|Demeter Bio-Dynamic Agriculture|
The following information is from the Biodynamic Research Institute, Powelltown, Victoria.
With the greater public awareness and consumer demand for naturally produced food, it is reassuring to know that not all organisations or farms are recent converts. Whilst Bio-dynamic Agriculture and Bio-dynamic food products may be only a recent awareness to some - it has actually been practised in Australia for over 40 years.
There is much more to producing Demeter produce than simply not applying chemicals. Soil has to be developed and that requires a lot of skill. Such commitment and dedication to the real development of soil activity is something many consumers may not comprehend and, therefore, appreciate sufficiently.
We hope the following information will encourage you to support Demeter producers, as they work towards a truly sustainable, and ecological method of producing your quality food.
In the 1850's German chemist Justin von Liebig discovered that plants can take in essential food elements only when in water soluble form and not directly from mineral rock. Quickly, ways were developed to make insoluble elements soluble, and the artificial fertiliser industry began.
After years of artificial fertiliser results in East German areas some discerning land holders noticed that the newly achieved bumper crops of potatoes, grains and vegetables lacked in taste, and that animals were succumbing to health problems not formerly noticed. In 1920 some of these men began requesting Dr. Rudolf Steiner to provide an answer to the new agricultural problems. His response was to provide the initial suggestion for what would develop into bio-dynamic agriculture.
Old, natural peasant farming ended with artificial fertilisers. As a result, a need for new agricultural methods arose. Bio-dynamics stood at the beginning of this. In England, somewhat later, due to a similar fertiliser stress, actual "organic" farming was awakend by pioneers such as Howard and Balfour. In the US it was Rhodale and others.
Developments in Australia were similar. Bio-dynamics spread widely from the early 1950's. The main organisation, the Bio-dynamic Agricultural Association of Australia, evolved as a free advisory body for professional farmers. Paramount for farmers seeking conversion to Bio-dynamic Practice is the moral decision of the farmer. He has to find the courage to forsake the conventional farming system, often implementing new farming techniques and farm management skills (some almost the opposite to what the farmers may have been previously practising).
Demeter Bio-dynamic farmers develop skills to "culture" the soil. Hence the original meaning of the word AGRICULTURE (soil-culture).
During this process the farmer develops his/her observation and consciousness for Nature, soils, plants, animals and Earth.
When a certain standard of Bio-dynamic Development has been established, farmers may apply to the Bio-dynamic Research Institute to become certified users of the Demeter Trademark. This international trademark was registered in 1967 in Australia by the Bio-dynamic Research Institute to protect the integrity of the Symbol. It has been used in Australia since 1953 to symbolise quality produce using the Bio-dynamic Agricultural Method.
Science Behind the Demeter Symbol
The Demeter symbol is your assurance of quality food. Producers must meet rigorous Production Standards, and undergo regular inspection by qualified staff of the Biodynamic Research Institute.
The Demeter Standards are intrinsically interwoven with the Bio-Dynamic Method. In order to fully appreciate what Demeter represents, it is necessary to describe the farming system involved.
For plants, the need to take in water is somewhat similar to our need to breath in air. If we stop breathing, we die. When a plant has leaves, it must continuously take in water to allow a transpiration process to occur.
The uptake of nutrients is an activity directly related to the sun's warmth. Unlike humans and animals, plants do not have an independent metabolism, because plants do not have their own warmth organisation. Plants are therefore entirely governed by sun warmth. Sun warmth revs the plant up metabolically and in response the plant sends white hair roots into the humus to feed. As soon as the sun withdraws and it is cooler, these roots slow down or cease feeding.
With such a situation the plant never eats too much, and all it takes up is assimilated. Under these conditions nitrogen, for example, appears as a nutritious protein.
Such a natural feeding can only occur where there is a living, structured soil. Under these conditions humus (natural plant food) is made in-situ.
Today, most plants are grown on dead soils. There is insufficient biological activity; there is no structure; and no important humus present.
If plants are to grow on such a dead soil, water soluble fertilisers have to be applied for the basic nutrient requirements of the plant. When the plant takes in its water requirements under such conditions, the plant's water uptake roots also have to take up the soluble nutrients, irrespective of whether the sun decrees to feed or not. In consequence, far too much in nutrient elements are taken into the plants, because this process is not sun governed. Under these conditions an overfeeding occurs, with the result that not all nutrients can be digested. Nitrogen is not assimilated into protein, but remains in the plant as nitrate salt.
Exactly the same situation can arise when organic or biological farming is understood as simply applying animal manures and other organic substances in place of artificial fertilisers. Organic fertilisers work, basically, along the same lines as water soluble artificial fertilisers. Raw manure must be composted to the degree that the manure is as colloidy and moist as fresh worm casts. Only at this stage is the compost safe. Under such conditions there is nothing left which is water soluble without being encased in humus. Only then will plants not be force-fed.
So with Demeter quality it is not just as easy as putting on organic fertilisers and calling this 'organic'. Demeter certification requires a soil structure development. Every aspect of general farm management and soil cultivation has to be recognised in the light of such insight.
During this process farmers become committed, and develop farming skills, and observation of Nature, soil, plants and animals.
Demeter quality Bio-Dynamic farm practice produces healthy, living, structured soil. Healthy plants and animals are a result.
The processing of Demeter quality produce is also subject to regular inspection by quality staff of the Bio-Dynamic Research Institute. In considering the requirements necessary to certify the processing of Demeter raw materials, three points are of main concern. Firstly, that no contamination of the product occurs at any stage of processing and handling. Secondly, that the dynamic quality of the product is maintained or enhanced by processing. Lastly, that processing practices support Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD).
Wholesalers and Retailers who are able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Bio-Dynamic Research Institute that they can store, handle and/or package the Demeter certified product in a manner that ensures no contamination of the product with substances or product not complying with Demeter Standards will be allowed the right to use and advertise the Demeter Symbol.
Products displaying the Demeter symbol will indicate one of two grades:
'Demeter' or Grade A requires considerable bio-dynamic development of soil and plants - with a demonstratable understanding and commitment by the farmer.
'Demeter in Conversion' or Grade B of importance is the primary and principle commitment of the farmer to Nature and Bio-dynamic farming; farming methods applied prior to bio-dynamic involvement; state of soil and early indications of soil and plant conversion to Bio-Dynamics; past history and last use of chemicals and fertilisers.
Demeter quality products available include:
The Commitment of those not only farming bio-dynamically, but also the manufacturing, distribution and marketing of Bio-Dynamic produce ensures that the range of quality Demeter certified foods will continue to expand.
As a customer, when you buy Demeter quality produces you support the objectives and achievements of many farmers who, long before it became customary to talk of 'sustainable agriculture', practiced all this.