On Thursday, November 15, just before the 2012 Biodynamic Conference, the North American Biodynamic Apprenticeship Program (NABDAP) held its first-ever apprentice gathering. Now in its fourth year, NABDAP combines two years of on-farm training and mentoring with a course of classroom study, farm visits and an independent project, culminating a certificate in biodynamic farming from the Biodynamic Association.

At the gathering fourteen NABDAP apprentices from California, Colorado, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Quebec and Washington came together with a dozen other young biodynamic farmers from Illinois, Kansas, New York, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin to meet and share ideas and inspiration. We began by pairing up with someone we didn't know, introducing our selves to each other, and then introducing the other to the group. With a sense of the whole, we invited everyone to divide into small groups for a series conversations in a World Café. (For more about the World Café, please visit www.theworldcafe.com.)

The first conversations centered on the question, “What is the future asking of us?” – As young biodynamic farmers, what is the task before us? What do we feel called to do? In groups of 4-5 people, we spent 20 minutes exploring this question, with everyone invited to write and draw emerging ideas on their table's paper tablecloth. Then -- with one person stay at each table as a host -- participants moved to new tables to continue the conversation with another small group. We then shared key insights with the whole group, bringing ideas such as “community,” “sustainability,” “recreating the food narrative,” “overcoming our fears,” “connecting” and “heart.”

In a final round of conversations, we asked the question, “What support do we need as young farmers?” These conversations led to practical suggestions for strengthening NABDAP, including adding a searchable database of skills taught at mentor farms, creating a web-based social forum, and increasing support from and for regional coordinators. Participants also identified a need for spiritual growth and inspiration, financial support and new models of ownership, and developing their own capacities through experience, learning and information exchange. Images of the tablecloths and whole group reflections are in the slideshow above.

The gathering concluded with a lecture from renowned biodynamic gardener and beekeeper Gunther Hauk, who addressed the responsibility of young farmers toward the earth, through personal growth, farming and community.

For more information about the apprenticeship program, please visit our program pages or contact Thea Maria Carlson at nabdap@biodynamics.com or 262.649.9212 ext. 5.