North American Biodynamic Apprenticeship Program > Mentor Farmer Gatherings

participants in farmer mentor workshop The 3rd annual NABDAP Mentor Farmer workshop, "The Art & Business of On-Farm Mentoring" took place over the weekend of February 4-6, 2011, on the Rudolf Steiner College campus in Fair Oaks, California. The conference was hosted by the Biodynamic Association of Northern California (BDANC) and sponsored by BDANC, the Agriculture Section of the Anthroposophical Society, the Biodynamic Center at Rudolf Steiner College, and the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association.

The workshop was a wonderful success, with 52 people in attendance, 20 of whom participated in presentations. There were farmers and past apprentices from as close as Steiner College’s own Raphael Garden to as far as Pennsylvania, and people representing supportive organizations from California, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, we were able to offer the conference at a low cost for participants and offer travel assistance to several farmers and presenters.

The main focus of the workshop was the current "hot" issue of the legality of apprenticeships. Many of the farmers attending were finding out for the first time that they have been operating out of compliance with labor laws. Farmers nationwide have been devastated by this issue, and it is almost impossible for them to find information or help in resolving it. A variety of organizations are attempting to address this gap, but many of them have been working independently and often without the input of these small farm educators.

People and organizations who had never met did so over the weekend. There was an outpouring of support and goodwill. Several connections were made that hold great promise for a resolution to the issues discussed, and there has been a subsequent flurry of activity as the participating organizations have begun working together on a legislative solution. For notes and materials from the conference, download the conference proceedings (pdf) and appendices (pdf).