By Thea Maria Carlson

The 2018 Biodynamic Conference is in full swing in Portland, Oregon, with over 800 people participating! Several participants asked to read the opening remarks I shared on the evening of Thursday, November 15, so I am happy to share them here.

If you're not with us in Portland, we invite you to watch livestreaming video of our keynotes on our Facebook page throughout the conference. All livestream videos will be available through Monday, November 19. 

Welcome to the 2018 North American Biodynamic Conference: Transforming the Heart of Agriculture: Soil. Justice. Regeneration.

My name is Thea Maria Carlson, and I'm the Executive Director of the Biodynamic Association.

I am so glad that you are here. Some of you have been here for several days, getting to visit some of the amazing Biodynamic farms in this region and delving into pre-conference workshops. Others are just arriving right now. 

For many of you, this is the first biodynamic conference you've ever been to. On the other hand, some of you have been coming to biodynamic conferences since before I was born. 

Whether this is your first biodynamic conference or your 40th, or anywhere in between, this conference is going to be a unique experience. We have an amazing confluence of more than 800 people, coming from all over the country and around the world — farmers, gardeners, ranchers, entrepreneurs, preparation makers, educators, researchers, chefs, winemakers, artists, investors, philanthropists, movers and shakers, and changemakers! And this particular group of people has never been together before, and will never be together again. So let's all get really present, here, together.

Then take a moment to get grounded in your body, connect your feet to the ground, perhaps close your eyes. The theme of this conference is Transforming the Heart of Agriculture. So let's take a moment to sense into our own hearts. What is alive in your heart right now? What intelligence does your heart hold about the potential for this moment, and for the coming days? What transformation do you seek to co-create?

For transformation to happen, we need courage. Courage to step outside our comfort zones. Courage to keep going when we hit the rough spots. Courage to risk who we thought we were and what we thought we knew. And courage comes from the heart.

So as we begin to engage with this theme, Transforming the Heart of Agriculture, I invite you to recall a time in your life when you were courageous. What was it that led you to that courage? And what happened as a result of your courage? Now, please find someone you have never met before, and tell them about this courageous time in your life. Each of you will have one minute to share. 

There are so many levels on which transformation is needed right now. Ecological transformation. Social transformation. Spiritual transformation. And all that transformation is going to take a lot of courage.

The wildfires which are raging in my home state of California as we speak are but one example of the interconnected ecological, social, and spiritual challenges that we face — where misguided land management, economic disparities, the breakdown of social fabric, and climate change have all combined to create a series of ever-worse disastrous fires that break new records of destruction every year.

For decades now, the organic and biodynamic agriculture movements have recognized and worked to alleviate ecological problems such as the erosion of topsoil, the contamination of our food and water with pesticides and herbicides, and the inhumane treatment of animals. And we've made progress in those areas, but there is so much more to do.

Now we are also waking up to the need for agriculture to recognize and heal the traumas of the genocide of Indigenous people and theft of their land, upon which many of us now grow our food. We're waking up to the ways in which our agricultural history is so intimately tied the kidnapping and enslavement of millions of Africans, and the legacy of slavery that continues to live on to this day. We're waking up to the ongoing exploitation of millions of agricultural workers, especially women, people of color, and undocumented immigrants.

These are deep challenges, challenges that are hard to face. Challenges that due to our privilege, many of us have been able to ignore for most of our lives. And challenges that many of us, now that we have awakened to them, can no longer ignore.

The world is calling for healing and transformation. How will we answer?

Through his life work, Rudolf Steiner offered spiritual insights and practical applications in order to help human beings to develop our capacity to meet, and work to transform, the challenges of our times. And biodynamics, which is rooted in Steiner's work, has much to offer in service of transformation. Biodynamics invites us to engage in deep relationships with land, soil, plants, animals, fellow human beings. Biodynamics opens a doorway to sense and experience the subtle influences of the cosmos on our life here on Earth and the spiritual dimensions of our agricultural practice. Biodynamics challenges us to never stop learning and growing, to always strive to become better stewards of our land and act in greater service to our communities

So by choosing the theme "Transforming the Heart of Agriculture", we are acknowledging, uplifting, and centering the transformative potential of the biodynamic impulse. We are also recognizing the need and the potential for biodynamic agriculture itself to continue to evolve and transform.

Over the next few days, I invite you to create a courageous space with me. A space where all of us — regardless of our age or experience — are endeavoring to learn and grow. A space where we face the challenges and pain points head on, and with courage. A space where we are willing to be vulnerable. To deeply listen to each other. And to open our hearts to the possibility of emergence. The world needs all of us to work together to nurture and grow the healing impulse of biodynamics, and to employ the practices and innovative thinking of biodynamic agriculture to address the enormous challenges of our time. 

Let's make the most of these few precious days we have together. And let us do it with courage and love.

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