Apprentice Learning Programme Details
The apprenticeship learning programme is a validated programme regulated by Crossfields Institute and certified by Edexcel. On completion, graduates receive a level 3 ("A" level equivalent) diploma in Biodynamic farming and gardening. The training continues to be a practical farmer-led operation. Apprentices are expected to work on the farm in return for board lodging and training. It is an arrangement of mutual benefit.
Practical Training: Apprentices learn while working alongside experienced farmers or gardeners and the programme is essentially practical in nature. All aspects of the daily and seasonal work carried out on the chosen farm or garden are introduced in a direct hands-on-way. The keeping of a daily work diary is a required learning tool as well as being an invaluable resource for later reference.
Tutorials: Each week there is a tutorial session in which questions and issues relating to practical work are discussed.
Study sessions: There are weekly study sessions to work through Rudolf Steiner’s Agriculture Course as well as another one of his basic books such as Theosophy, Occult Science or The Philosophy of Freedom. Such study is best undertaken in a group and for this reason participation by interested persons beyond the apprenticeship programme is often encouraged.
Block Courses & Seminars: There are two week-long block courses each year. Over two years these four block courses cover Soils; Plant and plant husbandry; Animals and their care and Astronomy respectively. These courses are attended by apprentices from all over the country and take place at different venues. Field trips and farm visits are often included.
In parts of the country where several farms are in the vicinity of one another, regional seminars are also held. These provide further opportunities for gaining deeper insights into the background and practice of biodynamics. In more isolated situations other creative ways are found to provide these opportunities by drawing on local experts and invited guests.
Independent study: Students are encouraged to undertake their own studies and at times present information to fellow students and tutors. A reading list is available with a list of suggested titles. These books are available from the BDA library or can be purchased from its book stall. Some may also be available in the farm library.
Projects: Apprentices are required to prepare a farm profile of the holding during their first year and complete a project of their choice by the end of the second year. This is then presented to fellow students and tutors when they graduate.
Diploma in Biodynamic Agriculture: To graduate an apprentice must have completed the required number of units and participated in all the seminars and block courses. The portfolio of evidence also includes an up-to-date work diary, appropriate records of their seminar work, the farm profile and final project documentation. The internationally recognised level 3 diploma, accredited by Edexcel is awarded by Crossfields Institute.
During the course of two years four week-long block courses are given – two in the first year and two in the second (timetable). The first year courses are 'Soils' and 'Plants', the second year ones are 'Animals' and 'Astronomy'. Each course includes practical and artistic activities and often field trips. Apprentices are given some aspect of the subject to prepare and share during the course. There is also time for discussion and for getting to know one another.
The courses cover the following subject areas:
Year 1: Soils
knowledge of the physical and living properties of soil; principles of soil development and fertility; soil management, cultivation and cropping sequences; importance of animals for fertility; skills in observing, testing and interpreting soil constituents, texture & structure (silica, clay, limestone)
Plant observation using Goethean techniques; crop rotations, companion planting and garden planning; health maintenance and pest prevention; seed saving and plant breeding principles;
Understanding animal nature; observational skills to care for livestock; housing, breeding, rearing and feeding; health and illness
Heliocentric and geocentric viewpoints; constellations and planets; Planetary influences and the planting calendar; world evolution — from a spiritual scientific perspective
There are two regional groups offering seminars – 'Severn Valley Group' and the 'South Group'.
Severn Valley Group Centres are: Grange village, Oaklands Park, Watchoak Farm, Stroud Community Agriculture, Ruskin Mill, Coleg Elydir, Fern Verrow, Valehead Farm, Botton Village. Click here for latest Severn Valley Seminars Programme 2013-14
Ten three day seminars are arranged at approximately six week intervals over two years.
South Group Centres are: Sturts Farm, Tablehurst Farm, Michael Hall Garden, Plaw Hatch Farm
Twelve two day seminars are arranged over two years
Additional BDAA Courses (optional)
A regular workshop with forestry practitioners exploring different aspects of tree craft and including a practical introduction to the biodynamic approach.
A regular workshop for people interested in learning more about bees and managing them according to Demeter guidelines.
Reading list (Please click here to download a current reading list - pdf)