Lecture by Alan Chadwick in New Market, Virginia, 1979
Lecture 1: Philosophy of Gardening, Part 1
An Introduction to Alan Chadwick's Lectures and a Glossary of Terms
Contents of this Segment:
Welcome to new apprentices. The term "biodynamics" is pure verbosity, just a heading of terminology. Today, modern agriculture is an activity of pirates. Quote from Paracelcius. The true garden lies in the future. Utility as the modern attitude of approach; everything must be proved in the laboratory. But the garden is a great secret, a great mystery. Verbosity has blocked true vision. (9:03)
Alan Chadwick's comment about modern agriculture being the domain of pirates, points to an important aspect in his approach to gardening and farming. As he often said:
"There is one rule in the garden that is above all others. You must give to nature more than you take. Obey it, and the earth will provide you in glorious abundance."
It was an integral part of Alan's method to add more to the soil, prior to planting, than the crop would actually use during its growing cycle. That way the soil would become richer and more fertile through the course of time until it had reached its optimum level of organic matter, friability, moisture retaining capacity, worm population and overall health. Once the soil had reached such a condition, then one only need add the nutriments necessary for the healthy growth of the next crop.
Contrast this practice with modern commercial practice where the soil is depleted of its entire load of organic material and natural nutriments until it becomes utterly exhausted. Once the soil has been strip-mined of all its fertility, the farmer will add just enough synthetic fertilizer to produce the crop he wants. After that crop is harvested, the soil is again in a condition of utter exhaustion.
The irony is that in both systems the farmer must apply an equal quantity of fertilizations adequate for the growth of the next crop. The difference is that in Chadwick's method, those fertilizations are applied to a soil that is in optimum condition to provide the healthiest of plant growth, resistance to disease and insect damage, full of all the trace elements necessary to promote delicious flavors and good storage life. In the case of modern commercial methods, on the other hand, the soil is always at the point hovering on absolute depletion. Lack of organic material in the soil results in poor water absorption, lack of worm activity, poor friability, a chemically-induced growth that is week and prone to insect attack and disease, and a dearth of organic trace elements that contribute to flavor and healthful nutrient content.
It is in this sense that Alan levels the charge of piracy at commercial agriculture. Its goal is to rob the soil of its fertility rather than investing in its the long-term health that would make the widespread application of poisons and pesticides unnecessary.
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New Market, Virginia, 1979 Lecture 1
Philosophy of Gardening, Part 1
Good morning. Let us survey this year that we are going to work together, everything that it contains. Let us, after the talk, have a discussion to what degree you will. Do not try to put together these first talks. Keep them lose. Keep them easy, and keep relaxed. We will become diabolically techincal later. So you may as well enjoy the stars first.
The term Biodynamics, put it aside. Verbosity. It doesn’t matter a bit. One has to use words to make headings, and that’s all it is. It’s rather like the stupidity in a picture gallery today when you have to write what the scene or person is. It is equally as nonsensical as that. Therefore to talk about Biodynamic gardening, Biodynamic horticulture, Biodynamic agriculture, and the French Intensive System is merely a horrible heading of terminology.
Horticulture and agriculture, you understand, have no separation at all, that there is no separation. It’s become a modern divertissement of pirates making use of large areas who don’t know anything about horticulture. You could, if you like, be permitted to say that agriculture is a large extension of horticulture, but that of course its system, its whole obedience to nature is identically the same. To quote from Paracelsus,
“From the zodiac come the veritable secrets of God. The star angels are transmitters, and flowers become symbols of their communications. The closer our communion with the angels, the greater will be our sense of the mystery of the plant kingdom, and the greater our realization of the spiritual ministry of the world of flowers.”
We will survey what is this garden we are going to talk about. The word does not cover it at all. Somewhere the word pardae is park. The Persian meaning Paradise has a little more courage. But you must realize, very largely, that we are going to put our hands into the depths of the past and bring out the techniques which have been ordained. We are going to operate in the present, but most of all, we are going to open out into a new future. The garden hasn’t happened. In all the existence of great nations that we know of, that is in our little bit of history, the garden has of course not yet happened. But this is a presumption one would presume to suggest. But if the Greek Golden Age gave us great Truths, great Philosophy, and of all things, gave us Literature, might we not suggest that out of this era that we are living in, establishing and creating, the great gift that we are…
Are we bringing any great gift?
What is the great gift today that, well, the great gift that we might supply into this historical period? Might it not be this colossal garden? It’s all providence, this realisation, the enormity of nature, horticulture. It could well be. It will have to grow quickly. Now when one looks at gardening today, what there is, and when taking it throughout the world, and when you look at farming, you are obliged to be terribly shocked by the utter utility and that everything is statistics. If you pour nitrogen into the soil, you get such and such a crop. And it’s all a matter of additions; it’s a matter of statistics. And always it is what is, and what is provable. And if anything is not provable, take it into the laboratory and prove it. And if it’s not provable in the laboratory, then it doesn’t exist, and there is no basis for it.
You must know, somewhere within yourselves, each of you, that the whole of nature, the whole garden, is incredibly secret. It is full of mystery. There is almost nothing connected with it that is not mysterious and extremely secret. Now that word secret, as in myth, as in sacrifice, as in the fairy stories, does not mean unrevealable. It means exactly what Plato meant when he said,
“I do not know, but I do perceive”.
Now, what I am trying to point at here is that verbosity, wordism, has become a complete and utter blockage of the mental drain. The whole thing is blocked by verbosity. We take a photograph in words, of every single thing, or thinking of directing your thought in words. They’re all verbosity photographs, and they don’t, in actual fact, even relate, hardly at all, into any degree of truth. Now that is an incomparable stunning statement that nobody really can accept. But you will come around to it. You have to come around to it. And here is the great secret of the garden: that none of it exists truly in verbosity, that every master gardener and every apprentice entering the garden will look upon any of this...
[Transcription 2015 by M. Crawford and G. Haynes]