Back to Basics



Not everyone has been so passive in their response, however.

The first half of the 20th century saw the publication of a number of influential treatises which rejected chemical fertilizers and advocated more organic methods. We might pick out Rudolf Steiner’s 1924 lectures, published as Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture, which responded to the damage he perceived had been done to agriculture by ‘modern cultural and intellectual trends’

Above image sourced from Wikipedia (Author: AlMare) under Wikimedia Commons.

Steiner’s suggestion for a more holistic approach, that emphasised the use of manure and planting according to lunar cycles, resonates with the earlier agronomic texts of Roman and Arabic writers. His treatise would become the basis of biodynamic agriculture. This, together with the works of others, led to the formation of the Soil Association in 1946, which remains the most important voice for the organic movement.

In the post-war period, in what might be described as a Malthusian ground swell, we have seen a return to more natural practices. This largely unchoreographed movement from below lies behind biodynamic farming, organic farming, local food, and slow food movement. What articulates the practice and philosophy of this amorphous group of individuals and organisations is a concern for the environment and the future of the soil. As a consequence those involved are increasingly discarding the chemical solution and returning to the very principles that guided farming throughout the pre-industrial era.