R.I.P. Trauger Groh, Agrarian Adept

July 27, 2016 – With sorrow, I note the death this morning of my friend and colleague Trauger Groh, 83, of the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire, one of the oldest continuously operating CSAs in the USA. Trauger is survived by his wife, Alice, and their two adult children, Nicola and Theo, by his daughters in Germany (Daniela, Brigida, Christina, and Patricia), seven grand children, and five great grandchildren. Trauger is also survived by the community farm, still thriving and poised to go forward on the paths he helped to lay out over 30 years ago.

To honor Trauger (1932-2016) and his many contributions to the world at large and in particular to farm communities around the world, I offer the following appreciation. It’s something I wrote earlier this year for the Biodynamic Association.

Trauger Groh, Agrarian Adept

In the late 1980s I had the good fortune to meet Trauger Groh in New Hampshire, and to engage wholeheartedly with him on the subject of farms and the fundamental role they play in human existence. It took only an hour or two for me to recognize that I was associating with an Agrarian Adept.

Trauger Groh

Trauger Groh

The word adept derives from Latin, adeptus, meaning one who has attained the highest level of knowledge and skill in a field of endeavor. In olden times the term was applied to accomplished alchemists, or in a general metaphysical sense to an initiate who had mastered the Mysteries.

To me it seems altogether natural and fitting to attach adept as an epithet to convey respect to both Trauger and his wife Alice Bennett Groh, and to his longtime agrarian compatriots, Anthony Graham and Lincoln Geiger. Together they helped initiate a profound form of healing for land, plants, animals and people: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This form will endure, I feel, to benefit future generations.

Having worked most closely with Trauger over the years, I want to bring forward some words of appreciation for him and his contributions. He has been an important teacher for me, and for thousands of other people. A biodynamic farmer for over 40 years, Trauger has also lectured worldwide on farm-related issues, biodynamics, and Anthroposophy. His presentations have informed and inspired people in beneficially enduring ways.

Beginning his career in Northern Germany at Buschberg Farm in the 1960s, Trauger studied thoroughly the concepts of biodynamic farming and community co-op programs. In concert with his farm colleagues of that era, he actively cultivated anthroposophic and biodynamic understandings. Together they recognized that new economic, social and agricultural forms were essential. Under the intensifying shadow of corporate industrial agriculture, they strove to create a wider, village-like arrangement based on free-will associations of households with the farm.

Trauger then brought his experience, insight and leadership to the USA in the 1980s, where he made his contributions to the founding of CSA in North America. It’s now 30 growing seasons since Trauger, Anthony, Lincoln and community initiated the biodynamic Temple-Wilton Community Farm in Southern New Hampshire.

CSA arose in the world in response what might be termed a community supported impulse, something that, as Lincoln Geiger once observed, was in the ethers 30 and 40 years ago. Many people were sensing and responding to that impulse with creative innovation. Trauger was among the first and most eloquent exponents of the emerging CSA concepts.

farms.of_.TAs I entered into a series of deep and far-ranging conversations with him, Trauger gradually articulated the core ideas that found expression not only in CSA farms, but also in the books we eventually co-authored: Farms of Tomorrow in 1990, and Farms of Tomorrow Revisited in 1998. Trauger insisted that both of those editions include the lengthy, but essential subtitle: Community Supported Farms, Farm Supported Communities. He wanted to emphasize the absolute importance of that reciprocal relationship.

Because so many of the ideas articulated by Trauger made a deep and lasting impression on me, and on the wider world as well, I want to rearticulate a few of them in capsule form. They are ideas likely to continue informing the world for years to come.

  • Our relationship with nature and the ways that we use the land will determine the future of the earth.
  • Farming is not just a business like any other profit-making business, but a precondition of human life on earth. As such, farming is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is not just another new and clever approach to marketing. Rather, CSA is about the necessary renewal of agriculture through its healthy linkage with the human community that depends on farming for survival.
  • CSA is also about the necessary stewardship of soil, plants, and animals: the essential capital of human cultures.

