Dietary Transformation made easy: Tiny Farms Academy

The – initially perhaps surprising – concept of Tiny Farms stands in opposition to the prevailing trend towards increasingly larger, industrially organized, businesses. Precisely in metropolitan areas, it forms an attractive addition to back up the regional food supply. In Berlin, for instance, according to a decision taken by the Senate of Berlin, preferably organic vegetables that are produced in the region should be used for school meals, however the production capacities have up to now by far not been sufficient for that. The idea here is to create a network of many small producers – together, as it were, forming a large business – to help remedy the situation. In the medium term, an entire ring of small businesses will encircle Berlin. Due to the proximity to the city, kindergarten groups and school classes can, without any trouble, visit the gardens where their meals are grown – and in this way make a direct connection with the healthy vegetables that will subsequently be put on their plates.

The initiative was founded by Tobias Leiber, an agronomist, and Jacob Fels, a sustainability adviser. They are skillfully making use of the opportunities presented by digitalization in order to reduce costs and increase productivity through such a network of producers. Since 2020 they have been developing the prototype of one such Tiny Farm, and two more were added in the Spring of 2021. As they are all located in the grounds of existing biodynamic farms, Demeter certification is also available. “In light of the economic and staffing challenges that are associated with establishing major agricultural concerns these days, the cooperation of many smaller and very small businesses provides a meaningful alternative”, says SAGST-Project Manager Sebastian Bauer. The training constitutes a further hurdle – in particular for those involved in a change of career, who, already on financial grounds alone, are scarcely in a position to choose a three-year-long state or biodynamic vocational training course.

However, many young people also prefer to get started right away, and are apprehensive about lengthy traditional courses to obtain a qualification. “This is where the Tiny Farms Academy, supported by our foundation, can make a start”, according to Mr. Bauer. “The one-year full-time vocational training program does not require any previous knowledge of agriculture, and efficiently prepares students for the clearly-defined tasks of managing such a small business.” The vocational training program, moreover, combines the benefits of face-to-face events with e-learning, and is supplemented by an online platform with video tutorials or presentations. The trainees attending a particular course develop Tiny Farms together, which they take on, the following year, on their own responsibility. A pilot training course with five participants commenced in 2021, at which those responsible also collaborate with the Free Demeter Training course system and the self-organized training within the scope of the Network of Solidarity Agriculture. The entire curriculum will be made available in the form of an open source guide, and, in that way, aims to foster comparable initiatives at other locations.