The programme team

The programme team 2017-11-17T22:36:24+00:00

The programme team will include expert Biodynamic Farmers from across Ruskin Mill Trust. In addition, throughout the programme visiting speakers will be invited to contribute to the programme.

Members of the training team include:

Peter van Vliet (programme lead), Aonghus Gordon, Berni Courts, Dr Mandy Nelson, Ed Berger, Sean Murphy, Roberto Romano, Stuart Cragg, Tyll van der Voort, Matt Briggs, Constantin Court, Mattias Emous, Chloe Hindmarsh (educational lead).

Guest lecturers on the programme are likely to include:

Dr Peter Gruenewald, Dennis Klocek, Dr Judyth Sassoon and Henk and Sybille Kort.


Peter van Vliet  (Programme Lead)
Biodynamic Farmer, Therapeutic Educator and Lecturer, Ruskin Mill Trust

For the last 35 years I have been a biodynamic horticultural practitioner. After my training for landscape gardener I worked for 10 years in ornamental gardens and parkland. When our family moved to the UK the land work transformed gradually into growing and trading biodynamic herbs, flowers, fruit and vegetables. For the last 2 years my main focus has been producing biodynamic vegetables and herbs for the local Sheffield market and Freeman College kitchens.

In Holland as well as in the UK my work on the land has always been in the context of therapeutic care and education. Creating meaningful work for and with vulnerable people in a land-based activity has always given me great fulfillment.

For the last 15 years I have been a trainer and core group member of the Work based diploma in Biodynamic Agriculture. In addition to the vocational training on the holding I also taught on different courses, and was involved in the quality assurance of this training.

I am very pleased to continue training people in biodynamics as program leader of the Ruskin Mill Trust biodynamic training scheme.

Berni Courts MSc, BA(Hons), LLb
Biodynamic Farmer, Therapeutic Educator, Lecturer and Researcher, Ruskin Mill Trust
Deputy Principal, Ruskin Mill College

 With over twenty years of practical Biodynamic experience and Demeter certification, I have worked to incorporate the understanding of the practices of Biodynamic Agriculture into the varying human fields of Leadership and Management, Therapeutic Education, Social Enterprise and Ecology. It has been an inspiring journey which has striven to raise biodynamics out of the ground and into these other vital areas of connection between Universe, Earth and People.

I am regularly invited to present at Agricultural conferences and also on Masters programmes, whilst continuously working closely with Biodynamic trainees, young people with learning difficulties and colleagues throughout Ruskin Mill Trust.

Ed Berger
Biodynamic Farmer, Farm Manager, Deputy Principal (Biodynamics) Glasshouse College

I have been involved in biodynamic growing and farming for over 16 years. I started my career working on several farms and gardens, some with a social therapeutic emphasis, others with a commercial focus. This included a year in New Zealand, where as one of my placements I worked growing herbs for medicinal use at Weleda NZ. I settled upon becoming a biodynamic grower and trained at a Camphill community (an intentional life sharing community with adults with differing needs) in Gloucestershire, UK which grew biodynamic vegetables on several acres for both the community, for a local box scheme and wholesalers.

Upon finishing my apprenticeship in 2004, I took on the management of Vale Head Farm, near Stourbridge and have worked here since. The farm had been an equestrian centre for over forty years and as such was in poor condition. I developed the initial set up on the market garden, before moving over to developing the livestock presence on the farm. I have since developed a strong interest and passion for working with cattle, dairy goats and more recently bees. I am particularly interested in how one integrates an animal presence into a biodynamic holding out of the image of the farm organism and how this aligns to the educational/therapeutic aims for those engaging in the restorative work of the farm.

I have worked with children and teenagers with Special Educational Needs (SEN) for nearly twenty years. This includes teaching woodwork and art, working in residential settings but most of all in a farm and garden context. I am interested in how one offers oneself skilfully to the work; to emphasise what it is that those with differing needs can teach us about ourselves and each other and how one develops ones capacity to carry the work of therapeutic education in the context of biodynamic farming and growing.

I have a strong background in art and design, having studied furniture design and making and sculpture before my career in land-work and education. I am a practising artist, mainly drawing these days. I am interested in how art can inform our understanding of the natural world and agricultural work.

Sean Murphy
Biodynamic Farmer, Therapeutic Educator, Ruskin Mill Trust
Farm Manager, Coleg Plas Dwbl

I first encountered Biodynamics when I volunteered at the Blackthorn Garden in Maidstone, Kent. The Blackthorn Trust is a centre using land-based activities to rehabilitate people with mental health problems. I was so impressed by this holistic approach that I decided to undertake the Biodynamic Apprenticeship training at Oaklands Park, Gloucestershire. Since graduation, I have worked on Biodynamic farms both in the UK and abroad and these experiences led me to the position of Farm Manager at Coleg Plas Dwbl in Pembrokeshire, where I have now worked for five years.

Coleg Plas Dwbl is a 100 acre farm with a herd of Welsh Black beef cattle, a flock of Black Welsh Mountain Sheep, pigs and poultry. The land is mainly open grazing because of the nature of the environment. It is a beautiful and special home to a wide diversity of flora and fauna and is part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. There is also a half-acre horticultural area and three polytunnels, which gives Plas Dwbl the possibility of year round cropping.