As Trauger later wrote in his autobiography (Personal Recollections: Remembering My Life and Those Who Mean So Much to Me, 2010), “That farms flourish must be the concern of everyone, not just the individuals working as farmers.”

The idea was for the community to support the whole farm, not just to be occasional consumers buying sacks of carrots, or lettuce or squash. Rather than an agriculture supported by government subsidies, private profits, or martyrs to the cause, CSA pioneers strove to create organizational forms that would provide direct, free will support for farm and farmers from the people who eat their food. That way the farm is in a position to reciprocate and to support the community.

The efforts of CSA pioneers were aimed at the basic economy of finding ways to free farmers to do the tasks that are right for the farm, the people, and the earth. This remains a lofty ideal that many farms and communities of today continue to reach toward, but it’s a concept often overlooked by groups promoting CSA as a “marketing strategy.”

Temple Wilton Community Farm

Temple Wilton Community Farm

As Trauger recognized early on, there is fundamental goodness inherent in the coming together of human beings in community and bonded together by a group will to reckon intelligently with the great challenges before us: climate change, environmental degradation, economic instability, and social upheaval. Thanks to Trauger’s articulate expression of the key ideas, many people came to recognize in biodyanmics and CSA forms of agriculture that reach beyond the cultivation of pesticide-free crops, and which reckon also with the challenges of inner development. It is a service to humanity and to the earth.

In his teaching and writing over the years, Trauger elucidated and amplified Rudolf Steiner’s observations concerning modern food lacking the forces that human beings need to develop moral impulses fitting for this era of history and for what lies ahead.

As biodynamic farmers understand, Steiner’s statements asserted that moral impulses are fundamental in human nature. He saw that a foundation of morality and goodness lies at the core of the human soul, but that over the course of evolution human beings have diverged from an instinctual foundation of goodness, allowing what is wrong, hurtful, immoral and evil to be expressed.

“This,” Steiner taught, “is a problem of nutrition. Nutrition as it is today does not supply the strength necessary for manifesting the spirit in physical life. A bridge can no longer be built from thinking to will and action. Food plants no longer contain the forces people need for this.”

Taking this up as a part of his life work, Trauger engaged the issue with resolve: “How can our diet support not only our physical health, but also the development of our spiritual faculties so that they function in the best way?” Farmers have the potential to bridge earth and sky since they can influence the drawing down of cosmic forces and the drawing up of earth forces. Biodynamics strives to engage this interaction intelligently.

Trauger actively and adroitly advanced the case of biodynamic agriculture, and helped greatly in the striving to re-establish the concept of agriculture serving to cultivate a world permeated by life and a life-giving spirit.

By now, 30 years after beginning in Europe, Japan, the USA and elsewhere, CSA farms are in every part of the world. The books I co-authored with Trauger (Farms of Tomorrow and Farms of Tomorrow Revisited) have been translated into German, Russian, Japanese, Korean and other languages. This year they are also being translated into Mandarin (Chinese) thanks to the efforts of Waldorf and Biodynamic communities in Taiwan. Much more lies ahead.

When I spoke with Alice Bennett Groh in the aftermath of a 2014 honoring ceremony for the Temple-Wilton Community farmers sponsored by the Peterborough Grange in New Hampshire, she made an important observation about the work of Trauger, his agrarian colleagues, and their community: “It is unusual, to say the least, maybe even miraculous, that in these times of great social struggle that something that we approached with idealism and dedication has prospered and has had such a profound effect in the world.”

Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Trauger Groh, his agrarian compatriots, and thousands of farm communities, those profound effects will continue to resonate basic goodness for many years to come.    ~ Steven McFadden

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In lieu of flowers the Groh family requests that gifts be made to High Mowing School, Pine Hill Waldorf School, and the Temple-Wilton Community Farm.