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Celebrating 100 years of biodynamics in New Zealand and Australia

 Ueli Hurter, 06/04/2024 

Ueli Hurter was invited as a guest speaker to various anniversary events in Australia and New Zealand from 1 to 16 May 2024. Learn about how biodynamics has developed “Down Under” in recent years and the challenges it currently faces in the following travel report.

New Zealand

After initial meetings and visits, the official start of the festivities was at 6am on 3 May 2024: around 50 people gathered at a Maori ritual site before sunrise in frosty temperatures of around 0°C. As the southern starry sky, explained to us by a Maori navigator, dimmed and the sun rose in dramatic colours through the morning mist of the estuary and the nearby sea, we experienced an hour-long welcome ceremony with stories, singing, gifts and the ritual greeting in which the forehead and tip of the nose touch. It is a deeply moving experience, as in the spiritual space opened up in this way there is a mutual recognition of the indigenous connection with earth and sky, made possible by the ancestral lineage, and biodynamics that takes up these elements again, but now in a form created from the future, supported by the freely responsible human being.

The large Hohepa community with several hundred co-workers under the leadership of Santiago De Marco, which gives expression to its work caring for people with assistance needs with the words “Each life fully lived”, organised an all-day, lavish celebration to mark 100 years of biodynamics. It was held partly in the conference centre, including a speech by the secretary of state for the environment, and partly on the large campus with its farm cheese dairy and market garden. A preparation was also stirred and applied together on this site. The proximity to the moments of birth in June 1924 of the two impulses for the care of the earth and the care of all human biographies (Special Needs Education Course) is lived here every day a hundred years later and is an essential community-building force.

On 4 May, the annual meeting of the New Zealand Anthroposophical Society was held at the Steiner School with a good 100 participants. In my opening contribution, I addressed the current global ecological, social and cultural crisis on the basis of three dimensions of soil formation: firstly, the development of soil fertility in agriculture, secondly, the development of socially sustainable soil in the polarised societies in which we live, and thirdly, the cultivation of spiritual soil so that inner serenity and courage can grow. We had just been together with Michelle Vette, the country representative of New Zealand, the week before in the large circle of country representatives and the subsequent annual general meeting of the GAS at the Goetheanum, so we tried to convey something of what we had worked on there to the members. The specialist sections of the School of Spiritual Science live strongly at the Goetheanum and the question is how the research and development work in the specialist areas can also be understood and lived in the countries in such a way that this creates future viability for anthroposophy. This impulse was taken up and will be developed further.

The annual meeting of the Biodynamic Association of New Zealand followed on the third day. This meeting was also well attended with around 100 people. Biodynamics has a long history in New Zealand and had a heyday 25 years ago. In the meantime, life on the farms has become so socially and economically difficult that the number of farms is decreasing. New Zealand produces food for 40 million people with a population of 5 million. Massive exports have opened the borders completely and world market prices are almost the same for New Zealand farmers. The joint biodynamic marketing initiatives were too underdeveloped when this tsunami hit, and so today the only option is direct marketing.

A series of veterans told the story of biodynamics in New Zealand. So I heard that the biodynamic conference was opened in 1945 by the then minister of agriculture and that he intended to establish biodynamics as the basis for agriculture in New Zealand. That did not materialise. But with Peter Proctor and Hans Mulder, two New Zealanders brought biodynamics to India and many Asian countries. Today, the impulse is alive above all among people who cultivate a piece of land around their home, and of course – as in many countries – among winegrowers, where new enthusiasm is also noticeable.


Australia is a huge country and Australians are people who regularly create distance between themselves. In other words, there is no uniform biodynamic movement, but one that is very diverse due to fractures and conflicts. This was a challenge for the organisation of my visit, as a joint conference was out of the question. Mark Patton managed to organise the tour in such a way that all groups and locations were taken into account. To this end, he formed a Zoom group that met regularly for months and haggled over the few available days. Mark, with a laugh, called them a group of rebels in the sense that they had all been board members but had then had to leave the board. I can’t name all the people who were involved in the organisation, logistics and accommodation at the five locations, but it was a great team effort! In the end, the tour included stops in Melbourne, Tasmania, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, some of them with programmes to the minute!

Melbourne and Victoria

On Monday morning, 6 May, at 8am, I met Lynton Greenwood and Peter Podolinski, representing the Podolinski Group, at Melbourne Airport. We drove to Darren Atkins’ vegetable farm, where we met him and Anna Hawkins, and had a detailed look at their practice. We engaged in an open, respectful dialogue.

