The art of harvesting cosmic energy

Filed Under: EARTH Stories
Date: September 17th, 2012

The door opens. The door toward the humid, dark and mysterious. Beyond its threshold – paradoxically white and luminous – the biodynamic preparations gestate in the earth’s womb, awaiting their moment, in sync with the stars, to accomplish their mission of transmitting cosmic forces to the soil.

We find ourselves at Los Warumos Farm in Barva, Heredia, an example of the biodynamic universe right in Costa Rica’s central valley. Behind this symbolic white door to the earth’s depths, producer Rhoderick Sell stores the preparations until they are ready to fertilize the soil.

Since 2005, Rhoderick has worked with hand-in-hand EARTH graduate Esteban Acosta (‘08, Costa Rica) to develop such practices. That year, Rhoderick offered his land and experiential knowledge, and Esteban offered the expertise he had gained through hands-on learning at EARTH. In doing so, they began cultivating a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge. Today, Esteban is the coordinator of the National Biodynamic Agriculture Movement, which is organizing a Latin American conference whose main event will take place on the University’s Guácimo campus at the end of September.

EARTH’s reputation as an innovator in organics inspired the organizers to hold the conference at the Institution. As Esteban affirms, “The University gave us its unconditional support since the beginning. We want to reciprocate the University’s support by helping to further strengthen EARTH’s leadership in organic agriculture at an institutional level.”

Osiris Lazo and Esteban Acosta

With the purpose of bringing biodynamic agriculture to small farmers in the region, Esteban has coordinated to provide scholarships for 55 small farmers in Central America to attend the conference. In addition, each Latin American biodynamic association will receive a scholarship, enabling the knowledge of this sustainable practice to reach beyond Costa Rica’s borders.

More than a farm – a living organism

Although based on millennial, ancestral principles, biodynamic agriculture is today considered anything but conventional. Indeed, ground quartz mixed with rainwater inside of a cow horn is a highly unorthodox fertilizer in the twenty-first century.

Nevertheless, its practitioners believe whole-heartedly in its effectiveness. For them, traditional scientific measures cannot effectively deem its worth. Biodynamic agriculture’s power transcends the physical realm into the metaphysical; embracing it requires a mind open to see beyond what is immediately evident.

Rudolf Steiner, born in present-day Croatia, founded the method in 1924. He envisioned it as an alternative way to farm that would counteract agrochemicals’ widespread degradation of both soil and crop quality – a problem that continues to plague agriculture nearly a century later.

The basic idea is rooted in seeing the farm as an organism, a living whole composed of elements that constantly interact: the soil, the animals, the sources of water and the human being. It is the human, in his or her role as a farmer, which must direct the group as an orchestra conductor would, in an efficient symphony to produce food ecologically and economically. In the process, the farmer mu st strive to use as few agro-inputs as possible and to make the best use possible of the system’s internal resources.

In the same way, the farmer must show profound respect for the essence that lives within all of the components of the microcosm. As Steiner said, “Seek the truly practical material life, but seek it so it does not numb you to the spirit.”

Of course, this organism’s life – like that of other beings – is determined by water, air, nutrients and most importantly, the sun, a cosmic force. These biological cycles, governed by the sun, moon and stars, together serve as a compass guiding the symphony in the right direction. For example, the moon’s trajectory – both ascending and descending – affects a plant’s development and level of fluids in an important way.

Plant homeopathy

In addition to a deep knowledge of such natural cycles, the biodynamic preparations form another keystone in this type of agriculture. These nearly alchemical fertilizers consist of organic materials and minerals that acquire specific qualities while fermenting. As is the case with homeopathic medicine, the substance itself matters less than the power of the process it catalyzes; when farmers use the biodynamic preparations, they do so in very limited quantities and with not with the purpose of adding a nutrient to the soil, but instead of enacting a process in nature.

In this way, biodynamic farmers focus not on the quantity of food produced, but instead on its quality. They sell their products on the basis of its better nutritional value, flavor and conservationist production.

Biodynamic agriculture, then, bets more on food production as an art form, a primordial sacred office of humanity that once was, but has now been lost to industrialization. Rhoderick Sell wouldn’t change his way of life “for anything in the world.” He celebrates biodynamic agriculture as “an ecological, sustainable and above all ethical practice, which involves a commitment to the helping the community and sound stewardship of natural resources.” Everything needed is achieved through an equitable exchange within the system itself, where life comes into being and cosmic energy is harvested.

Esteban has high hopes for the conference. With more 150 participants expected, he believes it will inspire others in the region to adopt an alternative vision of agriculture. “Biodynamics isn’t just about cultivating the earth,” he shares. “We’re not just talking about producing food naturally – we’re also moving beyond that to guide human society in channeling its efforts toward truly integrated development that embodies humanistic values and a more ecological social reality. In short, it’s a philosophy of transforming human beings to live more in harmony with the universe.”

