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 andcapacity 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 BDA conference that brings us together from all parts of the continent. This fall in Louisville, we will honor Hugh Courtney.
Hugh is the first to say that he is not a farmer, and he didn’t even enter the biodynamic arena until he was in his 40s. But in 1976 he responded to the offer by Josephine Porter – a board member of what is now the Biodynamic Association – to teach anyone who would come to her farm how to make the biodynamic preparations according to the indications given by Rudolf Steiner in the Agriculture lectures. Hugh has never looked back. After this fateful meeting and nine years of mentoring by then-Elder Josephine Porter, he created the Josephine Porter Institute (JPI) in 1985. While he was also fulfilling a request by the Biodynamic Association board, his primary goal was to fulfill a personal commitment to Josephine Porter to create a permanent “home” for the biodynamic preparations. This home became his farm in Woolwine, Virginia, where JPI was established to house the preparations and to provide training regarding their proper making and use.
In the years since the founding of JPI, Hugh has consistently and faithfully made preparations every year, and taught, cajoled, encouraged, admonished, and guided the rest of us as we endeavored to do the same. Not afraid of plain talk or controversy, he has been a tireless advocate of the large-scale use of the biodynamic preparations on the North American continent, and has conducted research regarding their characteristics and efficacy while encouraging others in their own research efforts. One example of this commitment has been the “Recommendations for Working with Crops, Sequential Spraying, and Ashing” which he has offered to the biodynamic community for many years.
Recently the Josephine Porter Institute has moved from the Courtney farm, and Hugh – now in his early 80s – is working to establish a new initiative called Earth Legacy Agriculture (ELA). ELA is a natural next step for Hugh in carrying Josephine Porter’s vision forward, and a way for him to move fully and deeply into a more individually focused, mentoring and guiding role, much as Josephine Porter did with him decades before.
Earth Legacy Agriculture provides “consultation and support services for the grower,” including biodynamic preparations and training regarding their use. Ideally, these products and services are providedon an ongoing basis over a multi-year period, including in-person and phone consultation.