DEMETER: GOING BEYOND ORGANIC

By Bruce Cohen, CEO Absolute Organix

In a food system drenched in pesticides/herbicides and synthetic fertilisers on depleted soils seeded with GMO crops, it’s no wonder that health-conscious consumers are increasingly seeking out organic alternatives.

And, while organically-grown foods satisfy the basic requirements of “clean” nutrition, the truth is organic standards set the bar pretty low when it comes to sustainable farming. It would take a “super-organic” standard to really get to grips with a truly eco-friendly approach to producing food of the highest natural quality. There is such a standard: it’s called Demeter (named after the Greek goddess of fertility).

The international Demeter standard (see logo above) has been around for about 90 years, but few people are aware of it. Demeter goes far beyond what we typically regard as “organic”, and only those farmers 100% committed to its demanding, sustainable practices ( a system called biodynamic farming) can be Demeter-certified.

The original Demeter standard, known as the “Farm Standard”, was written in Germany in 1928 by the polymath genius Rudolf Steiner, pictured right, founder of the Waldorf school movement and originator of the philosophy of Anthroposophy. The Farm Standard codified Steiner’s research into harmonious/sustainable (bio-dynamic) farming practices enforced through a strict certification program. Steiner’s work is historically significant because it dates back to the beginning of the modern sustainable farming movement and captures key agronomic principles not comprehensively addressed by any other organic certification system.

Steiner’s Standard views the farm as a living organism that must be nurtured by careful management of soil fertility, crop protection, animal welfare, and the use of specialised preparations. Biological diversity within the farm landscape is emphasized, and requires that a minimum of 10% of each farm’s acreage be set-aside as a biodiversity preserve (eg forests, wetlands, riparian corridors, and intentionally planted insectaries). Diversity in crop rotation and perennial planting is required: no annual crop can be planted in the same field for more than two years in succession.

All farms must be mixed farms (animals and crops) to ensure a self-sustaining eco-system whereby the fields feed the animals and animals nourish the soil with manure. Bare tillage year round is prohibited; the land must maintain adequate green cover.

The Farm Standard instructs that the foundation of the fertility system, and strategies for disease, insect and weed control must originate from the farm itself (no external farming inputs may be brought onto the farm without special permission). Fertility is generated via the integration of livestock, compost and green manure, nutrient catch crops and careful crop rotation.

Disease and insect control are addressed through botanical species diversity, balanced crop nutrition and attention to light penetration and airflow. Weed control emphasizes prevention, including timing of planting, mulching, and identifying and avoiding the spread of invasive weed species.

The use of special soil preparations is a requirement of the Farm Standard. There are nine in all, made from herbs, minerals and animal manures that are applied in field sprays and compost inoculants applied in minute doses, much like homeopathic remedies. Timely applications revitalize the soil and stimulate root growth, enhance the development of micro-organisms and humus formation, and aid in photosynthetic activity.

You can see from the above that bio-dynamic farming produces foods of exceptional quality. Because it is such a specialised form of farming, requiring extraordinary commitment, the availability of Demeter-standard foods is limited. Germany, Austria and Switzerland are leading producers but there is increasing interest worldwide by farmers, manufacturers and consumers in Demeter quality foods.

More info on Demeter biodynamic foods at: www.demeter.net

Holle sets the biodynamic standard for infant foods

The superior quality of biodynamically-grown foods makes them ideal for infant feeding, offering babies an excellent nutritional start in life (breast milk, of course, is always best). And Demeter is the standard adopted by Holle in Switzerland, one of the world’s leading producers of organic infant foods.

For over 80 years Holle has been supplying young families around the world with biodynamic quality formulas, porridges and more recently fruit/veg pouches and jars.
Why Holle stands out from the crowd:

  • Certified organic/Demeter certified biodynamically-grown ingredients
  • Guaranteed no genetically-modified ingredients
  • No pesticides or herbicides
  • No added sugar
  • No added salt
  • No hydrogenated fats
  • No artificial flavours
  • No artificial colours
  • No artificial preservatives

Holle is exclusively distributed in SA by Absolute Organix.