Mystic Liver: Inside the World of Biodynamic Farming

Illustration by Lucas Adams

When is the last time you utilized a deer bladder, cow horn or skull in the ordinary dispatch of your farm or garden? If you’re a biodynamic farmer, it may have been just yesterday. Whether you were  stuffing yarrow into deer bladder or unearthing a buried cow horn filled with manure, it’s all in a day’s work for practitioners of this unique form of agriculture.

These outlandish-sounding elements form the basis for fertilizer and compost “preparations” that are fundamental to biodynamics, the agricultural philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner, an esoteric philosopher whose 1924 lectures on agriculture first introduced the concepts of biodynamic farming. Almost a century later, biodynamics has seen increasing interest among small farmers and especially vintners, who say that biodynamic practices result in a better bottle.

It’s also received a corresponding dose of skepticism, with detractors spilling much ink over the peculiarities of biodynamic farming and deploying every synonym for horseshit and hogwash in the book, especially when it comes to Steiner’s often impenetrable philosophical ideas (critics like to point out that Steiner was a self-proclaimed clairvoyant whose theories revolve around comings and goings in an invisible spiritual world.)

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