Want to know more? Click here to learn more about the 27th Annual Latin American Biodynamic Agriculture Conference from September 23 – October 2. Or visit the National Biodynamic Agriculture Movement’s blog at

Editor’s note:  While there is growing interest in this branch of organic agriculture, we recognize that the validity of biodynamic agriculture is hotly contested among many scholars and agricultural scientists.  However, we believe that one of our roles at EARTH University is to promote dialog and provide spaces for the exchange of ideas and knowledge among academics, students, alumni and the community at-large.


  1. Jennifer G. says:

    ¡Felicidades por el artículo!,
    buen escrito, claro y sucinto, muy inspirador
    para adentrarse al mundo cósmico y terrestre de la biodinámica
    pero sobre todo de la la vida en sí misma…

  2. Marlen PT says:

    Excelente aporte de estos jovenes ex alumnos y un orgullo que la EARTH como casa de enseñanza estè comprometida con los mas nobles ideales que practica el movimiento de agricultura biodinamica…   EXITOS EN EL ENCUENTRO LATINOAMERICANO QUE SE CELEBRA EN SETIEMBRE

  3. Rakeu says:

    Bellísimo es EL HACER con sentido, conectado con las fuerzas sutiles de la naturaleza, retomar el respeto por lo grande y lo pequeño. El HACER poniendo la intención en sanar de adentro hacia afuera con cada acción, el universo entero ! 🙂

  4. Wcosio says:

    Yo creo que la palabra “irrefutable” no es propia para una publicación de esta magnitud, dado que eso es que no se puede rechazar, a pesar de tener pruebas en contra ….

  5. Peter Baumgarten says:

    I’m surprised that such a prestigious, serious and respectable university is involved in such a superstitious way of farming. Years ago I would have saved lots of money and time by just working organically since my farm demanded a big ammount of handwork without mentioning the health issues I still experience. After doing some serious questioning and research, I realized my mistake and continued just as an organic farmer and I have the same results and satisfaction while less headaches. Biodynamic agriculture has been criticized as pseudoscience by scholars. In a 2002 newspaper editorial, Peter Treue characterized biodynamics as pseudoscience and argued that similar or equal results can be obtained using standard organic farming principles. He wrote that the biodynamic preparations more resemble alchemy or magic akin to geomancy.In a 1994 analysis, Holger Kirchmann, a soil researcher with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, came up with the conclusion that Steiner’s instructions were occult and dogmatic, and cannot contribute to the development of alternative or sustainable agriculture and that many of Steiner’s statements are not provable because scientifically clear hypotheses cannot be made from his descriptions (for example, it is hard to prove that one has harnessed “cosmic forces” in the foods). Kirchmann asserted that when methods of biodynamic agriculture were tested scientifically, the results were unconvincing.²
    Further, in a 2004 overview of biodynamic agriculture, Linda Chalker-Scott, a researcher at Washington State University, characterized biodynamics as pseudoscience, writing that Steiner did not use scientific methods to formulate his theory of biodynamics, and that the later addition of valid organic farming techniques has “muddled the discussion” of Steiner’s original idea. Based on the scant scientific testing of biodynamics, Chalker-Scott also concluded “no evidence exists” that homeopathic preparations improve the soil.₃ In Michael Shermer’s two-volume work, The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience, biodynamic agriculture is described as relying on astrological conditions, cosmic influences and magical rituals.₄Skeptic Brian Dunning writes “the best way to think of [biodynamic agriculture] would be as a magic spell cast over an entire farm.
    ₁-Treue, Peter (13 March 2002). “Blood and Beans: The paradigm shift in the Ministry of Renate Künast replaced by science occultism” . Die Gegenwart. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
    ²- Kirchmann, Holger (1994). “Biological dynamic farming–an occult form of alternative agriculture?”. J. Agric. Environ. Ethics 7 (2): 173–187. doi:10.1007/BF02349036
    ₃- Chalker-Scott, Linda. “The Myth of Biodynamic Agriculture”. Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University.
    ₄-Shermer, Michael (2002)The Skeptic encyclopedia of pseudoscience. 2. ABC-CLIO. p. 32. ISBN 1-57607-653-9.

  6. Biodinamica Costa Rica says:

    Hay que simplemente dejar de lado hipótesis,  practicar y observar son pruebas de la realidad práctica de la agricultura.
    Podría una agricultura que no genera mayor cambio sobrevivir por casi 80 años e inspirar el desarrollo de toda la agricultura orgánica de hoy?
    Agricultores y practicantes biodinámicos se basan en resultados prácticos.
    De hecho la agricultura biodinámica es el inicio de la agricultura orgánica actual.

