Alex Podolinsky (1925-2019) Was an Australian Biodynamic Farming Giant

In 1988 I had the good fortune, along with my husband Christian, to assist Christopher Bird and Peter Tompkins on their upcoming book Secrets of the Soil, after their previous worldwide bestseller The Secret Life of Plants. I assisted on the chapters, “The Dust of Life” and “Life and Death in the Forest,” which focused on remineralization. During that year, Christopher Bird travelled to Australia to join Alex Podolinsky on his yearly tour of biodynamic farms, which covered over a million and a quarter acres of land. Christopher would send the hand-written scripts to me to give to Peter Tompkins. While on their tour from farm to farm, Alex occasionally made the suggestion that a farm apply rock dust to their soils, even though it was not a traditional biodynamic practice.

Here in the US, while facilitating the network for remineralization, initially through a newsletter and magazine, I became aware over the years that some biodynamic farmers and vineyards were utilizing applications of rock dust along with their normal biodynamic protocols. As remineralization can be and is integrated into biodynamic agriculture, I felt it was fitting to offer our tribute to Alex Podolinksy.

–Joanna Campe

Alex Podolinsky speaking at a seminar on soil structure.

Biodynamic farming lost one of its greatest proponents and master teacher in 2019. The late Alex Podolinsky popularized the biodynamic agriculture movement in Australia, treating plants, livestock and soil fertility as ecologically linked. “Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition,” according to the Biodynamic Association. Biodynamimcs fits well within regenerative agriculture and the principles of geotherapy.

The Biodynamic Farming Association of Australia founder began his life in Germany, born in 1925 to a Ukrainian family who fled Russia following the Soviet Revolution. Raised in Bavaria and educated in both Britain and Europe, at a young age Podolinsky studied philosophical tenets of anthroposophy and the works of Rudolf Steiner. After he was forced to fight on the side of Germany during the Second World War, Podolinsky left Europe for Australia in 1949.

According to Secrets of the Soil, a sequel to The Secret Life of Plants by authors Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, a wealthy friend with a modest rundown farm in Victoria offered to loan Podolinsky the farm for a year to see if he could improve the soil. The young immigrant began applying his German biodynamic knowledge, adapting it to Australian conditions. These efforts were successful, and Podolinsky went on to expand the practice across the continent, on all soil types.

Podolinsky filling a manure horn to bury over the winter.

On his own farm and with his supporters throughout Australia, Podolinsky (who also founded the Biodynamic Marketing Company) promoted regenerating soils through biodynamic techniques such as the application horn manure, also known as 500 – manure that has been put into cattle horns and buried in the earth for the winter period. Dug up in spring, the horns are emptied of their dark organic humus.

He developed machines to convert this humus into soluble fertilizer to spray onto crops and soils. He also attested to there being optimal times based on natural cycles such as lunar phases, which improve the conditions for increasing soil fertility.

It is the “earth pull” to which the horns are subjected that alters the manure into the 500 product, especially when doing so as the soil is cooler and microbial life is more dormant, Podolinsky suggested. As for the horns, he said that his own tests burying manure in porcelain cups or wooden boxes never achieved the same quality of material.

While Podolinsky certainly had skeptics and critics, thanks to his decades of developing and adapting Steiner’s teachings, contemporary Australian farmers have greater access to alternative methods as they strive to produce both healthy and profitable crops, while also working to improve the quality of their soils — a fitting tribute to Podolinsky, who died in June of last year, just shy of his 94th birthday.

 

Carter Haydu is a writer, reporter, and journalist based in Alberta and Saskatchewan. He works for JuneWarren-Nickle’s Energy Group, with regular articles appearing in the Daily Oil Bulletin. He is a freelance columnist with the award-winning Quad Town Forum weekly newspaper, based in Vibank, Saskatchewan. He also contributes content for a series of magazines in and around Regina and Saskatoon. He received a BA in Political Science and Philosophy from Augustana University College in 2001 and a diploma in journalism from Grant Macewan College in 2005.

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