Making a living.

There are so many Steiner businesses, and somehow the people involved must be making sufficient money to live – but how?

Internationally, nationally and locally money is being made, but it is not immediately obvious where this comes from.

The educational establishments are not a mystery;

School fees for children with behavioural problems are paid by their local authority and social services.

Kindergarten sessions are paid for in part by parents and in part by the state.

Ruskin Mill College also takes young people under the age of 18 whose fees are paid by local authorities.

The fees and care provided at Camphill Communities (many all around Stroud) are also paid for by local authorities, social services and out of state benefits. Here is a summary of how the funding works.

St Lukes, the anthroposophical medical Centre is partly NHS funded (no-one knows how much “allopathic” medicine is practised and funded there) but the website says the anthroposophical therapies on offer are paid for by patients. The survival of this practice has been partly explained by information from thegilrinthefireplace who revealed in a comment the way residents at Camphill are coerced or forced into paying for anthroposophical therapies they neither want nor need . There must be a comfortable income to be made from supplying curative eurythmy, biographical counselling, or rhythmical massage to these nearby residents.

These therapies when used on reluctant victims patients must be worse than useless; an acknowledged effect of alternative therapies is the placebo effect, and the time spent by therapists talking to their patients. For someone who doesn’t want to be there in the first place, the “talking time” must be just an added annoyance, or worse.

I contend that forcing residents to endure these therapies, whether at their own expense or not constitutes abuse.

And finally the Biodynamic businesses – not much money there, one would think, but we need to consider the fact that all the Steiner businesses support each other.

In addition to the vegetables on sale in a local shop there is the Café selling biodynamic food. The schools, colleges and Camphill Communities will be customers for the astrologically grown produce – at what prices, I don’t know.

In Stroud we have the HQ of the UK Biodynamic association where they sell supplies for biodynamic methods. Little bags of horn manure and cow horns start at £4.80. There is also the Biodynamic Agricultural College at the Painswick Inn project, the Crossfields Institute which offers the Diploma in BD agriculture, and of course Ruskin Mill which has bd apprentices and the Field Centre which runs courses on biodynamic research.

The diploma in Biodynamic Principles and Practice consists of 9 units at £365 each, plus £120 registration fee and according to the website does definitely not provide training in agriculture. Just Biodynmics. Who does these courses?  Perhaps students at Ruskin Mill are encouraged to do so when they leave.

Where does a diploma in biodynamics get someone? Not very far, sadly, unless you are seeking respect in the world of anthroposophy.

This is the kind of thing on offer at the Field Centre, but I recommend you only look at this link if your blood pressure is ok.

Stroud community Agriculture (SCA) is also a BD organisation, and it turns out people pay for the privilege of participation.

“Members support the farm and carry its annual running costs in return for participation and a share of the produce.  Land is rented from two local educational trusts.”

The two educational land trusts mentioned are Steiner. Members of SCA pay to be members and again to buy produce from their farm. Out of this money a full time biodynamic farmer and apprentice are employed.

From reading about the history of SCA there is no indication of when the decision was taken to run it as a Biodynamic farm, or of any prior involvement of the initial core group in anthroposophy. Funny, that.

The Soil association website page on Community Supported Agriculture makes no mention of biodynamics as a feature of CSAs.

Stroud is a UK hub for Biodynamics. It is totally unscientific; based on astrology, stirring pots of manure and stuffing cow horns to bury and dig up again. It is pseudoscience and mysticism in all its ridiculous glory.

The Steiner “industry” as a whole is mainly undercover. It operates below the radar of most ordinary citizens, and yet it is substantial. Money for dubious practices comes from local authorities, central government, and from private individuals who donate time or money – with or without being aware of what they are supporting.



  1. Rain17

    I was a little slow on the uptake, reading this Wall Street Journal article I saw on the Waldorf Review Facebook page. It’s behind a paywall now, but of note (from the WR FB page):

    “They want to do something they can touch, that feels closer to them,” Patricia Farrar-Rivas, chief executive of Veris Wealth Partners, a firm in San Francisco that manages some $650 million.

    That can pose challenges, if the prospects of the business are harder to analyze than a publicly traded company. “We are wealth managers, we are not organic farmers,” Ms. Farrar-Rivas tells clients who want advice on investing in Bay Area farms.

