Progress report for ENC20-188
Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition. The Biodynamic Association (BDA) is a force for scaling and deepening biodynamic agriculture in the United States and beyond. Building on our successful experiences in developing a variety of educational opportunities, we are seeking funding from SARE to pilot a three-day, in-person Spanish language training in biodynamics in collaboration with Angelic Organics Learning Center (AOLC).
The training will take place in Caledonia, Illinois, on Angelic Organics Farm and will serve as a prototype for future expansion of Spanish language biodynamic education throughout the United States. This innovative program will provide an important foundation from which we will be able to provide extensive training to connect with and serve Latinx and Spanish-speaking farmworkers, farmers, gardeners, and land stewards.
Intensivo Biodinamico will reach 30 Latinx farm managers and farm employees from peer farms in the Upper Midwest CRAFT farmer alliance. The multi-day training format includes activities that will enable participants to integrate biodynamic principles and practices into their work and land stewardship. Empowering Latinx people working on and stewarding biodynamic and organic farms will foster outcomes such as strengthened relationships in the on-farm communities through a shared knowledge of biodynamics among all participants (workers/managers/owners), who will collectively and collaboratively build farm and community vitality together. Additionally, this will create awareness and opportunities for Latinx participants to access other biodynamic learning opportunities including the BDA’s Biodynamic Farmer Training Program and farmer-to-farmer education initiative.
The first output of this project will be a curriculum and training design for a 3-day residential Spanish language training in biodynamic and organic agriculture, which can be adapted to other modalities as needed. This will include materials for trainers as well as handouts, worksheets, and other materials for participants. The design will also include a comprehensive evaluation plan and related materials which can be used for future trainings.
Our target is for 30 Latinx farmers and farmworkers to receive three full days of instruction that encompasses principles and theory of biodynamic agriculture and practical methods for implementing biodynamics on farms of various scales and types of crops and livestocks, as well as information about pathways to farm ownership and resources for support.
We anticipate that five people will participate as trainers and three people will participate as evaluators in this pilot, learning and practicing how to provide informative, practical, and engaging training in biodynamic agriculture.
In addition, a number of support staff from the BDA and AOLC will be involved with producing and evaluating the pilot and therefore become better equipped to support future related trainings.
While we are still waiting to offer our programming due to Covid-19 barriers, we are still committed to the educational approach in our original program design. Intensivo Biodinamico is envisioned as a three-day course that allows Spanish speaking farmers and farm employees to deepen their understanding of biodynamic agriculture and to explore pathways towards farm ownership. The course will explore the “why” of biodynamics, including its principles and foundations; the “how”, including the practices that contribute to the fertility and health of the whole farm organism; challenges faced by Latinx farmers and farm employees; and pathways to farm ownership for Latinx farmers. A diverse training team will draw on leadership from Latinx farmers. The course will utilize a variety of popular education modalities in the design that are appropriate to the cultural, educational, and language characteristics of the Spanish speaking farmers and farm employees. It will also create opportunities for stronger social networks among Latinx farmers and farmworkers in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.
Hosting the training as a three-day residential course will enable participants to engage in a greater depth of learning than would be possible through individual single-day workshops, as well as help to develop relationships among participants and between trainers and participants through sharing meals and lodging through the course of the training. These relationships fostered through the training will enable participants to call on each other for mutual support and continued learning after they return to their farms.
Specific activities over the course of the three-day intensive will be formed around some of the following sets of guiding questions and goals:
- Who is in the room? Who and what lessons did we bring with us? Who walked the land before us? What did our abuelos/abuelas teach us? Acknowledge and ground the workshop in the experiences and histories of the cultures in the Americas: Indigenous, European, African, and more.
- What does agriculture look like today, and how did it get this way?
- What does biodynamic agriculture offer to farmers, communities, and the Earth in the current moment? Gain an overall perspective of biodynamic agriculture and its practices.
- Who or what is Angelic Organics? Introduce participants to a farm organism and farm individuality via Angelic Organics Farm and its partners AOLC and AOA.
