Sustainable Agriculture

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Biodynamic Science?

Just back from an afternoon in the Steinstraße lab basement. We’ve been calculating the dry matter content for a biodynamic germination test with 500, Rudolf Steiner‘s prescribed Horn Manure preparation, under different stresses. This is all part of a ‘free project’ within the SIA Masters Program (More on the SIA study program and schedule. The SIA Practical guide). Our free project groups objective is to see if the application of Rudolf Steiner’s prescribed Horn Manure preparations offer an advantage to plants (Barley, Pea, Tomato, Quinoa) in the germination stages.

This has required exhaustive research and work on our part, as all free projects do. However, it is an incredibly unique opportunity, as we are working with Prof. Dr. Ton Baars from the Uni-Kassel Professorship. Professor Baars is the only professor of Biodynamic Agriculture in the world, right here on the Witzenhausen Campus, much to the chagrin of some of other professors, here and away, and to the scientific community.

Biodynamic Science has been a topic of many heated forums and community meetings here in Witzenhausen as the funding for the position is soon up. The general consensus from the student body is that we need to keep the position so that we can look beyond modern day science and into the possibilities that Biodynamic has to offer. The general feeling from the scientific community is that having Biodynamic listed as a science here makes Witzenhausen seem less scientific. The professorship has enough work to do just supporting the pure organic studies.

The first question I asked Prof. Baars when he presented his research goals to me and my SIA colleagues this winter was about other theological sciences methodologies and their influence on biodynamic sciences. Prof. Baars told us that the biodynamic sciences use modern scientific practices and leave all theology aside. This turns out to be entirely untrue, in our experience so far biodynamic science is an amalgamation of theological, spiritual and scientific practices. It is at times very confused and at times quite refreshing. I have found myself working on this in the greenhouse and in the lab several times a week since that meeting.

The long and the short of it is here in Witzenhausen is the chance of a lifetime to do some ‘way out’ studies in a field that most scientist will laugh at, most laypeople will give you the hairy eyeball about and you’ll be endlessly explaining to anyone who cares to ask. Sound familiar?

Here is a paper on the subject that I found quite informative and inspiring in a funny way: Taking a Scientific Look at Biodynamic

Here is a poem by Arthur O’Shaugnessey for all those who are willing to be way out enough to consider a place like Witzenhausen for Masters Studies:

We Are The Music-Makers

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down. 

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.


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Organic Aquaculture

I was reading through the USDA organic standards for organic aquaculture in Prof. Dr. Anglika Ploeger‘s  Sustainable Nutrition class and am really astounded to see that this has been allowed to go through. That NOSB standard needs some attention from some activists and concerned citizens.

Prof. Dr. Ploeger and her assistant Sonika Aminforoughi gave us a lot of information and showed us some videos from Alaskan, Brittish and Scottish fisherman and activists. Fisherman have limited catches these days and what they are hauling in is a lot of messed up offspring of escaped aquaculture fish. The fish stocks are overcrowded in pens and become breeding grounds for all types of terrible fish diseases and louse which are then allowed to flow freely through the nets, as the mutant fish sometimes do as well, to infest and further deplete the populations of wild fishes.

Sustainability is a three part model including Economic, Social and Ecological realms. It appears that the industry played a larger role in the drafting of this document than environmental groups. The NOSB standard speaks only about animal welfare and very little about the ecological aspects of this hazardous fishing method.

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Rural Sociology in Göttingen

The latest addition to our Sustainable International Agriculture (SIA) studies here in Witzenhausen and Göttingen is a much needed humanities: a Rural Sociology class. This class is a welcome break from calculations of digestibility, variability in cropping systems and agriculture in general. It is a time for us to spread out our minds, lay out our thoughts on the disparate and seemingly confused ideas of these rural sociologists and to discuss new things like Gross National Happiness.

More on the SIA study program and schedule. The SIA Practical guide.

A poignant poem about happiness by Nanao Sakaki

If you have time to chatter
Read books
If you have time to read
Walk into mountains, desert and ocean
If you have time to walk
sing songs and dance
If you have time to dance
Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot

–Nanao Sakaki, 1966 Kyoto Japan