In order to be able to contextualise this encounter, we need to know the following: Alex Podolinski was a formative pioneer of biodynamics in Australia from the late 1950s, he perfected the work with the preparations and focussed on horn manure (500), later prepared horn manure (500p). The preparations should be moist to colloidal. He developed new machines for stirring that create an intense vortex. Spreading on large areas became possible. There are many testimonies that the soil changed completely within one to three years, becoming dark and permeable. A documentary film about his work on television caused a sensation, and some large farms switched to biodynamic farming. As long ago as the 1970s, 130,000 horns were filled. The flip side of this success was a break with many colleagues and organisations that did not work exactly according to Alex Podolinski’s specifications. The Demeter logo was registered for Podolinski’s institute and was therefore no longer available to all biodynamic farmers. Alex Podolinski often travelled to Europe, where he advocated his approach and criticised others. When Demeter International was founded in 1997, there was a split and Podolinski’s group was not involved. Despite many efforts, it was not possible to mend this rift during Alex Podolinski’s lifetime.

So now, five years after his death, my visit was a first attempt at a mutual rapprochement. We created a real dialogue, everyone heard what the other was saying, a human bridge was built, but there was no rapprochement regarding the substance. Contacts, especially with the Biodynamic Federation Demeter International, are to be maintained, which is already a lot. I trust that the power of the 100th anniversary will also have a fruitful effect here.

Peter Podolinski, Alex’s son, showed me the farm in Powollton, the centre of their work and the place where the preparations are still made today. I acknowledge this gesture of transparency as the basis for building trust in the future.

After the day with the Podolinski group and visits to various places in Victoria, lectures were held at the Michael Centre on Tuesday morning, with Mark Patton and Steve Kapolic. This was followed by a visit to the community garden, where they also produce their own seeds, and in the evening there was a lecture at the branch. The topic was “The farmer as priest on his land”. I used this as an opportunity to attribute full spiritual sovereignty to the farmer for their action, as they have ultimate responsibility towards the earth and nature due to their direct connection with the living world.

Hobart and Tasmania

Tasmania is an island off the coast to the south with the capital Hobart and diverse, often still wild nature. The sky was overcast and there was light rain from time to time. The Biodynamic Association of Tasmania organised a three-day celebration of 100 years of biodynamics, so we drove straight to the gathering. We celebrated with a family who have 1.5 hectares of land, which they have landscaped with various gardens, meeting places and landscape elements. I often saw situations like this in Australia: together with friends, a kind of garden park is created around the house with elements from permaculture, biodynamics and also as a play and experience area for the children. Before the meal, a smoke ceremony was performed, led by a member of the Aboriginal people. The smoke soothed the spirits of the place and purified the souls of those involved, so that a healing encounter with nature could take place. For the Aboriginal people, who have shaped and inhabited the Australian landscape in a large number of tribes over many millennia, it is important that there is an intense human connection with “the bush”. The landscape spirits need this and those in the know can see this in the behaviour of the animals. We were explicitly asked to do the same – it needs all people, not just the Aboriginal people.

The Tasmanian broadcaster wanted a direct interview with me, which we managed via mobile phone. I was amazed at how familiar the reporter was with biodynamics and asked really good questions. In the evening there was a public lecture at the university with around 100 visitors. Brian Keates, who has been doing astronomical research for decades and publishes a calendar for the countries of the South, was also there and the two of us spent the evening together. He spoke of the more than 10 million solar rhythms that have already been discovered, of the dematerialisation of thought when immersed in cosmic rhythms and of the unlimited future possibilities that he sees for biodynamics, especially the preparations. In my contribution I tried to locate anthroposophy as a science in relation to the indigenous knowledge of the Aboriginal people. And after taking a look at what happened in Koberwitz 100 years ago, I went on to discuss current climate change and the complex nature of carbon. For the night, I was a guest in the fantastic house of Cole and Jane Bradshow.

The next morning, we drove up the steep natural roads into the hills to a biodynamic herb farm. This herb production would not be possible further down in the valley because for many years fruit growing was undertaken with arsenic-containing agents and DDT, which is why there are massive residues. All the preparation plants were shown in detail and discussed as medicinal plants. It was also explained how they are grown. The herbs are dried on site and alcoholic extracts are produced, both of which are sold in an own shop in the town. This was followed by lunch in a forest restaurant set up with tents especially for the occasion. Some families had pooled money, founded a non-profit organisation and bought a larger piece of land. Now houses are also to be built there and a residential and living community will be created. This gave me the opportunity to tell about our structure and work in L’Aubier. It became clear how the question of community building is an essential part of the biodynamic impulse, especially in the example of inalienable land ownership.

