“Nothing will produce an effective change but
the fresh transformation that has already begun in the human mind.”
“There is practically no field of human endeavor that
does not relate to agriculture in some way. Seen from whatever perspective you
choose, agriculture touches on every single aspect of human life.”
Since 2009, The Nature Institute has offered each year a weeklong course for
farmers, gardeners, apprentices, and others who love the land. Winter is an
especially good time to pull back from day-to-day activities in order to gain
perspective and inner tools that can enrich our relation to nature and guide
the work on the land.
These intensives focus on honing observational skills and on developing
capacities of flexible thinking and discernment. We engage with participants
in Goethean phenomenological method as a contemplative practice. In these
courses we explore topics that pertain directly to nature and agriculture:
plant growth, metamorphosis, and ecology; the cycle of the year and astronomy;
whole organism biology of animals; domestication in plants and animals; the
qualities of the four elements (earth, water, air, and fire); evolution and
human responsibility. And we have often worked with projective geometry as a
means of expanding our inner horizons.
Here are some comments from participants:
“I feel the course was a very interesting progression of ideas and questions.
I think I can confidently say I have the beginnings of a new perspective on
the formation of plants and a new methodology with which to observe the
natural world. I found the pace of the week to be very appropriate to the
subject matter.” (Biodynamic farming apprentice)
“Fantastically challenging mentally. Really opens up “clogged” or non-existent
thoughts…. It definitely feels like I have a lot more to think about, new
tools in my mental tool box and, of course, an ever deeper respect for this
planet.” (Market gardener)
“I found the course content to be very grounding and yet meaningful from a
personal subjective point of view. I learned a lot about the Earth, animals
and the stars, and got a sense of how it all interconnects. It was helpful in
using my observational skills to an extent beyond the norm and developing
appreciation for nuances in nature and objects. Though my interest is
primarily gardening and horticulture, I benefited from learning different
dimensions of farm life and the wonders of the natural world.” (Gardener &
Winter Course at The Nature Institute
Experiencing the Deeper Nature of
February 9 – 14, 2014
“[The farmer] meditates on many, many things during the winter nights.... And
as he is walking through the fields [in the summer] it’s suddenly there. He
knows something, and afterwards he tries it out.” (Rudolf Steiner)
Gaining a deeper understanding of nature involves a widening of our inner
horizons. While it is one thing to acknowledge that nature is dynamic,
interconnected and whole, it is another matter to experience, articulate,
and respect these qualities in our interactions with nature. How can we
perceive and understand life dynamically? That is an underlying question
that will inform many of the week’s activities, which will include:
Plant Study (two sessions per day): metamorphosis; plant growth and
development in relation to the environment with a focus on soil;
domestication characteristics of food plants; assessing quality through
Astronomy (one session per day and night sky observations if the
sky is clear): the rhythms and characteristics of the planets Mercury,
Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
Projective Geometry (one session per day): exercising flexible
thinking; learning to think in polarities; forming the ideas of the
infinite and of center and periphery.
While working in these different areas, we will engage in contemplative
practices that can help to enliven capacities of thinking, feeling, and
Morning seminars from 9 am to 12:30 pm
Lunch break from 12:30 pm to 2 pm
Afternoon activities from 2 pm to 5:30 pm
Night sky observations if the sky is clear
The course begins on Sunday, Feb. 9, at 7 pm at The Nature Institute and
ends on Friday, Feb. 14, at 4 pm.
The course meets a portion of the classroom study requirement for
apprentices enrolled in the North American Biodynamic Apprenticeship
Craig Holdrege is a biologist, educator, and the director of The Nature
Henrike Holdrege is a mathematician, biologist, educator, and co-founder
of The Nature Institute.
Sliding scale: $250 – $500
Fee includes materials, as well as morning and afternoon snacks.
Scholarships are available for those with financial need through the
Biodynamic Scholarship Fund; please visit
http://www.biodynamics.com/scholarships for information and to apply.
Please download and send us
your registration form, if possible by January 15, especially if you need
help finding housing.
The Nature Institute is located near the hamlet of Harlemville (town of
Ghent), New York, and is nestled at the foot of the Taconic Hills. Our
neighbors include the 400-acre biodynamic Hawthorne Valley Farm, the Hawthorne
Valley School (a K-12 Waldorf school), and the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store.
Click here for
Lodging and Meals:
We can refer participants to local families who rent rooms ($30 to $50 per
night). For a list of motels and bed & breakfasts,
We provide morning and afternoon snacks. Course participants will be
responsible for all other meals. The Hawthorne Valley Farm Store has extensive
organic food and deli selections and is within walking distance of The Nature
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