The History of Biodynamic Farming
Biodynamic farming is a subcategory of organic farming that has become common in the viticulture industry. Biodynamic farming is founded on the anthroposophy belief system, which Austrian esotericist Rudolf Steiner developed. Biodynamics came from lessons by Steiner in Koberwitz, Silesia (presently Kobierzyce, Poland), in June 1924. Steiner was a professional in high demand. He was also in poor health at the time and died early in the following year. But at the time, Count Carl Keyserlingk, who managed 18 farms in the area, needed advice from the famous Austrian and persuaded him to come to Silesia. When Steiner turned him down, Keyserlingk sent his nephew to Dornach, Switzerland, to encourage him to join the Anthroposophy organization, and was ordered not to return until he met with Steiner.
Steiner’s approach to biodynamics was to apply anthroposophical philosophy to agriculture. This idea wasn’t exactly sound farming advice, and instead, his methods were to be used as guidelines. Members of the newly created Experimental Circle of Anthroposophical Farmers were tasked with discovering exactly how biodynamic farming should be done. Steiner claimed that he treated the content of the lectures as hints toward the answer, and for 14 years after the lectures, the experimental circle contemplated the solution.
Pfeiffer publishes a biodynamic farming book
Pfeiffer’s book, Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening, published in 1938, was the first to introduce biodynamics to the public. In the 1940s, Pfeiffer relocated to the United States and continued his work there.
His work attracted attention across the pond, as Lord Northbourne in the United Kingdom took notice of Pfeiffer’s ideas. Northbourne, a landowner with a deep interest in farming, had long been concerned about the environmental impact of modern agriculture. In July 1939, he asked Pfeiffer to attend a Summer School, and Conference on Bio-Dynamic Farming conducted on Northbourne’s farm. Northbourne’s book, Look to the Land, was published a year later, and it was this book that popularized the phrase “organic” farming.
This work effectively secularized biodynamic farming by removing some of its more arcane features.
This agricultural philosophy also caught on in wine farming. Many viticulturists are aware that people want to consume wine that is made organically and some wineries even pride themselves on being 100% biodynamic or 100% organic . Biodynamic farming in wine stemmed from Steiner’s methodology.
This Day in Wine History
June 1924: Rudolf Steiner gave a ten-day series of eight lectures in Koberwitz, Poland, giving birth to biodynamics.
1938: Pfeiffer published his book Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening, making him the first to introduce biodynamics to the public.
July 1939: Lord Northbourne was a landowner interested in farming in the United States. He asked Pfeiffer to attend a Summer School and Conference on Bio-Dynamic Farming conducted on Northbourne’s farm before his book on Biodynamics was published a year later.
Wallace, Hannah. 2019. “Tracing the Origin Story of Biodynamic Wine.” SevenFifty Daily. https://daily.sevenfifty.com/tracing-the-origin-story-of-biodynamic-wine/.