A sustainable future needs skilled, knowledgeable and passionate new farmers and gardeners.
The Crossfields Institute Level 3 Diploma in Biodynamic Farming and Gardening provides a two-year training which combines the development of practical skills alongside the development of deeper understanding which is needed for a new generation of farmers and gardeners. This training is designed along the lines of a classical apprenticeship, combining practical and theoretical learning with the aim of building confidence and resilience in producing high-quality food in a way that works cooperatively with nature, just what is needed to make the world a better place. Sustainable agriculture offers solutions for current challenges and potential for positive change in areas such as climate, environment, health, and economics. This training prepares students to be part of this positive change in the world. By working alongside experienced practitioners and being actively involved in the management of a biodynamic/organic farm or garden, students gain the ‘on the job’ skills needed to run a production enterprise. Alongside the development of practical skills, students take seminars during the winter months when the practical work is less busy. These courses bring students from all over the country together to consider biodynamic principles, aspects of a farm and garden and how these can work together harmoniously with nature. They include classroom and outdoor teaching, artistic activities and plenty of discussions. Students have more than 30 teachers each with a professional background that offers students insight into many different areas of expertise. These complement the practical experience gained in day-to-day work, offering the opportunity to work meaningfully in creating practical solutions for the future. With more than 20 years experience in the provision of agricultural education, we are pleased to offer this unique professional training, the only certified level 3 diploma in the agro-ecological sector in the UK.
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The biodynamic training has been giving me the opportunity to be fully immersed in the practical work with the Land. Especially in this kind of work it is essential to incarnate with our whole body in the jobs we do.
The trainers I met have a very deep insight about biodynamic agriculture but also a good knowledge of the wider anthroposophy. I found the seminars essential too. I think they have been spread over the year wisely and they provide a space for reflection. It is very important sometimes to get out of your intense routine and be able to deepen some aspects of your work to go then back to your place more conscious and knowledgable. The courses are also very intense. There is always a lot of stuff to take in but I guess it is the only way to really dip ourselves into Biodynamics and into Agriculture for the two years training. The lectures have been very good especially because led by farmers, gardeners and researchers with long experience in their field.
The portfolio helps to give a structure to the experience and the study over these 2 or 3 years. I think it is well thought. Regarding the individual support I have been given so far, it is very positive. Anytime I had a question or a doubt I got an answer straight away.
I am working on a variety of tasks on a mixed farm. This includes Milking cows by hand. Looking after sheep. sowing, weeding and harvesting vegetables. The farm has sent me to take a Tractor driving licence and an outdoor first aid course. I also work alongside adults with learning difficulties. At the farm, we have a Biodynamic study group every week.
The seminars have been really well organised with first class accommodation and brilliant lecturers. Kai Lange has a lot of knowledge about Biodynamic farming and is a fantastic teacher. I was also particularly impressed to be lectured by Richard Thornton Smith and Jonathan Code both of whom are authors of books that I have read.
I have enjoyed working on the portfolio and have found, that in researching a lot is learnt on the subjects studied. I like the format and now that I have understood the process it is easy to follow. I submit the units using dropbox, after finding out how it works it is simple. I had bought my own laptop to be using for the coursework. At first, it takes a little time to work out how to do things, but then its quick and is a useful skill.
The BDAC admin is organised well, making a lot of effort to ensure that the training sessions were very good. Kai is an approachable person who makes an easy relationship with people so I feel that if I had a problem I could ask him for help and advice.
When I just started the training, I had no experience in taking care of livestock. Despite the lack of experience, I had a desire or maybe better said; curiosity, about livestock and how to take care and manage them. In the past 9 months of my training, I’ve made quite a progress. I’ve noticed that I’m good at observation. Often I spot when something is wrong with an animal. It’s almost on an instinctive way. The times that I was too late was when I ignored my gut feelings. One of the reasons for ignoring my instincts is lack of knowledge. I feel that I still have to go a long way in learning the practical side of farming. What diseases are there, how can you spot them in an early stage, what are the symptoms? During my 9 months of training, I have developed a sense of when an animal is behaving normal, but I miss the practical background to rely on my observations. I find it hard sometimes to get this, practical knowledge, out of my training. I had higher expectations there. Working with animals gives my joy. I knew I was interested but that it would make me so happy as it does, I didn’t know before. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction. Also, the big responsibility you have to take care of livestock, living creatures, is something I like to take on.
My physical body is changed in the past few months. I have developed more strength and muscles. Friends I hadn’t seen since I started the training confirmed that, they saw me changed. My body has become a bit more solid. I feel more secure on the earth. Being more ‘in’ my body. Working in the rhythm of the seasons, adapting to all sorts of weather has made me stronger and a bit tougher as well. I also feel resilient, both physically as mentally. I take life more as it comes. So, I believe that my work as a farmer has a positive influence on my personal life.