    Ir a la practica

    There is a need of just take off hipotesis, go to practices and oberve are real proves of pratical agriculture.
    Could an agricultural method wich do not creates a big difference, survive and grow after up to 80 years  and inspire the development of the entire todays organic agriculture?   
    Biodynamic farmers and practicioners are based on practical results.
    BIodynamic farming, is actually the beggining of modern organic agriculture.

    Go practice.

    • Peter Baumgarten says:

      You cannot manipulate a scientific method for your own personal satisfaction, it’s simply wrong and a unprofessional move. It doesn’t provide any input into the modern knowledge and makes your arguments biased and immature. 

      Should Biodynamics, which requires a leap of faith, be acceptable to us?   Should we also accept the idea that science can’t model complex systems, farming or not, or accept the “intractability (of B-d) to conventional scientific practices”   I answer with a resounding NO!   Just because it may be difficult doesn’t mean it can’t be done.   Start with definitions, develop theories, test those theories and repeat the process.  Do Biodynamic wines taste better?  Do buried cow horns work?  Do tea sprays stop mildew?  Is the carbon footprint larger, the same or smaller than organic or sustainable farming?  What is the social cost-benefit from the various farming systems?  I know that experiments can be designed to test these types of hypotheses – saying it can’t be done is just a cop-out. 
      I could hardly believe my eyes when I read “All Biodynamics needs to do in order to be valid is to survive and thrive.”  Does this mean that fascism, communism, racism, homeopathic medicine, tarot card/palm reading and astrology are all now “valid?” 
      I don’t understand why this fanatics believe that bio-dynamic farming can’t or shouldn’t be critically evaluated.  Biodynamics is a hoax and deserves the same level of respect we give witchcraft. Rudolf Steiner was a complete nutcase, a flimflam man with a tremendous imagination, a combination if you will, of an LSD-dropping Timothy Leary with the showmanship of a P.T. Barnum 
      And As I said before, I have worked with “qualified” bio-dynamic “experts” for many years in my own farm and the results where the same as organic farming while the work and rituals  they demanded were 10 times more complicated and pointless, not to take in consideration that these experts biggest income (which demanded large amounts of money)  was to spread their rituals by doing workshops and seminars, not from the farms they owned itself.  Great claims demand of great results and substantial and rich data (also known as proof, facts) in order to be accepted in the scientific community. This pseudo-science is simply a joke.  It is surprising to read in your comment that organic agriculture is based on bio-dynamic principles and it makes me wonder your questioning capabilities.  As far as my knowledge goes, organic agriculture is the most ancient way of farming. I have practiced, therefore I got experience.  I have questioned, therefore I learn.  Go and  learn, evolve and I will welcome you to the real modern world outside the box you are in.

    • Druid says:

      Which-hunting survived more than 80 years but that does not mean we should continue to support it. 

      I visited Biodynamic farm in the Netherlands about 10 years ago. Yes, they have those crazies all over the world. I thought these people were nuts. After reading a bit about their believes, I now consider biodynamic farming as comparable to religious cult. 

      And one thing about cult-members: you cannot use logic to convince them they making a mistake. By joining the cult they demonstrated their lack of reason already.

      My respect to EARTH just dropped closer to earth level.

  7. Imva says:

    As an EARTH Alumni I feel very disappointed with this kind of ideas that without scientific proof are using EARTH University as a place to develop.
    I really respect other peoples religion and ideas but I consider that the University name should be used in a more profesional matter. We are going to teach the future leaders of agriculture that soil fertilily problems could be solve using a cow horn.?Maybe teaching small farmers the importance of a Soil test perhaps could be better way to refer to EARTH University.

  8. Druid says:

    No respectable  agricultural university should promote such nonsense. No alumni of respectable university would ever consider getting himself involved in such nonsense. 

  9. Jorge. says:

    Considero que es importante e interesante conocer los principios de las diferentes corrientes agrícolas.. Aclaro que en Earth nunca nos dijeron tienes que ser orgánico, biodinámico o cualquier otra.. El graduado practicará lo que piense que es lo mejor a la situación que enfrente…

    Personalmente, como graduado de Earth y científco no comparto lo que dice este artículo, pero respeto la opinión de quienes practiquen esta corriente..como todas al final tienen sus pros y contras. Al final la riqueza es tomar lo mejor de todas las corrientes y  aplicarlas.
    No creo que una corriente per sé sea la solucion absoluta a la agricultura o una mejor agricultura..quien piense que solo una corriente es la solucion está cayendo en absolutismo, fanatismo o cultismo..lo cual es muy pobre.


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