The Diploma in Biodynamic Farming and Gardening is an Ofqual
Regulated qualification awarded by Crossfields Institute
. It was designed as a collaboration between the Biodynamic Agricultural College and Crossfields Institute to be delivered by BDAC and is endorsed by the Biodynamic Board of Studies and the Biodynamic Association
. Crossfields Institute assures the quality and standard of the training and assessment offering a meaningful and internationally accepted vocational qualification.
Students who enrol on the Diploma course should have a minimum of six months practical experience in land-based work. In addition, it is essential that students have the capacity for self-guided study, the motivation for active learning and an open attitude to biodynamic perspectives. An equivalent to GCSE level education (level 2) and a minimum age of 18 is required, though due to the nature of the training, an age of at least 21 is recommended (there is no upper age limit). Students should be willing and able to physically work in an agricultural environment throughout the seasons and to work in the normal routines of the placement. This can sometimes mean long working hours and weekend work. Each training centre will also have their own requirements including the respect of health and safety, general rules of conduct and possibly the need for a valid driving license. If you currently have no practical experience and are interested in the training, there are a few ways to gain some practical experience. Some of the training centres offer seasonal volunteer placements, or you can take a look at the links below for routes to gain experience. www.wwoof.org.uk www.communitysupportedagriculture.org.uk
Students identify a work placement in a farm or garden from the list of training centres below. When you begin the work placement you become an employed trainee at the training centre which includes a contract with the farm for working hours (usually 35-44 hours per week with seasonal flexibility) and a wage (all farms pay at least minimum wage). These wages should be enough to cover your living expenses and the cost of your training (which is a £500 initial payment followed by 24 monthly payments of £450). These payments include all the costs of your training on and off the farm: 40 days of seminars, accommodation and lunches during the seminars, personal support, quality assurance, registration and assessment. There is no specific date for starting the training, this is usually done in negotiation with the training centre and although it is often most convenient for a training centre to have new students joining in Spring or Autumn, enrolment for the diploma course are welcome throughout the year. The seminars
are on a continuous rotation and are flexible to meet students’ needs.
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. M.G. 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. J.W. 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. J.H. 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. N.L. 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. K.S. 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”
T.N. 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. F.M.
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.
Would I be living, eating, sleeping at the farm for the year and its all paid for through working?
This varies from farm to farm. Most work placements offer accommodation on-site. Some help you to find local accommodation off-site. Some placements offer shared lunches. The cost for these are also varied, please, explore and clarify at the relevant placement. Note questions to clarify with placements – see below in this section.
Can you clarify the price and how it is paid for?
The price for the BDAC work-based training is £500 when you start your training, followed by 24 months of £450 by the end of each month (after you should have received your monthly employment payment at the work placement/farm).
£500 + £5400/year (2xyears) = £10,800 for the total training and diploma costs. Your employment income is at the minimum wage (from April 2019) of £7.70 (21-24 years age), £8.21 (25 and older) for 48 weeks per year (4 weeks you will be at BDAC seminars with accommodation, teaching and lunches provided by the BDAC), you will be working between 35-44 hours per week.
Almost half of the training fee the BDAC returns to ‘your’ work placement/farm to pay for your work placement training. The rest covers BDAC seminars, portfolio assessments, quality assurance, individual support and visits at your work placement, registration and certification costs, general admin and course development. However, some placements remunerate your work, by paying all your living and training expenses incl. pocket-money.
Really, this training is not expensive. Seminar days are cheap compared to most other training. Your training is unique, its: professional, certified, comprehensive, holistic and covers biodynamic, organic and permaculture aspects. Our training rewards the work placements with grants to ensure their commitment to training you, which is half of your BDAC fee.
Consider, you are getting a thorough education without causing debt.
I would like to inquire about how the £450 monthly payments work, please could you send me information about this.
Out of your monthly salary, you will be able to pay 24 months £450 to the BDAC by setting up a standing order with your bank.
Do you have semesters? In other words, do students get a break after months of education? Or is it a full 2-year education schedule without any break?
The work-based training is not college based. You are based at your work placement for two years. Each year in autumn one week, in January two/three weeks and in March one week all students from all over the UK and Ireland come together for seminars. The classroom-based seminars are at different locations to offer a range of local farm visits. Therefore we have no semesters. You will have a number of holidays during your work placement (about 27 days per year, incl. Bank holidays). Your education is classroom-based during seminars and practical based during your work placement.
Could you give some information regarding accommodation? What are my options?
Your accommodation is deferent from work placement to work placement. It could be a caravan, room at the farm or room/flat in the local area of your work placement. You need to find out what is on offer or possible at the individual placement. Costs, therefore, will range.
Accommodation at seminars is paid for by your monthly payments to the BDAC. Usually, they are one- or two-bedrooms. Note questions to clarify with placements – see below in this section.
Would it be an option to start at the beginning of December?
Yes, you can start in December, then your first seminar would be in January. The seminars run continues and your last one would be in autumn two years later. You can start at any time of the year. However, when you can start depends on your work placements requirements/possibilities. You need to make relevant arrangements with your work placement.
Information to find out from your work placement:
– How many hours work per week? (hourly minimum wage payment depending on your age: 25 and over £8.21; 21-24 £7.70).
– What are the weekend and holiday arrangements?
– What accommodation is on offer and what are the costs?
– What arrangements are there for food? Are there any shared meals? Can one get free/cheap farm/garden produce?
– What will the work be?
– What will you be able to learn?