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The Next Generation Makes Connections at the Biodynamic Youth Gathering

October 28, 2010

By Paula Manalo

Attendees at the Youth Gathering introduce themselves

With a focus on the “Future of Agriculture,” the Biodynamic National Conference appropriately held a space for the carriers of that future — the next generation of young people in biodynamics. The conference had not yet officially started, but the Threefold Café at the Threefold Educational Center brimmed with chatter and excitement on the morning of Thursday, September 30, as the “Biodynamic Youth Group” met for the first time. I was honored and excited to help plan this initiative with other 20- and 30-somethings across North America. Facilitating the gathering with me were Ben Wilson from Angelic Organics, Megan Durney and Jessica Mansbach from the Pfeiffer Center, Seth Jordan from Think OutWord, and Silvia Zuur from the Agriculture Section and Youth Section in Dornach. This meeting was the beginning of networking and learning and provided a strong foundation for the rest of the conference weekend.

Over 50 people attended the Biodynamic Youth Gathering, with individuals coming from as far away as New Mexico, Puerto Rico, and even Singapore. The event was inspiring and fun as we sought ways to connect with each other. After verbally introducing ourselves, everyone shared images of what inspired them in agriculture, and together, quietly and consciously, we created a collage. Through those pictures, we met as individuals and then we began to relate with one another by creating something together.

The highlight of the gathering was the World Café — a simple conversational process that can bring forth a group’s collective consciousness. The group was presented with the question: “What is your picture of the future of agriculture?” On each table was a candle and a paper tablecloth on which folks could doodle upon while conversing. We spent three 20-minute sessions in small groups of about 5-6 people discussing this question — each session beginning with a rotation to a new table with new people to discuss the same topic. Everyone had a unique background that shaped their perspective of current agriculture and their vision.

Harvest from the World Café

After the lively discussions, we came back together as a large group to harvest our thoughts. In just a couple words, we each wrote down the highlight of our conversations and posted it on the wall for all to see. “Co-create optimism,” “Alternative economic models,” “Farm as center,” “Cultivate wonder,” “Awareness,” and “Regenerative culture” were just a few of those fruits. Those conversations were just the beginning of creating deeper connections and formulating pictures of “the future of agriculture.”

We then had a quiet moment to journal and answer: “What questions am I left with?” and “What do I want to get out of the rest of the conference?” We were examining how individually we would move into the future with pictures we created together. The networking had opened up, and we had the rest of the conference to build upon those connections in person. The meeting closed with everyone singing a song led by Jessica. There was a sense of camaraderie and optimism when we left the gathering, and our energy radiated throughout the conference, from the youth panel in the conference opening session later that evening to the Biodynamic Food and Wine Tasting, which raised funds for biodynamic beginning farmer, youth, and apprentice programs.

Megan Durney speaks at the Young Farmer Panel

The first seven graduates of the North American Biodynamic Apprenticeship Program receive their diplomas at the Food and Wine Tasting (©Natt McFee)

After surveying the meeting attendees, it has become clear that there is a need for this new group. During an open space networking session at the conference, a few of us met again to talk about the possibilities in forming this group. Seeds were sown at the Biodynamic Youth Gathering, and we need to cultivate these plantings to thrive into the future. There is a yearning to share experiences, learn from one another, and meet in person and do something together in the future. The core group who helped manifest this gathering will look at next steps, including the purpose of this initiative and its potential structure. Stay tuned to hear more about this budding group of the biodynamic next generation!

Paula Manalo co-manages Mendocino Organics, a diverse biodynamic farm in Northern California. Paula is a Board member of the Biodynamic Association and is active with The Greenhorns Project, a non-profit group passionate to recruit and support young farmers across the country.

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