Hugh Courtney during a workshop on the biodynamic preparations at the 2014 Biodynamic Conference in Louisville, Kentucky (Broken Banjo Photography)
July 8, 1932 - June 15, 2020
Hugh Jordan Courtney passed the threshold quietly in his sleep on June 15, 2020, at the noble age of 87 in Woolwine, Virginia. Hugh was a man of great feelings and high standards. He entered the world on Friday, July 8, 1932, in Cook County, IL. Little did anyone know at the time how much land this one man’s work would heal.
Hugh lived many lives. In an early version of himself, he was Lieutenant in the Navy. An intermediary form of himself manifested as a librarian. But his true vocation blossomed as a champion of the Earth and its redemption. For decades he crafted special herbal remedies to stimulate the renewal of exhausted farmland for the renewal of our common home and the furtherance of our spiritual development. He inherited his mantle from Josephine Porter who herself had received her initiation from the harbinger of biodynamics to North America, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer – an immediate student of the visionary spiritual leader, Rudolf Steiner. The strand connecting Steiner to Courtney is short and direct.
Hugh was a seasoned astronomer and astrologer as well as a member of the Anthroposophical Society in America for over 40 years.
Hugh met Josephine Porter on Sunday, August 8, 1976, during the Biodynamic Association Conference at Threefold Farm, Spring Valley, NY. One decade later Hugh founded the Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Biodynamics, (JPI), extending the legacy of his mentor. Hugh Courtney conceived of the “sequential spray” technique in 1988 for increasing rainfall on a farm. He was the author of the best selling introduction to biodynamic agriculture What is Biodynamics? (SteinerBooks 10/4/05), which integrates biodynamic agriculture within the framework of Rudolf Steiner’s greater cosmology.
In 2009 Hugh founded Earth Legacy Agriculture with his grandson Jeremiah to encourage more large-scale agriculture applications of biodynamic preparations to heal ever more land. He continued to research effective pest remedies for further developing the indications given by Rudolf Steiner.
During his time, Hugh mentoring provided us many more preparation makers including Lloyd Nelson, Larry Mabe, Pat Fraizer, Matias Baker, Florence Rewinski, Laura Riccardi Lyvers, Jason Harris, Bob Lehman, and Stewart Lundy, just to name a few.
Hugh is survived by his wife Elisabeth and her children as well as his siblings: Don, Bill, & Lynn; his children: Mark, Elaine, Gwen & Blair; his grandchildren: Shannon, Jessica, Jeremiah, Joshua, Zachariah, Juliana, & Michael; and his great grandchildren: Zane, Tyler, Brielle, Liam, Ryder, Stella, Odin, Till, & Oaklyn.
His favorite saying was “God’s in charge.” And his work embodied this. Not only is there a plan, but he was actively participating in the divine plan and helping farmers and gardeners join in their sacred work as well.
With the discipline of a soldier, the guise of a farmer, and the fastidiousness of a librarian, Hugh established his spiritual home with practical anthroposophy. He may be gone, but his work is not finished.
The family requests no flowers. Donations can be made in the honor of Hugh Courtney by sending a check to the Christian Appalachian Project, Seed & Library Program, PO Box 55911 Lexington, Kentucky 40555-5911
Cremation and service to be announced.
Much thanks to Divine Orchestration, Elizabeth Courtney, Jeremiah Proctor, Stewart Lundy, Amy Hamilton, Lauri Wilson, Larry Mabe, Peter Blake, and Hazel Archer Ginsberg for making this obituary possible.
In Memoriam - shared by Jean Yeager
I met Hugh Courtney in 1991 when I was just back from studying at the Centre for social Development at Emerson College in England. I was working as a management consultant leading a BDA Board Visioning activity. It was very clear from my first encounter with Hugh that we were clearly from two different streams – he from the Kingly stream and I from the Shepherd stream. He had capacity for lofty imaginations, and I was left on the ground watching him soar.
Memories - shared by Theodore Carlat
Meeting Hugh - shared by Dan Ditzler
I only had one opportunity to meet Hugh Courtney but he left an impression on me that will last the rest of my life. It was in Red Boiling Springs, TN on and outside of Jeff Poppin's farm. I had the honor of hearing him talk of the human being and the farm organism and the preps and how they all fit together.
He mentioned he had some stag bladders for sale. Upon taking him up to buy several for the upcoming year, we go out to his truck and lo and behold there are buckets of dried bladders waiting to be used for prep making! I knew then that my new life goal was to be like this man, with buckets of bladders in my trunk, helping people bring the pieces together to make the preparations. I'm so grateful for that encounter.
Hugh Courtney: A Lifetime Legacy to the Biodynamic Movement (2014)
By Karen Davis-Brown: In most human cultures, there is an understanding that with chronological age comes experience, knowledge, and therefore hopefully wisdom. Thus, the label “elder” has the connotation of a person who carries the responsibility and capacity to lead, guide, and mentor their families, communities, or peoples. In the last several years, the biodynamic community has chosen to honor one of our “elders” at the Biodynamic Conference, which brings us together from all parts of the continent. This fall in Louisville [at the 2014 Biodynamic Conference], we will honor Hugh Courtney. Read more.
Only What Is Fruitful Is True (2015)
By Stewart Lundy: I went to Hugh Courtney’s November, 2015 biodynamic practicum at Earth Legacy Agriculture in Floyd, Virginia, with the expectation that I would get some practical experience working with the preparations. I learned a lot — and not just what I expected. Read more. (link is external)
Articles by Hugh Courtney
Hugh Courtney wrote many time for the Biodynamics journal over several decades, including regular "Recommendations for Working with Crops". We are sharing a selection here, but appreciate hearing if there is something in particular that we should make available. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions.