A 700-acre Demeter certified 650A Biodynamic farm in central Columbia County, NY

History & Philosophy

winter_farmOn July 30, 1972, a group of pioneering educators, farmers, and artisans took a courageous step into an uncertain future when they purchased the Curtis Vincent Farm in Harlemville, New York. This deed was the culmination of a seven-year process that began in response to experiencing firsthand the immediate challenges of the loss of small family farms and the threat to childhood development posed by an increasingly materialistic and mechanistic prevailing world view.

The idea was to buy a farm and offer children from urban centers a hands-on experience of what it means to be stewards of the land. That autumn, in 1972, the first class of visiting students from the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City took the 2-hour trip North to Harlemville and set to work transforming the main farm house into a bunkhouse (the Visiting Students Program continues today and has hosted more than 13,000 children). Many of our local neighbors who were here to witness this nascent initiative still refer to Hawthorne Valley as “the farm school.”

These founding impulses – sensitive land stewardship, healthy child development in connection with nature, and provision of nutritious food – continue to guide our work today.

The Work of Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy

Rudolf Steiner, (1861-1925) was a philosopher, a natural scientist, and a researcher into the relationship between “spirit” and “matter.” In his lifetime he made lasting contributions to the fields of natural science, medicine, education, painting, sculpture, dance, politics, economics, and agriculture. Biodynamic farming and Waldorf education draw their inspiration from his work.

Steiner developed a science of spiritual investigation, which he called “Anthroposophy” – or the study of the wisdom of man. The results of these investigations in the fields mentioned above form the basis of over 6,000 lectures and over 30 books. He hoped to help achieve the integration of science, art, religion, and morality within a greater cosmology and to further the understanding of the role of the human being within evolution.

It was through very special faculties and abilities that Steiner was able to bridge the gap between “spirit” and “matter.” In such books as Theosophy, How to Know Higher Worlds, and An Outline of Esoteric Science, Steiner sets forth paths of self-development that help the individual develop the capacity for direct personal knowledge and deeper understanding of the spiritual and physical worlds and the interplay between them.

In Hawthorne Valley, some people are members of the Anthroposophical Society, an association of people interested in knowing more about Steiner’s work. Of these people, some choose to belong to the School for Spiritual Science. In order to join this School, one has to make a commitment to follow Steiner’s path of development. Meditation is one key to this path and members of the School for Spiritual Science are given a series of meditations with which to work.

Hawthorne Valley is a thriving, multi-faceted community. Some parents who have never heard of Steiner’s work send their children to the Waldorf School simply because it offers an excellent private education. Others parents are committed students of anthroposophy or “anthroposophists.” It was extremely important to Rudolf Steiner that people work with his ideas out of complete freedom, without any dogma attached to their efforts. This remains the ideal at Hawthorne Valley.