I was expecting that the English language would be a big struggle for me and would hold me back in my training. Of course, I’m not smooth or fluent and sometimes have to look for words or can’t say exactly what I want to see. But roughly I can say what I mean, understanding goes better. The language isn’t a big of an obstacle as I thought it would be. I was expecting that the training and knowledge I would learn would go faster than it goes. Sometimes I feel like my training process is slow.
I look at the apprenticeship as an opportunity to construct a strong bond with the rhythm of nature and its manifestations (the season, wind, light ratio, etc.). I was attracted by the opportunity to work and live on a farm over two seasons so to intake these changes. There has been an automatic mechanism of assimilation due to the fact that I was in close contact with changes occurring in plants, animals and landscape and my work gave me the time to observe and reflect on them. Together with these I regularly registered my observations on a diary. One interesting experiment has been documenting the stages of development of a black currants bush through the different season. The documentation was done with drawings and notes.
Coming to the end of my second year I feel I gain a certain understanding of how certain natural rhythms and cycles occur. These patterns are following the alternation of the seasons. On a personal level, this is a great instrument to have so to be able to observe more directly the world around us and to connect with basic movements regulating our habitat. My expectation was to acquire knowledge on how to manage different parts of a small holding. More specifically I was interested in gaining horticulture skills and acquire a level of independency in organising the daily work in a small enterprise. I wanted to become professional for all the activity related to crops and soil management. In these tow year of experience working at the farm, I had the chance to take part and also manage independently all the main horticulture practices following the work in the different seasons. I associated practical work in study sessions. Those were essential in collecting observations and theoretical knowledge and to analyze the outcome of the work.
I have officially worked as a biodynamic apprentice for two months and two weeks. Upon reflection everything has changed since starting my apprenticeship, I feel, possibly for the first time in my life, that I have found something that truly makes sense to me, something that awakens my will to do, whilst encouraging my soul to sing and be playful. Physically, mentally and emotionally I face great challenges each and every day, although exhausting at times the reward has always been far greater than the challenges faced.
My initial intentions were to learn all there is to know about growing biodynamic food, little did I know that ‘farming’ means animal husbandry rather than ‘gardening’, however after two weeks as a farmers apprentice, I was walking, relatively comfortably, among great beasts, I once feared. Not only was I milking these beautiful creatures but being kicked by them and taught great life lessons all at the same time. I feel extremely privileged to be working with cattle. The feeling you get when moving with a heard in the pitch black of an early morning or late night, as their calm steadiness lives in the atmosphere and it is palpable, is something I will treasure for my whole life. Not to mention that at 6 am in the milking parlour when no one is about and you are in need of a good heart to heart, you can always count on Sara or Charlotte to lend a listening, fury ear and some calming reassurance.
My biggest challenge to date was running the farm for two weeks whilst the farmer went on a much-deserved holiday. I learnt a great deal about the animals, companions (special needs adults) and myself. The pressure of running the farm and single-handedly, coordinating six to ten companions (when carer didn’t show up) was something indeed. This experience has helped me understand my strengths and limitations and taught me that it is ok to ask for assistance in the future otherwise I am bound to burn out before the apprenticeship is complete.
Mentally and Emotionally it has been extremely challenging at times, what with leaving the familiar, only seeing my partner every two weeks and moving into a new community of people you don’t know. Suddenly being in charge of telling carers, who have worked at Sturts community trust way longer than I have, what to do on the farm was really challenging at first but I seem to be finding my rhythm. I have also found managing my time between the all absorbing farm work and study something that needs constant regulating and I have been struggling to find the balance but have no doubt I will figure it out. There have been moments of great loneliness but I am also adjusting quickly and beginning to settle into my role as I come to discover what is expected of me and what I want to gain from this incredible experience. Working with the companions brings great joy and great challenges but the light that they bring to your every day is truly extraordinary.
Physically, shaaaaaw, I have gotten strong and love feeling fit and healthy, even when you are exhausted from a week’s work you feel good because the weariness is wholesome and the progress made is often of visible. I will continue with love, happiness and gratitude in my day-to-day work as I acquire knowledge and do the work that makes the most sense to me; where work and life are synonymous, where my soul resonates with the world around me, where I feel I am in the right place at the right time and where my values are strengthened, where my interests are supported, and finally that I have this opening in my life to stand on the shoulders of the biodynamic giants, right here and right now in the present whilst preparing for the future.
I started the BioDynamic training with the idea to deepen my Anthroposophical understanding about the world and our part as Humans in it. So far by being able to “practice what I preach” I have more that just “met” my expectations. I’m very happy with what I can “see” happening in Nature/Community Life and Cities around the area where I live.
I have noticed a change in my Physical, mental and emotional sides. I grow my hair at the moment, I know what to eat, when and why, so my workouts and eating are in relation to one another, also my sleeping cycles and fasting cycles around Full moons and New moons etc. My mentality is wider and thinking (imagination ) is developed and sharper, swifter. I’m able to recognize my emotions and distinguish them from one another, which leads to action in a proper way. Over all, I feel that my thinking, willing and filling are taking a great turn around BioDynamics/Anthroposophy.