    Ms. Farrar-Rivas recommends the RSF Social Investment Fund to clients looking to support small local businesses, though the returns are often lower than other fixed-income investments. The fund makes loans to firms in California and elsewhere, including Guayaki, an organic beverage firm in Sebastopol, Calif.; a food store in Fairfax, Calif.; and various Waldorf schools, part of the movement founded by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner.

    The annualized yield on the 90-day investment notes issued by the RSF fund has averaged 0.53% over the past year, according to its website. The minimum initial investment is $1,000.

    It only takes a few clicks to realize that “RSF” is the “Rudolf Steiner Foundation,” another branch of Anthroposophy. True to form, the WSJ does not mention the anthroposophical grounding of the investment fund/”social finance” and I suppose why should they, since it’s right on the RSF website. To wit:

    Inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner, we believe that money has a deeply spiritual dimension. In our view, money is a form of energy that connects one person to another and strengthens the bonds of community. Our innovative financial products not only meet the constantly shifting needs of the market, but also encourage meaningful and direct relationships among investors and social entrepreneurs, donors and grantees.

    Although “threefolding” turns up on their site only 4 times, the RSF is the American branch of Steiner’s social threefolding and the threefold commonwealth endeavor. Triodos Bank is another. See also: this gem of a blog post by John Bloom, “Director of Organizational Culture.”

    Their website also lists consistent funding for Green Meadow school, which has found much scrutiny in this year’s news, dating back to at least 2008.

    That is one heck of a list. See especially that “Education and the Arts” section. “Biodynamic money” for the world’s superiors…

    • Helen

      When you consider the sums of money involved, it is be surprising if people are not taking the time to thoroughly research the businesses they are investing in. The investors can’t all be occultists. It is in the RSF’s favour that so little is really known about what Steiner’s “work” really is.
      There is a very good case for publicising as much as we can exactly what anthroposophical beliefs are. If more people knew this there would be no respect for it, and therefore no money, at all.
      Jim mentioned in a recent comment that it is best to keep quiet about people’s beliefs unless they mention the subject – but if we all keep quiet, how can the harm done by anthroposophy and other religions/cults be stopped? They rely on widespread ignorance about their beliefs for their survival – we need to take away this crutch.

      • Jim

        Hi Helen. Just to clarify I’m certainly not suggesting we keep quiet about people’s beliefs. But there is a difference between having a go at the belief and having a go at the person holding them. So if a kindly old person says “god bless you” to me I’ll just take it as a kind thought ( if nonsensical ) but if a pushy fundamentalist knocks on my door they are fair game. But of course if that old person asked me what I thought of religion then I would tell her.
        I think this is also the distinction Nick was drawing.

  2. Nick Nakorn

    Anthroposophy makes a great deal of money through its commercial brands. The fee structure for Biodynamic certification is often per-product; so a farm selling 10 products will be paying £1000s a year in fees rather than £100s. Different brands have different fees. Here, for example, is the Natrue fee structure. If you consider that there are 1000s of farms supplying 1000s of products world-wide to Demeter and it’s sub-brands and that the Demeter, Weleda and Biodynamic brands are also sold retail at a profit through Anthroposophical farms and shops with the usual retail mark-ups you can see that Anthroposophy has £millions or possibly £billions in income annually. I’ve done a search for annual reports for those brands; Wileda itself has sales in excess of £300 millions annually:

    Added to that would be branded sales from independent certified producers, publishers, alternative health practitioners and a large number of Anthro-businesses world wide. In the UK alone there are quite a few: How many world-wide? I don’t know if there’s a publically available definitive list. But it will be considerable.

    In addition to those brands there are the financial arms, most notably the Triodos Bank and what was the Mercury Provident and Mercury Asset Management. Triodos alone amounts to about £500 millions asset value, funds entrusted in excess of £4.5 billions and has loans out to customers worth in excess of £3.5 billions. Their annual report 2012 is here: Triodos net profits were only £22 millions in 2012 but it is their deposits and loans figures that represent the Anthroposophical cash is circulation, running Anthro-friendly businesses. You also have to consider the social power wielded by wealthy supporters such as HRH Charles, and ex-racing driver and weapons-control-systems tycoon Jody Scheckter.