- What do you perceive on the farm? What are your questions on the farm?
- Who are your fellow farmers? Meet other participants and share ideas.
- How can I apply what I’ve learned to my life and my farm or garden? Provide an opportunity to consider next steps for application to participants’ existing or future farms and gardens.
- How can I move from farm worker to farm owner? How can the biodynamic community support me in stepping into farm ownership and shaping a farm organism that heals?
- What questions emerge for me about biodynamic agriculture? Offer questions to help clarify understanding.
Learning methodologies in which the training will be grounded include:
- Questions guide learning
- Head-heart-hands: engaging the whole person
- Storytelling, awareness of our narratives and openness to new ones
- Biographies of ourselves and farms and life
- Experiential, hands-on farming tasks
- Popular education
- Sociodramas (social skits), cooperative learning, role plays, dinámicas (educational games)
- Farmer-to-farmer interaction
By taking a popular education approach that acknowledges and respects participants’ existing knowledge and experience, we aim to create a space in which participants can find linkages to new (or perhaps in some ways renewed) practices from their own perspective. The course location at Angelic Organics Farm will naturally provide a hands-on, experiential context. These two aspects together lead to an increased probability that participants will have a meaningful and impactful learning experience that they will remember and be motivated to carry forward in future actions, such as the outcomes described below.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
To increase knowledge of the principles and practices of organic and biodynamic agriculture, and knowledge of the challenges to moving into farm ownership and to the pathways to ownership that include access to opportunities and resources for training, land, financing, and markets, for 30 Latinx farmers/farm workers.
We plan to train up to 30 Spanish-speaking farmers and farmworkers through this course. We anticipate that most or all of these farmers will not have previously engaged in biodynamic education, and that their participation will enable them to integrate biodynamic principles and practices into their work and land stewardship— whether as farm owners, farm managers, or workers—thereby improving soil, plant, and animal health, generating greater on-farm fertility, decreasing pest and disease issues, increasing biodiversity, enhancing the quality and nutritional content of food. They will be able to share their new knowledge with co-workers and family members in the US and abroad, thereby greatly increasing and extending the impact of the course beyond the three days at Angelic Organics Farm.
We expect that this training will result in the following intermediate and long-term outcomes for participants:
- They have implemented at least one new biodynamic practice they learned about on their farms or in their farming work.
- They have educated or communicated with peer farmers and/or employees on their farms about biodynamic agriculture.
- They have taken steps to explore pathways to farm ownership and connect to opportunities and resources for training, land, financing, and markets.
In addition, we expect this project to have a significant impact on the trainers and facilitators of the training in the following ways:
- They feel confident in providing Spanish language training about biodynamic principles and practices.
- They know how to integrate education about farming practices with information about support available for farmworkers wishing to move towards farm ownership.
- They plan to integrate at least five of the nine learning modalities that will be used in this training in future trainings that they facilitate.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Our design team completed the draft curriculum in the first year of the grant but implementation of the pilot of the Intensivo Biodinamico was postponed due to the pandemic. In the interim, our design team members, more than a dozen farmers and farmer educators from the US and Mexico, continued to give input on the draft curriculum. Several handouts identified in the design process have been completed and translated, if necessary, from English to Spanish. The design team has one handout nearly completed in this period, and that handout is pending translation. The Biodynamic Association continued to coordinate the translations of these written materials/handouts.
The coordinators considered the possibility of converting to a virtual platform and after considerable conversation determined that this was not a viable option. This course is built around the culture and learning modalities that will most successfully deliver the workshop content. The planned participants for the pilot workshop, farm workers and farm owners who are primarily Spanish-speaking on farms in our region, in general prefer oral learning traditions and in person farmer-to-farmer communities of learning. We are grateful that SARE is willing to extend the period of the grant to allow for rescheduling this pilot workshop when the pandemic has waned sufficient to deliver the workshop in person (hosted overnight in the on-farm lodging).