I took this topic with me to the evening lecture at the university and explained the basic principles of the agricultural economy and how we can work together in the value chain, as we have worked on this over the years in the Section’s economic group. The next morning there was a meeting at the school with the committed people of the Biodynamic Association of Tasmania, led by Trevor Crowe, where ideas and initiatives were put forward for future development. There was a great energy in the room, and I am sure that we will be hearing more about the somewhat remote Tasmania in the international biodynamic movement. Until now, it was not even known that there was an active association there.

Sydney and New South Wales

Biodynamics Sydney – with Diane Watkin – announced a great centenary conference, so I prepared myself for a great event. In fact, it was the smallest event of all, as there were only a few attendees during the rainy days in the big city. Nevertheless, there was an array of speakers who talked about nutrition, health, working in central Australia on native vegetation management with Aboriginal people, the dangers of synthetically produced food, the latest research on large-scale landscaping as climate protection incorporating biodynamic principles, and urban agriculture. The good contacts with the lord mayor of Sydney were also mentioned, but she was unable to attend.

This clearly showed how huge the need and potential for biodynamics in cities is. From balcony plants and backyards to green spaces and parks with trees, rivers, biotopes, insects and birds, there would be opportunities for communal composting, seed swapping and thus enabling city dwellers to establish a relationship with living things. The group in Sydney is working with great commitment. The unexpected sunshine led in conclusion to a city tour with a photo opportunity at the world-famous opera house and an urban sandy beach, where the high waves from the big ocean challenged the surfers to acrobatic feats. The history of the discovery and colonisation of Australia as part of the British Empire with the gradual separation from the British crown and the tragedy of the “historical error” of the colonial era could be seen. Australia struck me as a country whose social shape is still very much in the making.

Brisbane and Queensland

Having landed in Brisbane, I breathed in the fresh air as we drove past the city skyline and into the surrounding wooded hills under an open evening sky. The exact schedule was adhered to perfectly. Peter Kearney, as financial officer, sits on the board of the Australian Biodynamic Agricultural Association (BAA). There are around 600 members, 8,500 people receive the newsletter, four people work in the secretariat and preparations are produced and sold. The BAA is a kind of rival organisation to the AAA, the Podolinski association. Peter has now just applied for the BAA to join the international association BFDI, and so it is to be hoped that the blockade that has existed for many years will be overcome and Australia will at least be represented by one organisation in the international family of biodynamic organisations.

We had arrived on the campus of a Steiner school and my lecture took place in the eurythmy school, which is courageously fighting for its existence here. The visitors came from the wider region, a good hundred in number. The topic I had in the programme was changed. Thus the close contact with the audience led to a discussion about the fact that the Agriculture Course integrates Rudolf Steiner’s science and philosophy of freedom and opens up a spirituality that is to be understood post-materially. The course emphasises the farmer’s spiritual sovereignty, which is based on self-observation and own thinking. This is something quite different from a dreamy immersion in nature. Using carbon as an example, I explained the stages of physical, living, mental and spiritual reality, thereby building a bridge to current climate issues. The audience felt inspired by this kind of reflection and many warm encounters ensued afterwards.

Then we travelled a long way north to spend the night at Paul Martin’s house. When I woke up the next morning, I was surrounded by subtropical vegetation and it was so warm that we had breakfast outside. From the top of the hill, we had a breathtaking view of the sloping terrain down to the coast and the endless ocean. Almost at the sandy beach of this sunny coast, there is a Steiner school. The upper classes were assembled in the large hall so that, after a presentation on biodynamics, we could discuss the earth, the climate and the associated tasks facing us humans. It was a wonderful experience to see how we engaged in a lively dialogue across the generations and how the shared responsibility could really be felt in the room. By early afternoon I was back on the plane to Adelaide.

Adelaide and South Australia

It was incredible; once again, a person was standing by, especially for me, to introduce me to the area, with a visit to a farm where I met an expatriate Swiss biodynamic practitioner. And I was allowed to be a guest in Simon Martin’s clay house with its enchanted garden. In the morning, we had a tight programme with visits to various people around Mount Parker, the highest point in Adelaide’s hilly hinterland. We had an appointment at a Steiner school where the upper school pupils from two schools were spending a day together. We talked in particular about the climate topic, which for many here was not abstract but a concrete experience when some neighbourhoods had to be evacuated during last year’s bushfires. Once again, I had a discussion with the pupils, just like the day before. We talked about food and how we can directly influence our ecological footprint with our food choices. I tried to show that it’s not just about reducing our footprint, but leaving a positive footprint for the earth and nature, in the sense of a partnership between people and the earth.