    Clearly, many Anthroposophical ventures, such as some schools and farms, will run at break-even or at a loss but I suspect that Anthroposophical fees will be paid before other creditors if a school or farm gets into trouble. Some Anthroposophical projects also receive funding from a variety of charitable trusts. Make no mistake, Anthroposophy has £billions at its disposal and is not short of cash.

    • Jim

      Hi Nick – it’s pedants corner time! I’m pretty sure the only connection between Mercury Provident and Mercury Asset Management was the coincidence of name. MP was set up by the Steiner movement as a bank and to run the pension scheme. With typical Steiner mismanagement it went bust and merged with Triodos. MAM was a mid rank fund management group and was bought Merrill Lynch in 1997.

    • Helen

      In my innocence a couple of years ago I asked the soil association what they thought of biodynamics, but I never got a reply. From their website you would think they had nothing to do with it. It is as though there are people running it who have decided for whatever reason not to publicise their links with anthroposophy. Perhaps they are not allowed to.

  3. thegirlinthefireplace82

    “Therapies” such as the Biographical Counseling mentioned in your post can cost around £30 for half an hour (A friend had to attend a session as part of her Anthro social care training course and had to pay for it herself). “Curative” therapy sessions, such as Eurythmy and Art, started at £30 for extra time (some were half an hour, some a bit more if i remember rightly). . As for the Biodymanic Farms, there are 2 close to where I live and they are “community owned” and the produce is very expensive (almost £10 for ONE chicken breast!). Your right in saying all the Anthro places support each other, the place I worked had a public cafe and we were only allowed to get our fresh produce from the local Anthro farms and shops, which worked out much more expensive then getting the produce from other local organic places. The local Steiner school also grew vegetables which were sold to us and the other local Anthro places. There is also some Art and Drama schools near me (Anthro of course), which offer useless degrees and courses, usually at least a few hundred quid for a short course ( 2 days). There are so many Steiner places where I live, but people just think they are all just “nice organic places” or “hippy art schools”, I was not aware of what any of them really were until I worked for an Anthro organisation and then it all became clear. Your right also about extra funding from charities, our organisation received quite a bit for its Drama group (which was set up as a charity so it could get extra funding). Our “boss” always told us we were running at a loss and were “soon going to have to close down if we didnt do something”, but we never did close. Funny how they always said we were making a loss even when we knew we were making a profit (we kept our own records to compare them with the boss figures). The place I worked at charged between £70 and £100 a day for day care facilities (if the client came for half a day they still paid for a full day), plus “optional” extras at an extra fee. That is paid for by our tax money, and is more than other day care centers charge clients (so I was told by social services).

    • Helen

      Do you think they told you it was running at a loss to justify the low wages? They seem to manage to persuade employees it is a privilege to work for them.
      I am sure some of the people involved in the so-called community projects such as the CSAs do not think they are anything to do with other Steiner activities – at least at the beginning, but it’s all part of the way Steiner operate to constructing their own community within a community.
      I am amazed that the therapies are allowed to be pushed on people in the way you describe. The power of suggestion will make people do a lot of things, even at that price, it seems. The more vulnerable people are the more likely they are to fall in with it.

      • thegirlinthefireplace82

        Well on the day care side the wages could be ok, although somewhat unfair in most cases. Some craft workshop staff got up to £15 an hour for “teaching” felting work (while actually not doing anything as the volunteers did it all), while I had to do one to one work with a learning disabled person while also cooking for customers for £8 an hour (still better wages then other local jobs but too little for the work I had to do). We were always told there was no money and to “tighten our belts” and that we could close down any day, but we never did. It just demotivated most of us. And while we worked our fingers to the bone and could hardly afford to live (rent is high in my area) the boss would be going off on expensive holidays and conferences ( and then saying there was no money!)

