By Thea Maria Carlson

When I teach about the core principles and practices of biodynamics, one topic I always cover is the management of pests and disease. In chemical agriculture there is a fairly simplistic approach: anything that eats a crop is a pest, pests are bad, and they must be eradicated. Spray whatever poison is necessary to get rid of them. If they disappear, you have succeeded. 

Through the lens of biodynamics, when a pest or disease shows up, we see it as a messenger of an underlying imbalance in our farm individuality. It is telling us that something within our farm or garden is out of alignment with the rhythms and dynamics of nature. While we may need to take immediate measures to rid our crops of a pest or disease through organic, cultural, or mechanical controls, if we stop at that immediate control, we are likely to experience the same problem again in the future. The immediate action needs to be paired with a deeper observation and a longer-term adjustment in our practices to bring about greater balance.

Often, when we look beneath the immediate outbreak, the messenger of the pest or disease is pointing to a deficiency in the health and vitality of our soil. Thus, a central focus of biodynamic agriculture is to build healthy, living soil through composting, integrating animals and their manures, utilizing cover crops, growing a diversity of plants, and applying the biodynamic preparations. As we build this health and vitality into our farms and gardens, over time we will see fewer pests and diseases showing up, because our land is already in balance.

If we think of the Earth as our farm individuality, and COVID-19 as the disease that has just shown up, how might the biodynamic perspective on pests and diseases be helpful? 

Just as in a severe pest or disease event on a farm, it is essential that we take immediate action to address this acute outbreak of COVID-19 in the world, especially with so many human lives at stake. All of us need to stay abreast of the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and local public health officials and do our part to limit the spread of the virus through physical distancing, monitoring our health and the health of those we are connected to, and practicing rigorous personal hygiene. To the extent we are able, it's also important that we identify and reach out to others who are especially vulnerable in this pandemic physically, socially, or economically — including communities of color, immigrant communities, the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions — and find ways to participate in mutual aid so that everyone has  the support they need in this challenging time.

Along with all the things we need to do immediately to help our communities navigate this global crisis, it is also important that we sense into the underlying imbalances that this virus is pointing towards. From my perspective, there are several interconnected imbalances which COVID-19 as a messenger is urging us to see and address: ecological imbalance, social imbalance, and economic imbalance. These are imbalances which many people have been aware of for a long time. But COVID-19 is telling us that now is the moment to act.

Biodynamics offers a practical path to address these imbalances, working in ecological, social, economic, and spiritual integrity to create the health and vitality that the world so desperately needs right now. Now more than ever, more and more of us need to invest our energy in growing and deepening biodynamic agriculture, whether we are planting seeds to grow more of our own food, buying from local Biodynamic farms and food businesses, educating young people and eaters of all ages, training the next generation of farmers, or building local, regional and national networks for mutual support and collective action. Thank you for your commitment to biodynamics through your membership in the Biodynamic Association, your work with the land, and your work in your communities. Please keep it up, and lean in as much as you can to this important opportunity for positive change. Together, we can build a healthier and more balanced future for humanity and the Earth.

Thea Maria Carlson is Executive Director of the Biodynamic Association.

If you'd like to find or share resources, please check our new forum, where we will continue to share resources related to COVID-19 and food and agriculture. We've made this publicly accessible, so you don't need to sign in to post or comment, and we hope you will add your questions, ideas, or resources for the biodynamic community there as well. We would also love to hear from you. If you haven't yet, please share your thoughts in this survey about what is needed and what is possible as we navigate these times together. Stay tuned for more resources and ways to connect. (If you're not on our e-news list, you can sign up here to stay informed about all that's going on.)

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