In February I was invited to give a workshop to the final year biodynamic apprentices on land, as part of their seminar weekend on economics.
The Biodynamic Apprenticeship is run on over 20 biodynamic farms and gardens across the UK. It offers participants a two year programme of practical land work interspersed with seminars to top up theoretical knowledge of how a biodynamic holding sits within an ecosystem. Seminars cover diverse themes such as animal phenomenology, genius loci and weather forecasting.
The economics seminar offers the opportunity for apprentices to deepen their understanding of the approach of Rudolf Steiner to economics and the concept of threefolding, as well as practical insights into farm businesses and different models of land connection and ownership.
The workshop I delivered gave apprentices a background into the history of land ownership in the UK and then focused on ways in which entrant farmers can access land. We looked at the issues around farm succession, innovative approaches to land partnerships, a crash course in farm tenancies and also at starter farms, a model of farming in which a landowning farmer leases land and often support through mentoring and equipment to an entrant farmer or grower, enabling them to get started in their farm business.
The experience clarified for me what entrant farmers face. Given that 70% of land in Great Britain is owned by 0.6% of the population, and 35% of land hasn’t changed hands in the last 90 years, these apprentices face great challenges and opportunities in the farming journeys ahead of them. Their concerns were about access to capital, whether CSA and land trust schemes could offer them fair pensions/retirement plans, and they were curious about the potential of community land trusts, starter farms and how existing legal structures and organisations can support them.
Entrant farmers are full of enthusiasm and ready to farm creatively, conscientiously and sustainably – through initiatives such as CLTs we can create the potential for them to realise this path.
For more information about the Biodynamic Apprenticeship scheme, check out their hub at the Biodynamic Association site here.