  4. Nick Nakorn

    By pure coincidence, BBC’s Breakfast outside broadcast today (22 August 2014) was from Car-Fest, a new annual motoring event held on Jody Scheckter’s huge Biodynamic farm in Hampshire. Not only did Carol Kirkwood promote the event and interview Jody Scheckter, she also read the weather from the farm’s showground. I have no idea what the revenue for such a show might be, but with free advertising from BBC Breakfast, it will probably be a sell out; particularly as Scheckter is very well connected in Motor-racing. As a ‘petrol-head’ myself (apologies) it’s the sort of event I’d love to go to but I’m not helping to pour cash into Biodynamics. If you have any doubt about the power of this kind of celebrity endorsement, type ‘Jody Scheckter on Biodynamics’ into your search engine; you’ll find pages and pages of links. But first on the list is and the massively convincing video, from the absolutely charming Scheckter, does not mention the vast wealth and publicity that his venture provides to the cause of normalisng Anthroposophy in the eyes of the unsuspecting public. As it’s always me writing to the BBC and getting crap replies from them, would someone else like to give it a go? When I calm down I might do a piece on my blog about it.

    • Jim

      I suspect writing to the BBC might be a waste of green ink. I didn’t see the programme but it sounds as though it wasn’t actually about the BD farm so they would say it was irrelevant. Not true of the other references on the Food Programme or Countryfile of course.
      I’ll see what comes out of the Derek Cooper programme – if it contains anything pro BD that will be worth another go.

  5. Helen

    Nick I thought about you just now when a trailer for some programmes about Derek Cooper from the Food programme came on the radio. I wonder if they will edit out the parts about Biodynamics?
    Yes there is far too much endorsement of bd from the BBC and it needs to be challenged.
    I see the Laverstoke website does mention Rudolf Steiner, but doesn’t go into the gory detail or the astrology.

      • Helen

        I think that article is great, I saw it on your fb page. If anthroposophists are going to say how good bd is they should at least make people aware of exactly how it looks. There is only one reference to Jupiter though, whereas in the Star and Furrow there is all sorts of detail about angles and alignments of different planets.
        Of course the farm looks great in British Columbia, but that’s not because of bd, it just happens to be beautiful there.

          • Helen

            It’s the aesthetics again isn’t it – same as what draws people to Steiner schools. There is a lot of skill used to present it all in a pleasing way, whether it’s the apples in a basket, the cow horns with cobwebs or the felted craft items. People are attracted because of how it all looks. Our apple tree has the most perfect rosy apples at the moment and the onions are all laid out to dry, but they were just grown in an ordinary way with no mixing of preparations or study of the stars. It’s just very clever marketing, and also the idea that if something is expensive it must be better – not so of course.

            • Jim

              Helen – are you sure that guerrilla anthros haven’t buried magic cow horns in your onion bed?

  6. Jim

    In an earlier comment Nick outlined the financial returns to the Steiner cult from biodynamic certification. There is one area I’m not clear about. A lot of French BD wine is certified by a Ecocert, an independent certifying body, on behalf of Biodyvin. Biodyvin is a French body which only represents BD winemakers, unlike Demeter which covers all manner of products. It claims both to be better matched to winemakers needs and also stricter than Demeter. The implication seems to be that Demeter is willing to turn a blind eye in pursuit of license fees.
    So far as I can see there is no connection between Biodyvin and any “official” anthro body, so presumably no cash flow to them either. Michel Chapoutier, the biggest French BD winemaker, also speaks of Steiner as someone who stumbled on something which works even though his ideas on why are nonsense. Most un-anthro like!
    If anyone knows more about Biodyvin and any anthro links I would be very interested to know. Could it really be a bit of Steiner derived practice which has truly cut itself off from its anthro roots?

      • Jim

        Stu? The name rings a bell but can’t place it.
        Reading a bit more about Chapoutier it sounds as though rather than something growing out of the Steiner mainstream he sort of reached in from the outside, took what he wanted and ignored the rest. Interestingly Michel dismisses the stuff about planting by the phases of the moon but his son witters on about ‘balancing the cosmic energy of the sun with the magnetic energy of the earth’. Not sure how Chapoutier pere feels about that

    • Jim

      Thanks Nick – I have seen that site and it’s a refreshing bit of common sense.
      You’re right about reading pseudoscience being tiring but just once in a while you come across something so barking it’s hilarious. One such piece was on the properties of silica, as used in BD preps. It started off relatively sane dealing with real physical and chemical properties before going off into harmonising cosmic energies, alignment of crystal structures with the universe, vibrations and vortices and so on. But apparently it’s all to do with quantum physics so that’s OK then.
      Must try to find it again and post the link.

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