Deanna Perlman began the North American Biodynamic Apprenticeship Program in spring of 2013. She spent one year at S&S Homestead in Washington and one year at Hill and Hollow in Kentucky. Both are small, diverse family farms. Her background is in textiles and fiber arts, which developed into the focus of her apprenticeship—learning about sheep and fibers. As she approaches graduation, Erin Schneider asked Deanna to share her experiences and insights with us.
What inspired you to pursue biodynamic agriculture and participate in NABDAP?
I chose NABDAP because I did a three-month internship on a farm that encouraged me to pursue farming and agriculture—to learn more and gain greater skills and competence. It’s not enough just to know about a subject, but to do it. Farmers are a wealth of knowledge, and it’s probably because they experience and interact with their subject everyday. That is what is so attractive to me about apprenticing. Learning from and working with such knowledgeable, not to mention highly skilled, people provides a far richer education than sitting in a desk. Being a farmer is dedicating yourself to being a life-long learner. My hope is that my hands-on training through NABDAP will help me to be a better farm and fiber educator in the future.
What elements of your apprenticeship training have been the most valuable to you?
Living on a farm has been such a different living condition than what I grew up with. To live simply and away from the consumer world has proven to be very valuable. To be able to live without having to go shopping all the time has allowed me to realize what creates happy, whole human beings.
Additionally, I share the vision with biodynamics that agriculture has a key role to play in revitalizing communities across the globe in both urban and rural settings. It all goes back to the core truth that we are all connected. A life of farming is not an isolated one as some might think, void of human contact and culture. It is the center of it. From this experience I have developed rich, deep relationships within the farm community.
What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in becoming a biodynamic farmer or gardener?
My advice would be to spend time reflecting about what you want your future to look like. From this, develop a clear vision or goal. That’s what keeps you going when it gets difficult. The extent and demand of farming is intense—having a clear vision and goal will help keep you going.
Also, while I have had immense support from friends and family, I didn’t have their footsteps to follow in. That is why I was encouraged by the well-known mythologist Joseph Campbell. He wrote, “if you can see the path laid out for you step by step, you know it’s not your path…. Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” As I look back I see doors that have opened and a path unfolding. Even now, I can’t say where my next steps will lead, but it’s exciting to think of all the possibilities.
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
I plan to continue to pursue combining my skills with education in some way—on a farm or at a school. I would like to work with children and incorporate the physical labor of farming with the artistic and creative work of fiber arts. To find and invest in a community of people who share my same interests and goals—someplace to teach within the biodynamic and Waldorf community.