“The link that is rapidly disappearing and has largely disappeared already, is the opportunity for the human being to work with the Earth . . . not just farming, but to work with the Earth in any way that is not mere extraction.” -- Laura Riccardi Lyvers
Laura Riccardi Lyvers is a biodynamic preparation maker, gardener, and grazier. She lives and works on her husband’s family’s farm, a large-scale hog and grain farm in Central Kentucky, where she grows herbs, flowers and food, and tends a small dairy herd. Since 2005 until now, Laura has run the biodynamic program at Foxhollow Farm, a 1400-acre grass-fed beef farm in Crestwood, supporting it to meet biodynamics’ Demeter certification standards. Through her small business Bio-Ag Resources, Laura also supports other gardens, vineyards and compost companies as one of the few regional makers of biodynamic preparations.
Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition. In his 1924 lecture series, Dr. Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher and scientist, invited farmers to integrate scientific understanding with a recognition of spirit in nature. Since then, through the collaboration of many farmers and researchers, biodynamics has continued to develop and evolve in thousands of thriving gardens, vineyards, ranches and orchards throughout the world.
“What attracted me to the work of biodynamic farming and Rudolf Steiner's spiritual science was this pursuit of recognizing and working with the spirit in matter … the alchemical … the working with, not just believing in, a spirit-based reality that for me is the forgotten and mostly unrecognizable element today,” Laura says.
“Like the uniting of art and science, or the observer and the observed, Steiner's work brings the human being into the flow of the spiritual world, which we are always part of but oftentimes are clueless about,” according to Laura. “Through his cosmology and esoteric science, anyone can enter onto an initiatory path. Although I was largely drawn to Native American wisdom from an early age, that path never opened up for me. Through my love of the natural world, and study of ecology at University, I found a great mystery that could not be fully approached until I found a spiritual path. Now I stand before this Great Mystery with awe and reverence, from both sides of the same coin.”
For Laura, her work with biodynamic preparations has been a healing path -- "a way of approaching agriculture that acknowledges and seeks to understand the spiritual, or the non-physical, that stands behind this material world that we work with. Through that seeking and that unfolding of understanding, we include the influences of the cosmos as well as the influence (and not just the physical) of the earth."
Laura says that "the striving in this work, along with an inner development, is to be able to produce food that has forces in it that do not just feed our physical being, but also feed our spiritual nature. So the ultimate purpose is to overcome materialism -- to be able to live in this world today with our evolutionary striving toward an ability to think more spiritually -- to overcome this moment of materialism that is at its max perhaps in human development."
Biodynamic preparations are made from medicinal herbs, animal parts and minerals in special processes, to bring plants into a dynamic relationship with soil, water, air, warmth, and cosmos, to help them develop in a healthy and balanced way. Steiner described how to make eight “preparations” to be sprayed on the earth or plants and to be used after a process of transformation in making compost. Researchers and practitioners have been involved in the discovery process of how to make and use these preparations for almost one hundred years. These preparations bring together herbs, animal sheaths, and human consciousness in relationship to Earth forces and rhythms, in what Steiner describes as “homeopathic substances” to bring vitality, health, and even intelligence to the soil and plants.
Growing up on Long Island in the 1980s and 1990s, Laura felt drawn to metaphysical concepts from a very young age. She shared, “I remember being so young I could not explain to my parents why I felt the way I did, and the questions I had could not be communicated. In my college years [1992-1997], I was drawn to studying metaphysics and Eastern spirituality and graduated with a bachelor of science in conservation biology and range ecology.”
Graduating from Colorado State University with a Bachelor of Science in Conservation Biology and Range Ecology, Laura unexpectedly got into farming out of her love of nature and her desire to work with herbs in healing. Throughout the years, as she continuously discovers, wrestles with, and inquires into spiritual science from any discipline, Laura has been able to live more and more into the daily and seasonal rhythm of the earth.
At this point on her journey, Laura is beginning to explore the wider picture of the role of biodynamics and preparation-making in Earth and human co-evolution. She believes that, as humans, we need to be able to live in this world today, in every moment of our lives, with our evolutionary striving towards an ability to think more spiritually, to feel and to do in this world more out of moral forces, and less out of physical, material reasons.
In a recent interview, Laura asked, “How do we want to be as humans on this Earth?”. Along with this huge cultural and economic question, Laura reminded us to remain in that receiving mode constantly, to humbly stay open to the insights that can come throughout our lives.
Join us with this extra-ordinary, ordinary gardener and grazier, seeking to heal earth and cosmos.
Living my life with a family of cows...tending their pasture so they find what they want (and need) by way of forages, air flow, shade and shelter. I love the daily rhythm with these animals and also the intimate bond formed between us. Their trust in me, and their obvious love bring tears to my eyes at times.I feel honored to work with the cows, and blessed to have a sense for their divine nature. I love the work I do making what are called "biodynamic preparations" for the earth ~ an honoring that brings the spirit of the cow into an earthly practice for healing.I love sharing the inspiration of this work with other humans and discovering the spirit in matter in everything around us.I love that "my work" includes an ever-unfolding awareness of these things that start with bird songs in the morning, a curious nature about each day, and the seasonal experience of the cycle of the year through growing food, flowers, medicine and herbs. And living with the cows :)
Making the biodynamic preparations for the first time at JPI, with Hugh Courtney, in Woolwine VA (SW Virginia), in October 2001. I had never been around cows before that day. Had never been in a "rural" setting. And I had never felt such meaning in the work we engaged in for those 5 days.The entire event was steeped in a spiritual intention with precise esoteric meaning, shared by Hugh and contemplated by all as we worked with our hands to create these preparations that would be given over to the earth, transform through the winter. As it turned out, i was able to participate in the unearthing of these preps the following spring, because I, having been so moved, asked if he needed any help at this non profit? His response was "yes, but I can't pay you". S0, I went back home (to L.I. NY at the time), quit my jobs and moved to JPI to help make preparations for 4 years. Since then I have lived rurally, live with cows and make the preparations each year.
While working on the Board of Directors for the Biodynamic Association in the early 2000's, I had taken on quite a bit of work for the organization, while my "paying" job was basically a montly stipend for another non-profit. Another member of the board, a woman who has become a dear friend, recognized my situation from cumulative years of non-paying work...and for no (other!) apparent reason, wrote me a check for $500, as a gift. It felt amazing ~ a recognition of my work and the gift of support to be who I am.
I think this may be the ONLY thing on my "bucket list"!To get to be steward of a place on earth (currently known as "land owner") where the guiding principals of the divine feminine are realized through my heart and hands.
Let us wake up to the Divine nature of who we really are...and touch this world with the Love of our human-spirit potential.