August 14, 2010

The following passage is a great example of how difficult it is to track and understand Steiner, and just how nutty Steiner is.  He cannot keep on topic, he refers to unnamed authorities, he makes grand unsupported  pronouncements, he speaks of tomatoes as if they had souls, emotion and independent thought, and that they (the tomatoes) are willing to confide their innermost secrets to Steiner.  Because of the tomatoes’ independent nature, people with cancer should not eat tomatoes.  Frankly, Steiner’s writing is so nonsensical that if he told a mental health worker in New York City on a Friday night the following quote, I think he would have ended up in the Bellevue psych ward.   

 Demeter completely believes in Steiner and his writings.  It’s clear from reading Demeter that there is no such thing as “Biodynamic light.” To be a certified Biodynamic farmer you must follow Steiner’s teachings and use all of the nine preparations.   There is no way that a certified Biodynamic farmer gets to pick and choose what they are willing to use with a saying like “well, yes, Steiner is a little weird, but I just use what I think works.”   

I have underlined and bolded the text that I think is the nuttiest.    If you are a Biodynamic farmer or a supporter and think that the following quote makes any kind of sense, challenge me, take me on, tell me why I’m wrong and how Steiner is right.  

 From Agriculture by Rudolf Steiner, LECTURE EIGHT, Page 167, 168:

         “Now, there is still one especially important subject I want to mention. I would like to ask you to carry out very precise experiments in this area, experiments which can also be extended to include human beings, if they happen to like this food. You know that tomatoes were introduced as a food only relatively recently. Many people are very fond of them, but they are also an extraordinarily important thing to study.  You can learn an extraordinary amount by studying tomato production and consumption.  People who have given the matter a bit of thought – and there certainly are such people nowadays – believe that tomato consumption is highly significant for human beings.  This is true, and it could also be said for animals, for it would be quite possible for animals to get used to eating tomatoes.

        “Tomatoes have a significant effect on everything that tends to separate itself from the organism and develop an independent organization within the body.  Two things follow from this.  On the one hand, it confirms the statement of an American researcher, namely, that under certain circumstances, adding tomatoes to the diet can have a beneficial effect on an unhealthy human liver.  Because the liver is the organ that works most independently in the human body, when the liver is diseased, especially in animals, it could also be treated in general with tomatoes.  Here we gain insight into the relationship between plants and animals.  On the other hand, therefore – let me say this in parentheses – people diagnosed as having cancer should immediately be forbidden to eat tomatoes, because cancer from its very inception makes a certain part of the human or animal body independent of the rest of the organism.” 

        “But now we need to ask ourselves, why do tomatoes in particular have such a strong effect on everything that tends to be independent, on everything that specializes and separates itself off from the rest of the organism?  This tendency is directly related to what tomatoes prefer and require for their own growthTomatoes feel most at home when they are given manure or compost that is as close as possible to the form in which it comes from the animal or other source.  They prefer raw compost that hasn’t had much chance to be transformed through natural processes.  If you just throw all kinds of scraps together onto an untidy heap, and give the heap no further treatment or preparation, you’ll find that the most beautiful tomatoes will grow there.  And if you were to use compost made from tomato plants, that is, if you were to let the tomatoes grow in their own compost, they would grow even better.   Tomatoes have no desire to step outside of themselves, no desire to step outside the realm of strong vitality.  That’s where they want to stayThey are the least social beings in the entire plant kingdom.  They do not want anything from strangers, and above all, they do not want any fertilizer that has gone through a composting process; they reject all that.  This is the reason that they can influence what works independently within the human or animal organism.”

         “And in this respect, potatoes are somewhat similar to tomatoes.  They too act extremely independently, that is to say, they tend to pass very easily through the whole digestive process and then enter the brain and make it independent; they make it independent even of the influences of the other organs in the human body.  From the time potatoes were first grown in Europe, excessive potato consumption has contributed toward making human beings and animals materialistic.  We should only eat only enough potatoes so that our brain and our head in general are stimulated.  Potato consumption in particular should not be overdone.  Knowing these things brings agriculture into intimate relationship with society in an objective way.  And this is what is so important, that agriculture be related to the whole of social life.”

