"I want to gain the power to nourish in a healthy and sustainable way. I want to work within and heighten my understanding of a biodynamic farm system through a program that enables not only hands-on training, but also educational opportunities."
- Abby, NABDAP apprentice
The North American Biodynamic Apprenticeship Program (NABDAP) helps aspiring farmers develop the skills and knowledge they need to build successful organic and biodynamic farms. An internationally recognized program of the Biodynamic Association, NABDAP combines on-farm training and mentoring and with a course of classroom study to provide a strong foundation in both the practical and theoretical aspects of biodynamic agriculture.
Apprentices complete 24 months of structured on-farm training on one or more of NABDAP's participating mentor farms, guided by the program's comprehensive skills checklists. Detailing over 100 skills in nine categories - including plant cultivation and management, animal husbandry, biodynamic preparations, equipment, business management and more - the checklists help apprentices understand what they can learn on each mentor farm, identify and focus on the skills they wish to master, and track their progress through the course of their training.
During the on-farm training, NABDAP apprentices keep a farm journal, honing their observation skills and creating a record of their training that can be a valuable resource for future years. Over the course of the season, apprentices visit several other farms in the area, adding breadth to the on-farm experience and facilitating networking with other farmers and apprentices. In their second year, apprentices have the opportunity to design and carry out an independent project on the farm, such as keeping bees, building a chicken coop, or taking on management of a small area of the farm.
NABDAP's mentor farms are carefully screened to ensure that they exemplify good biodynamic or organic farming practices. All of our mentor farmers are dedicated to providing a quality educational experience for their apprentices. Mentor farmers agree to use NABDAP's tools to help provide structure to the apprenticeship, and to provide a detailed evaluation of the apprentices' work at the end of the season.
The on-farm training is complemented by a course in biodynamic farming through one of NABDAP's participating classroom study courses. Each course addresses essential elements of biodynamic farming either through a series of weekend workshops or longer intensives. Classroom study courses are located in several places in the United States and Canada, and are taught by experts in the theory and practice of biodynamic agriculture. Tuition assistance for classroom study is available to apprentices with financial need through the Biodynamic Scholarship Fund.
By enrolling in NABDAP, apprentices join a network of farmers that is both regional in focus and multi-national in scope. NABDAP's regional coordinators help apprentices meet other farmers in their area through regional gatherings, farm visits, and local farmer groups such as CRAFT. The connections to mentors and peers enrich the learning process during the program, and can continue to be fruitful for years to come. Apprentices who are not already members of the Biodynamic Association also receive a one-year introductory membership with their enrollment fee, connecting them to the broader biodynamic community and giving them access to the online Biodynamics Journal and Biodynamic Directory. Upon successful completion of the program, apprentices are awarded a certificate, presented at a ceremony during the biennial North American Biodynamic Conference. NABDAP graduates are considered journeyman farmers, ready to take on a position of responsibility on a farm.