Published May 9, 2016

“Spirituality and Sustainable Agriculture: Weaving a New Narrative for the Earth” by Robert Karp

By Laura Frescoln

It seemed like a reunion of sorts. Robert Karp, a current co-director of the Biodynamic Association and former executive director of Practical Farmers of Iowa, addressed an eager crowd of about 40 on April 29th.  The topic? “Spirituality and Sustainable Agriculture: Weaving a New Narrative for the Earth”. Even among friends and colleagues, Robert was tuned into the potential skepticism of the audience and the vulnerability that people sometimes feel when discussing such intense topics. But Robert was not intense. He had a very calming and comforting way of delving into such issues. And delve he did. His message centered on the interconnectedness of the physical and the spiritual world. He used the example of the sustainable agriculture movement as the backdrop for his message. He suggested that those of us in sustainable agriculture were moved to begin this journey either out of  grief or shock. Grief, due to viewing the declining world around us and longing for a time when the world seemed in better balance. Shock perhaps, due to an event (such as the farm crisis) which woke us up to the necessity of doing things differently. But whichever your path, he also advocated that we have felt joy in the natural world around us. This joy provides a foundation for our values and ideals which we carry out in our work today.

Robert’s work in Biodynamics builds on the work of Rudolf Steiner. Based on Steiner’s work, Robert suggested that physical science only takes us so far when solving world problems. In fact, he takes it a bit further to imply that focusing only on the physical world has led us on a path of destruction. But this night was not about destruction, it was about hope.  Robert believes we may be in the beginnings of a shift in thinking, but it will take time. A long time. However, he was quick to clarify that he does not mean to suggest we have all the time in the world to make this shift. Creating a new narrative for the earth begins now.

A smaller group gathered on Saturday at Helen Gunderson’s urban farm. After a local foods potluck, Robert explained in more detail the teachings of Rudolf Steiner  and the concepts of biodynamic preparations, which are potent concoctions designed to boost plant health and growth. Robert then led a “stirring” in which the group mixed a compost-like substance with rain water for twenty minutes. The freshly stirred mix – which consisted of cow manure, basalt powder, crushed eggshells, and other biodynamic preparations – was then applied to all of Helen’s vegetation.

PFI thanks Helen Gunderson who recorded the Friday event. It will be linked to this blog when it becomes available.