 This is a typical passage from Steiner’s lectures;  and is not taken out of context.  I simply cannot understand how any rational thinking person can read this fantasy and believe that Biodynamics is anything but a hoax!   The silence from Demeter is deafening!

Stuart Smith


August 8, 2010

If, as I mentioned in my post of June 20, “If Biodynamic farming stops mildew and other diseases, sign me up!”  Steiner said unequivocally that using a tea from the Common Horsetail plant (Equisetum arvense) would rid vineyards of mildew, then why does Biodynamics allow the use of Sulfur to control Powdery Mildew?  In fact, I don’t know any Biodynamic grape grower that doesn’t use Sulfur.  ARE THERE ANY OF YOU OUT THERE????? 

 The California grape industry mainly uses sulfur dust to control Powdery Mildew.   Application rates run from 10 to 20 pounds per acre and the number of applications might range from six to twelve or more.  Rain washes the sulfur off and you must immediately re-sulfur.  Sulfur is an element that I used to think came from the ground.   In a sense it does, because it mostly comes from oil.  Sulfur is a byproduct of oil refining, and the best crude oil is called Light Sweet Crude because it has the lowest sulfur content at less than 0.5%.  When crude oil exceeds 5% sulfur it is called Sour Crude and is less valuable.

 As I understand it, tanker trucks take the molten sulfur that has been separated during the refining process and dump the liquid into evaporation ponds.  After the liquid has evaporated the dried sulfur is recovered and processed into many products including dusting sulfur. 

Sulfur is both quarried and underground mined in Michigan, Ohio, Sicily, Poland and Chile.  The demand is much greater than mined sulfur can supply.  

 I use Sulfur DF made by/for Wilbur-Ellis, it is 80% Sulfur and 20% “other ingredients,” whatever those are.  The EPA Registration # is 51036-352-2935.  There is a 24 hour re-entry limit and the applicator is required to wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants, chemical-resistant gloves and shoes plus socks and protective eyewear.

 So here’s the question: Is the sulfur from mines just as “natural” as the sulfur that comes from the refining of oil (the petro-chemical evil doers)?  Before you answer, you should think about Nitrogen.  The plant doesn’t know any difference between the Nitrogen that comes from an “organic” source such as plants or animals and the Nitrogen that comes from a “chemical” factory.

 If you say elemental Sulfur is elemental Sulfur regardless of where it comes from, then why isn’t Nitrogen treated the same way? 

 If you say the mined Sulfur is natural and the oil processed Sulfur is not, then shouldn’t Biodynamic (and organic) farmers refuse to use the petroleum processed Sulfur?

Stuart Smith


August 2, 2010

 In the spring of 2007 I went to the Milford, England, International Rugby Tournament to watch my son play Rugby for the U.S.A. U17 Eagles Rugby team. On the way home from the tournament I was invited to have Easter supper with a wonderful English wine writer and his family in West London.  We both shared a passionate love of Riesling and we were all having a lovely time, until he asked me what I thought of Biodynamic farming.   After a long pause, I said that if Biodynamics got the farmer into the vineyard more often then that was all to the good.  But as to Biodynamic farming itself, I took an even longer pause and finally said “Well, we used to burn witches in America, didn’t we?”  It turned out my host is a big believer in BD farming and a pall settled over the rest of the meal. I felt terrible and guilty for upsetting my host – and still do.

 It became obvious to me that Biodynamics is the poster child for what I was so concerned about in our society – believing that fantasy is real.  Folks within my own winegrowing industry were embracing a farming philosophy that had more in common with witchcraft and animism than modern, progressive Best Management Practices (BMP) of the 21st century.  Science that propelled the California wine industry into the forefront of world recognition was being ignored and supplanted with this belief in the cosmic, occult-like mysticism as preached by Rudolf Steiner.  Here was ignorance, growing and infecting an entire industry; it’s become viral.   Just last week at an organic farming seminar held at Frog’s Leap winery, a rather prominent  albeit new vintner (former titan of industry) reportedly pronounced that if Napa Valley Vintners would give up petro-chemicals then the entire Napa Valley would no longer have to be concerned with mildew.  This individual could buy me ten times over, with what he makes on interest, yet, in my humble opinion, this guy is dumber than dirt when it comes to vineyards and farming.

Stuart Smith