Taruna Biodynamic

October 2008
If you want to be an organic or biodynamic farmer or learn about how to convert your property or become certified - where do you go to learn?

The organic and biodynamic movement is currently growing strongly in New Zealand. It strives to develop production systems which are less reliant on external inputs and which produce food of the highest nutritional quality. The BIO-GRO and Demeter certification trade marks arose in the 1980s and licenses are now held by many producers serving both local and export organic and biodynamic markets.

According to OANZ Organics Aotearoa New Zealand figures, over 70 New Zealand companies are exporting organic products, valued at $120 million per year.

Taruna College - Course Background

The Certificate in Applied Organics and Biodynamics is designed to meet the need for a sound and comprehensive introduction to the background and practical applications of organic and biodynamic agricultural methods.

Taruna College offers a Certificate in Applied Organics and Biodynamics through a one-year distance education program. Its designed for those who cant take on full-time study but can attend workshops.

Its designed to give a good platform for those wanting to enter biodynamic or organic agricultural or horticultural work.

For those who want to convert their properties to organic

or wishing to move towards organic or biodynamic certification.


John Ridout is the programme Director of the Taruna Certificate of Applied Organics and Biodynamics.

From 2001 to 2004 John was the Programme Director for the Diploma in Biodynamic / Organic Agriculture, a one-year fulltime programme offered by Taruna.

During these years John was also working as a consultant / assessor for organic and Biodynamic standard setting / accreditation bodies, and had extensive networks with current and future organic farmers, plus the various associations and groups throughout New Zealand. Through his experiences with such a wide number of people, John was acutely aware of what was needed, and what are the hindrances and challenges for people in this sector.

The Course.

In 2004 John made a compelling case to the Taruna College Trust for the development funds to develop an entirely new programme, which would provide what no other provider is offering, and would meet the needs of students who:

Could be living anywhere in New Zealand.

Have responsibility for land, and wish to convert it to organic or Biodynamic management

Are not able to study full-time.

Need a training that is directly applicable to their individual situation [immediate farm environment, use of land (animals, cropping, orchard etc)]

The result of this was the development and NZQA accreditation of the one-year Certificate in Applied Organics and Biodynamics, which started in 2005 with 12 students. In 2006 this programme doubled to two groups of 12 students, who come from throughout New Zealand, including two from Australia and another two from the U.S.

The Certificate in Applied Organics and Biodynamics is so successful due to the following elements:

The content is delivered in three 8-day seminars, scheduled with 12-week breaks.

All the home-based assignments are directly related to the students own land, and everything they do is the preparatory work that culminates with their final assignment namely a comprehensive organic / biodynamic management plan for their land. This management plan is the essential element for anyone wishing to gain organic or biodynamic certification.

Tutors spend a whole day with each student at their land. This visit is part of the programmes assessment process, but more importantly the student will be able to discuss the unique challenges they are facing with their land with an experienced practitioner and it is this home-visit that attracts particularly high praise from the students.

A wide variety of tutors are brought in to share their knowledge and skills. These are invariably national or international leaders in their field of expertise. It is because of Johns personal relationship that they agree to leave their land to teach at the seminars, or host the students to visit as a field trip.

John has studied and practised adult education for many years, both in New Zealand and the U.K. He is an excellent classroom teacher, with a deep understanding of the nature of individual and group learning processes. This is reflected in the daily rhythms of the programme, which work with the head, heart and hands each at the best time of day.