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Organic Agriculture - Invented in Kent

Paull, John (2021) Organic Agriculture - Invented in Kent. Paper at: Kent Maps Symposium, Canterbury Christ Church University, 5 May 2021.

[thumbnail of Paull2021.KentMaps.Symposium.CCCU.pdf] PDF - Presentation - English
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Document available online at: https://www.academia.edu/48843258/Organic_Agriculture_Invented_in_Kent


Kent was ground-zero for the concept of organic farming. Amidst the pandemonium of World War II, Kent farmer and estate owner, Lord Northbourne (Walter James) (1896-1982) published ‘Look to the Land’ (30 May, 1940). The book introduced to the world, the term ‘organic farming’ along with the philosophy and rationale of practice. Northbourne’s terminology and philosophy were rapidly adopted and championed globally, notably in the USA by the publishing entrepreneur Jerome Rodale (1898-1971) and in Australia by the grazier Colonel Harold (Bill) White (1883-1971) and the Australian Organic Farming & Gardening Society. Organic agriculture is now a worldwide phenomenon which is reported from 186 countries, and globally accounts for 71 million hectares of farmland and GBP86 billion of retail sales per annum. A multinational sequence of events led to Northbourne's 1940 manifesto of organic agriculture. In 1924 the Austrian New Age philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) presented his Agriculture Course at Koberwitz (now Kobierzyce, Poland). In 1938 the German chemist and acolyte of Steiner, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer (1899-1961), working in Switzerland, published his ‘Biodynamic Farming and Gardening’. Northbourne was keen to introduce these ideas to a British audience. He visited Pfeiffer in Switzerland in January 1939 to recruit him to present a conference on Biodynamics at Northbourne’s farm in Kent. The outcome was the Betteshanger Biodynamics Conference (1-9 July, 1939), with lecturers from Switzerland and Holland, and attendees from Britain and New Zealand. Northbourne recalled “the spirit of friendliness, happiness and unity which prevailed … for nine days the possibility of war was scarcely alluded to; things more real and more constructive absorbed attention”. With the outbreak of war (1 September, 1939), the appetite of the British public for Germanic ideas was extinguished. Northbourne’s response was to create his manifesto of organic agriculture where he pitted a contest between “organic and chemical farming”. He stripped out the esoterica and arcane Anthroposophical language of Steiner and Pfeiffer’s biodynamics and presented a compelling case for what he termed ‘organic agriculture’. Northbourne was described by a colleague as “a man of great vision, decisiveness, quiet humour and kindly authority … who brought to every facet of his widely ranging life a rare sense of harmony and balanced purpose … he was a widely read man of very considerable scholarship with deep philosophical understanding”. Northbourne’s agricultural ideas have stood the test of time.

EPrint Type:Conference paper, poster, etc.
Type of presentation:Paper
Agrovoc keywords:
Subjects:"Organics" in general
Farming Systems
Food systems
"Organics" in general > Countries and regions > Australia
"Organics" in general > Countries and regions > United Kingdom
"Organics" in general > Countries and regions > United States
"Organics" in general > Countries and regions > World
"Organics" in general > History of organics
"Organics" in general > Countries and regions
Research affiliation: Australia
Australia > University of Tasmania
Related Links:https://www.academia.edu/44450500/Translations_of_Rudolf_Steiners_Agriculture_Course_Koberwitz_1924_The_Seminal_Text_of_Biodynamic_Farming_and_Organic_Agriculture, https://www.academia.edu/44337808/Australias_Place_in_the_World_of_Biodynamics, https://www.academia.edu/43478261/The_Koberwitzers_Those_Who_Attended_Rudolf_Steiners_Agriculture_Course_at_Koberwitz_in_1924_Worlds_Foundational_Organic_Agriculture_Course, https://www.academia.edu/41445138/Review_The_Global_History_of_Organic_Farming_Gregory_A_Barton_2018_Oxford_Oxford_University_Press, https://www.academia.edu/42967594/The_First_Goetheanum_A_Centenary_for_Organic_Architecture, https://www.academia.edu/42003025/The_Pioneers_of_Biodynamics_in_Great_Britain_From_Anthroposophic_Farming_to_Organic_Agriculture_1924_1940_, https://www.academia.edu/40550391/New_World_Map_of_Organic_Agriculture_Australia_is_51_, https://www.academia.edu/42039133/Rudolf_Steiner_Education_and_Waldorf_Schools_Centenary_World_Maps_of_the_Global_Diffusion_of_The_School_of_the_Future_, https://www.academia.edu/37998544/The_Pioneers_of_Biodynamics_in_New_Zealand, https://www.academia.edu/37618538/The_Library_of_Rudolf_Steiner_The_Books_in_English, https://www.academia.edu/25648267/Atlas_of_Organics_Four_maps_of_the_world_of_organic_agriculture
Deposited By: Paull, Dr John
ID Code:39859
Deposited On:13 May 2021 09:06
Last Modified:13 May 2021 09:06
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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