My values have changed slightly but in a relation of developed, understood and deepend. Community with people, animals, plants, minerals (Nature) and the Hierarchies really gives Harmony and Love to my Life, which I’m able to recognize and express gratitude. Even the fact that I’m allowed to take that kind of training (BD), Thank you!
“ Some words from some people about the change in me “
- – “ Less judgmental about events and people’s behaviour”
- – “ Sopped doing activities that you(the student) really enjoyed because of your time being filled from your studies and interest in the new subject”
- – “ Accepting and open “
- – “ Carrying and Giving”
I think at the beginning of the training my expectations were fairly wide, really, I just wanted to make a living working on the land, gaining experience which would enable me to have a career that I enjoyed which was outside. I did, however, plan to use the biodynamic apprenticeship as a step to get onto the herbal medicine degree course which I am now on, and the biodynamic course definitely helped me match the criteria required by the college, as I needed some kind of level 3 training, and the esoteric side of biodynamics was relevant for the holistic side of herbalism. It has continued to shape my professional life choices, I am now also studying Astrology with the Faculty of Astrological Studies, and the week on Astronomy really spurred me on to do that. I am also starting to incorporate Alchemy into my studies with an aim to correspond it with the astro-herbalism, and that was largely inspired by our course with Jonathan Code. Studying biodynamics was an amazing way to learn some of the key principles of Alchemy, there seems to be a lot of correspondences. In the long-term, I want to start a cottage business of a biodynamic herb garden to make spagyric tinctures.
The Biodynamic training has really helped me define what I love and am passionate about in life, and what I really want my life to be about. The very things that drew me to the apprenticeship in the first place were the spiritual, esoteric aspect of biodynamics, and that is now what I am following. I definitely feel my work on the farm gave me a real sense of the way the landscape changes and is alive. The work on the farm was certainly challenging, it really pushed me with what I am capable of, both emotionally and physically. I look back, and I’m really proud that I did it, and that I tried and worked so hard at something that I found so difficult. I now go back to the farm twice a year for preparation days, and I can have a really good relationship with Jo, and know that all the work paid off. Through the influence of the training, I’ve stepped into a whole new life that I love, subjects that I really love that sustain and fulfil me.
I was wondering what’s the best next step for me to take in signing up to do the bio-dynamic apprenticeship?
The first step is to contact some work placements of your choice from the vacancy list at our website. Make contact describe yourself and what you are looking for and why. Take time to visit those possible placements too, best spend a trial period. When you have agreed on a start date at one of our registered work placements you register with us. Then you will receive detailed training information and your first invoice after you have started your placement. Note questions to clarify with placements – see below in this section.
Documentsdocuments to download
The following Work Placements / Training Centres have placements available – contact them directly to start your practical training
- Loch Arthur Camphill Community – therapeutic community farm/garden: vegetables, fruit, flowers
- Shire Farm – large commercial farm: animals, grain, grapes and special crops for Auro Soma remedies
- Seed Co-operative – commercial vegetable and flower seed production
- Camphill Grangemockler – Templemichael Farm – therapeutic community farm/garden: animals, arable, vegetables
- Fern Verrow – commercial smallholding: vegetables, fruit, flowers, animals
- Akiki Organics – commercial garden: vegetables, fruit, chickens
- Heckfield Place – large commercial farm/ garden/ woodlands: animals, vegetables, fruit, flowers
- Plaw Hatch Farm – CSA – large commercial CSA farm/garden: vegetables
- Sturts Farm and Garden – therapeutic community farm/garden: animals, arable, vegetables
- Huxham Cross Farm – large commercial CSA farm/garden: vegetables, fruit
- Laines Organic Farm – commercial garden: vegetables, fruit
- Camphill Ballybay – therapeutic community farm/garden: animals, vegetables
- Cait Curran – small commercial garden: vegetables, nutrition courses
- Laverstoke Farm – commercial farm: dairy, parkland
The following centres currently have NO vacancies:
- Tablehurst Farm & Garden – CSA – large commercial CSA farm: animals, vegetables, arable
- Weleda – commercial garden: medicinal herbs & plants, seeds
- Garvald Farm – therapeutic community farm/garden: animals, vegetables
- ASHA Centre – therapeutic garden: vegetables, fruit, flowers, herbs
- Waltham Place – a commercial estate with an emphasis on conservation and ecosystem
- Lauriston Farm – therapeutic community farm/garden: animals, vegetables, conservation landscape
- Camphill Grangebeg – therapeutic community farm/garden: animals, vegetables
- Camphill Community Duffcarrig -therapeutic community farm/garden: animals, vegetables
- Yatesbury House Farm – large commercial farm: animals, arable
- Hungary Lane Farm – large commercial farm: animals, arable, vegetables
- Stroud Community Agriculture – CSA – commercial CSA farm/garden: vegetables, animals