I feel that it is very important to provide young people with the best opportunities and training in Biodynamic methods so that they can develop their skills in this empathetic way of managing land and animals.

Peter Skinner

I have always had an interest in nature/growing food, including helping my father on his organic market garden, working on an organic herb farm and doing conservation work for the RSPB in England,Wales and Scotland in the past. I have also worked in a Camphill school and another school with children with special needs. Coming to work at Ruskin Mill, first as a houseparent for three years and now as a farm tutor for thirteen years, combines my experience in the past and has added a lot more. As a tutor I focus on animal care, crop growing, some woodwork, conservation work including looking after hedges, wild corners and doing a breeding bird survey with students each year. I completed the Severn Vale Biodynamic training 8 years ago and incorporate this into my work on the farm with the students.

I am fascinated by all of the connections in the ‘farm organism’ including the rock, soil, native flora and fauna, cultivated areas, farm animals and people (students, apprentices, growers, farmers). Working from past land management to how we work as a team to look after Gables Farm, according to biodynamic principles and providing the therapeutic learning for the students, is what gives meaning to my work.I am happy to do what I can to share my experience in this training.

Roberto Romano
Clervaux Trust – Land Coordinator

I’m responsible for the maintenance of the biodynamic gardens and farm at Clervaux. We supply vegetables and some fruit for a veg box scheme, market stall, farm college kitchen, Clervaux café and bakery and wholesale to High Riggs and a farm shop. We have trained apprentices, volunteers and students in land work generally but especially in biodynamic horticulture. Other jobs include livestock care for sheep, goats, pigs, laying hens, donkeys and ponies as well as woodland and estate management.

Following a two year biodynamic apprenticeship, I’ve been the land coordinator at Clervaux for three years. Previous experience including volunteering on organic farms, permaculture holdings and allotment vegetable growing.

My work encompasses the following areas:

  • Growing of mixed annual veg, soft and top fruit including pruning.
  • Tractor and machinery experience for field scale veg and grassland management.
  • Sheep shearing
  • Other basic skills and experience in irrigation, drainage, welding and woodwork and fencing.
  • Basic knowledge of crop rotations, nutrient cycling, soil management practices and green manures.
  • Biodynamic preparations and field sprays.

I’m interested to develop further experience in mixed salad leaves for all seasons, season extension through protected cropping, intensive veg growing on a small scale, labour saving tools and efficient working practices, strip grazing livestock for better grassland management.

Stuart Cragg
Manager, Gables Farm

I manage Gables farm at Ruskin Mill College, a 45 acre mixed farm which has been using biodynamic principles for 20 years.

I was previously a mechanical engineer and teacher of design technology before completing the biodynamic apprenticeship in 2004 here at Ruskin Mill.

I work full time with the students in the college delivering a practical and therapeutic curriculum which places the learners in real life situations on the farm. All our produce is used in the college kitchens and farm shop.

I focus on livestock, estate maintenance and biodynamic farm management. All this work is done with student engagement, involving them in the rhythms of the farming year.

I am currently studying natural sciences. Focusing on physics, astronomy and environmental science. This provides me with an opportunity to work with prevailing scientific thinking, alongside the alternative views of Biodynamics. I am interested in exploring the relationship between mainstream agricultural practice and biodynamics, and how the two can work together to create ecological solutions to the environmental issues we face today.

Chloe Hindmarsh MSc (Educational Lead)
Accreditation Manager and Quality Nominee for Ruskin Mill Land Trust

 I have worked in education for 10 years and have taught in the Post-16 sector since 2008. I began my career as a Teaching Assistant and, following a CELTA course, I taught ESOL abroad in various locations. I gained my PGCE at Sheffield Hallam University in 2010, where I work as an Associate Lecturer and Personal Tutor on the Post-16 PGCE Specialist route in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

I previously worked as the National Coordinator for National Association for Teaching ESOL and Community Languages to Adults, developing organisation and management skills to complement my teaching.

I have been connected to Ruskin Mill Trust since 2009. For the last seven years I have directly experienced Practical Skills workshops and Therapeutic Education, and attended the Consciousness Studies course with Dennis Klocek in Sacramento, California, where my interest in Biodynamics grew. I have worked in both residential and day provision at Ruskin Mill Trust, taught various subjects – most recently Health and Well-being – and am an active member of the Hiram Education and Research Team.

While working in training coordination for Crossfields Institute, I undertook an MSc in Practical Skills Therapeutic Education. My MSc research was integrated with my professional development, and focused on an analysis of the efficacy of the training offered at Ruskin Mill Trust.

I am currently the Accreditation Manager and Quality Nominee for Ruskin Mill Land Trust, focusing on college student programmes, staff training programmes and managing relationships with external providers and awarding bodies. My involvement as Educational Lead in the Biodynamic Training programme, will be to ensure the quality and ongoing viability of the course with Peter van Vliet and the wider team, and provide continued professional development opportunities for those involved in the delivery of the programme.