The afternoon was “Field Day” on a biodynamic farm with viticulture, market vegetables and animal husbandry. Over 100 people from the surrounding area came, a large gathering. In the course of several presentations which set out the history of this place, the regional preparation group and also the history of the biodynamic movement in Australia, I explained that joint field inspections have existed since the first years of the experimental group founded in Koberwitz 100 years ago. In this way, a format that represents a core element of practical research has been cultivated over generations. The biodynamic movement has thus cultivated its power of renewal as a researching and learning movement. Secondly, I discussed the results of the scientific DOC trial in Switzerland after 45 years. In a comparison of the variants D = dynamic, O = organic and C = conventional, the dynamic variant can clearly demonstrate its profile as a soil-improving, resource-efficient and climate-positive arable farming system. As we walked round the farm, an eagle from the reserve on Mount Parker circled above us.

After an evening meal with members of the council of the anthroposophical branch of South Australia, there was a meeting with almost 20 members where I reported on the work at the Goetheanum and emphasised the work in the sections. Again I experienced how life in the Anthroposophical Society is backward-looking, carried by older people and represented more in the books of the libraries than in the current activities. After all, the Anthroposophical Society is also 100 years old, it has a worldwide membership and intact working structures, but it needs fresh spiritual air. An evening lecture followed in Adelaide, where I used the U-process to try to transpose the past into the future using food production as a current element. How can biodynamically produced food become affordable for many more people? How can we form soil in the social economy as successfully as we can on the farms?

The next morning, a very interesting excursion into the surroundings of Adelaide awaited me with a visit to three farms. Uli Spranz was at the wheel of the van and told the story of her and her husband’s emigration at the end of the 1980s. The radioactive contamination from Chernobyl, the price of land in Germany and the social mood in Europe were not conducive to establishing a livelihood, so they emigrated to Australia. After a year of searching, the motorhome with the young family finally rumbled into the valley where Paris Creek Farm is located. A dairy farm was soon established and the simple milk processing business became a flourishing enterprise in just a few years. Last year, 15 million litres of milk were processed from biodynamically certified farms in the surrounding area. The dairy products were in many supermarket chains and were also exported to Japan, Taiwan, etc. It was a flagship company for the South Australian economy. Then came the sale, practically overnight, at a good price, and today it is a flourishing organic enterprise.

At the first stop, we looked down from a hill into the river valley, where a hundred-strong herd of Angus was grazing on lush green pastures. All around it was dusty and dry, but here, thanks to the river with flood irrigation, water came onto the land and the animals had something to eat. Milking used to take place here and the facilities are still standing, but the dairy was of course sold.

The next stop was in flat land, at the mouth of a river into an inland lake, which can be used for irrigation. This 1,000-hectare farm came into their possession through adventurous circumstances and had to be rebuilt from a dilapidated state. Angus animals are also grazed here for meat production. All the land is being sprayed with the preparations. We saw the installations for collecting and heating the rainwater, the stirring system on a trailer and the self-propelled spraying machine; everything in very good condition.

The third stop was at Paris Creek Farm, where it all began and where the preparations are made. And this is still happening today in very good quality. Here, too, biodynamic friends from the region came together and we enjoyed a festive farewell dinner in the open air. The group was surrounded by a great mood of joy and I suspect it was due to the preparations. If you see good preparations and experience a healthy commitment to them, then an inner joy germinates that becomes the basis for such friendship in the biodynamic movement that can be experienced around the world. The biodynamic impulse is more broadly defined than the preparations, but they are something like the heart of this impulse and have the power to inspire and connect us as human beings across the whole earth. Once again, the eagle soared in the blue sky above the biodynamically cultivated earth in farewell, and soon I was in the air myself, on my way back to Europe, to Switzerland, to the Goetheanum. 

Very top image is a Biodynamic farm in the hills of Tasmania.

Images above, from left to right:

  1. Farewell dinner at the Paris Creek Farm
  2. Preparations of the Paris Creek Farm
  3. Biodynamic Garden of the Rudolf Steiner School
  4. Ceremony in Tasmania
  5. Further development of the stirring machines designed by Alex Podolinski
  6. Farm of Darren Atkins
  7. Maori greeting ritual
  8. Hohepa

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