simply grow plants or do we focus on growing the soil? These are seminal questions. No doubt, our future success as a species will be defined by the scope and depth of our perspective toward agriculture and natural living systems.
For over 10,000 years, humanity was in synergy with nature by default. And in only a short 100 years, the Industrial Age and blind consciousness have achieved a seeming dominance over the Earth. Technology and machines are increasingly doing our jobs; pharmaceuticals and supplements are considered adequate replacements to nutrition; and our food is no longer our medicine.
We have lost the fundamental precept of supporting nature so that she can support us. We have become disconnected. If it is not in the soil, it is not in the plant. If it is not in the plant it is not in the people. Combine this mantra with the reality that the majority of our food is processed and travels over 1,500 miles to our plates, and we have gotten to the root of almost every degenerative issue facing society today.
The way back is simple. First, we must develop our personal agriculture. Everyone should eat at least one local meat-free meal weekly. As Wendell Berry told us, “Eating is an agricultural act.” And I don’t intend to make a moral statement on meat-eating, but there is no doubt that curbing the intensity of our meat-based diet would have real benefits for the Earth.
Second, everyone should grow at least one functional plant. I’m not talking about a houseplant, but something you eat or use in some way. Whether it is a pepper plant to garnish salad or growing a favorite medicinal herb, everyone needs a direct growing experience. This simple pleasure has proven to change and enhance many lives.
In fact, we should start a movement that says all schools must require students to raise a plant that they eat on their own as part of the curriculum. You heard it here first; call it “Personal Agriculture 101.” When we have children who don’t know ketchup and French fries come from tomatoes and potatoes, there is a lot of work to do.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, we must broaden our reverence and perspective toward nature herself. I work as a consultant offering fertility management services in all sectors of agriculture, from acreage farmers to landscaping companies, and it is alarming how many professionals are completely unaware of the damage they are doing to things they are actually trying to help. In my experience working with growers, the most important service I provide is to offer a deeper perspective toward the forces of life and how living systems actually work. This could be as simple as acknowledging the benefits of using compost tea in a hydroponic system, or it could be something more profound, such as actually coming to terms with the idea that there is more to life than the sum of our parts.
There is a book called “Secrets of the Soil: New Solutions for Restoring Our Planet” that brought all of this to clarity for me almost 15 years ago. It proposes we must go beyond the material and even “organic” to methods of agriculture that incorporate spiritual science and are truly regenerative.
Through pondering, experimenting and experiencing this approach to agriculture, I developed a consulting platform: BioEnergetic Agriculture. It recognizes life on physical, mineral, biological, and energetic levels. Here’s how it works:
The physicality of the soil is obvious. Think soil structure, soil horizons, and plants themselves. We can encourage good soil structure, but the plant growth and physical structure of soil will normally move in the right direction given proper mineral, biological and energetic methods and consideration.
The mineral capacity of soil deals with fertilization and base saturation balance. In agriculture, and even in the garden at home, too much focus is put on NPK without consideration for trace elements and mineral balance and diversity. It’s important to use elementally balanced and diverse materials, like rock dusts, kelp or sea minerals in the garden. These materials also make great tools for helping soil microbes make enzymes and other biocatalysts. When using singular elemental products, like Epsom salts (MgS), lime (Ca), superphosphates (P), etc., soil testing should be done first to determine if they are actually needed. The health of soil is much more than the pH number, as the work of Dr. William Albrecht tells.
The biological component of BioEnergetic Agriculture is the soil food web that supports plant growth. The importance of diverse soil microbes cannot be overstated. Just consider the significance of plankton in the ocean. While microbes can appear complicated, they self-organize and don’t really need our help other than to apply them consistently to our gardens and stay out of the way!
And they are much simpler than we have made them out to be. Just like eating gut microbes found in yogurt or probiotics after getting sick and taking antibiotics, humus and compost tea inoculate the garden with beneficial soil microbes. The compost pile is the gut of the landscape.
Finally, there is the energetic capacity of life—or “life force,” as I like to call it. In fact, life can be deduced to electrical impulses in the brain. Simply acknowledging this fact provides an opportunity for experience, and a template to work with life force proactively that was not there previously. Many call the idea of life force “New Age” or “woo-woo,” but it is not controversial to suggest there is more to life than what is physically here—as is the general belief of most people. We just struggle to come to agreement with what it means.
The notion of working with life force on the farm was championed by the “biodynamic methods” introduced by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in his agriculture course lectures from 1924. Steiner’s position was the more comfortable we become with not knowing, the more we know. Far out, right? Steiner developed specific methods and deliberate processes to concentrate subtle energies of specific plants and organic materials so they could be leveraged to regenerate the life force of farms. But biodynamics is not a complete farming system. Neither is conventional or organic farming, for that matter. They all neglect to combine and integrate principles of soil physicality, mineral balance, microbial diversity, and life force.
Think of it this way: Conventional farming is plowing and fertilizing. Organic brings in the biological, but biodynamics is the only method that addresses subtle energies. Unfortunately, it does so without addressing soil testing, cover crops, compost tea, etc.
The concept of life force can be put into action in many different ways, such as using potentized field sprays, planting by the celestial cycles, activating water with implosion, frequent farming with field broadcasters, and more. It’s important to cast doubt aside and have an experience. As I have described, conventional farming is drowning, organic farming is treading water, but bioenergetic agriculture is swimming where you want to go.
I challenge readers to look into some of the people mentioned above. And let me know what you learn; helps me remember.
Now, go plant a garden.