Demeter - Organic through and through

Demeter products, already well established in health food stores, are now showing up on supermarket shelves. Let’s take a look behind the scenes at what distinguishes this label from standard organic quality.

To dis­cover what Deme­ter is all about, we have travel back in time a bit. More pre­cisely, to the year 1924. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of an­thro­pos­o­phy, gave a lec­ture on Whit­sun that year in what is to­day Poland on the sub­ject of “How to Thrive in Agri­cul­ture”. His lis­ten­ers were farm­ers seek­ing a way to sus­tain­ably im­prove the fer­til­ity of their soil and the health of their plants and an­i­mals. Stein­er’s ideas gave them the an­swers they needed. His an­thro­pos­o­phy pre­scribed a sci­en­tific ap­proach to agri­cul­ture, but one that made room for spir­i­tu­al­ity. This marked the start of bio­dy­namic agri­cul­ture. Three years later, in 1927, the Deme­ter As­so­ci­a­tion was founded, named af­ter the Greek god­dess of fer­til­ity. Deme­ter was the first-ever or­ganic qual­ity seal, used to cer­tify prod­ucts grown ac­cord­ing to the old­est or­ganic cul­ti­va­tion method.

The big pic­ture at a glance

Bio­dy­namic agri­cul­ture views each farm as an in­di­vid­ual or­gan­ism in which the soil, plants and an­i­mals, and hu­mans are all part of a nat­ural cy­cle and sup­port one an­other. Ac­cord­ing to the prin­ci­ple “all or noth­ing at all”, a farm must be con­verted com­pletely to this method in or­der to ob­tain Deme­ter cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. There­fore, a farmer can­not pro­duce both con­ven­tion­ally and ac­cord­ing to Deme­ter stan­dards in par­al­lel.

What does this mean in con­crete terms? Farm­ers who pro­duce ac­cord­ing to bio­dy­namic guide­lines em­brace the fol­low­ing val­ues:

  • Soil – The top priority is soil health and fertility, which is ensured by a rotating diverse crops and using so-called biodynamic preparations (more on this below). The soil is considered to be the digestive organ of the plants.
  • Plants – Demeter farmers rely on crops that are adapted to the specific site. This means that they choose varieties that thrive optimally in the region where the farm is located.
  • Animals – On Demeter farms, livestock is kept in accordance with the natural habits of the particular species. Cattle keep their horns, stables are adapted to the animals’ needs, and all animals are given feed produced on the farm as far as possible.
  • Humans – In the holistic Demeter approach, humans assume the role of mediator. The farmer treats plants, animals and also soil with respect and is responsible for the functioning of the whole organism. Farmers work according to natural rhythms, for example by observing the biodynamic calendar.

Agri­cul­ture in har­mony with na­ture

An im­por­tant part of the Deme­ter phi­los­o­phy is the pro­duc­tion and use of so-called bio­dy­namic prepa­ra­tions. These are com­post prepa­ra­tions made from med­i­c­i­nal plants such as net­tle, chamomile, dan­de­lion or va­ler­ian, which farm­ers bury in the soil to im­prove hu­mus for­ma­tion and soil struc­ture. This method is de­signed to main­tain the above-men­tioned nat­ural cy­cle of each farm. The prepa­ra­tions serve here as tools that func­tion very broadly in a “sys­tem-reg­u­lat­ing” man­ner. Some Deme­ter farms also rely on the bio­dy­namic cal­en­dar as their guide for sched­ul­ing work with their crops. The cal­en­dar shows the phases of the moon: new moon, first quar­ter, full moon, last quar­ter. Cer­tain phases are par­tic­u­larly suit­able for cul­ti­vat­ing flow­er­ing plants or for har­vest­ing root plants, for ex­am­ple. This ori­en­ta­tion on moon phases is based on the ba­sic at­ti­tude that the nat­ural rhythms of life and also of plants are in­flu­enced by the po­si­tion of the plan­ets – es­pe­cially the moon.

Or­ganic with a plus

It is clear to see that the Deme­ter guide­lines go one step fur­ther and are stricter than the usual or­ganic stan­dards. In con­trast to or­ganic, Deme­ter pre­scribes the fol­low­ing:

  • Where possible, animals must be kept on the farm in order to close the cycle (natural manure). If this is not possible, the manure must come from a Demeter-certified farm.
  • The animals keep their horns.
  • Use of biodynamic preparations.
  • Coordination of farm work with the phases of the moon (optional but recommended).
  • Demeter also sets specifications for product packaging. For example, aluminium packaging of Demeter products is not permitted.
  • The Demeter guidelines prescribe careful processing of raw materials and permit only a minimum of necessary additives.

Deme­ter seal for the or­ganic pi­o­neer

The first Deme­ter juice from Biotta is a mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the clas­sic Biotta Rüe­bli. Biotta Deme­ter Rüe­bli-Or­ange-In­g­wer com­bines the best Deme­ter car­rots from the Thur­gau re­gion with a hint of ex­otic flavour and spici­ness. Fritz Lorenz, a long­stand­ing Biotta veg­etable farmer from Täger­wilen TG, grows the car­rots in his fields ac­cord­ing to Deme­ter stan­dards. With 60% veg­etable con­tent, nat­ural vi­t­a­min A from beta-carotene, and no ar­ti­fi­cial ad­di­tives, the first Deme­ter juice from the Swiss or­ganic pi­o­neer sat­is­fies with its de­li­cious taste and nat­ural sweet­ness from fruit and veg­eta­bles.

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on Deme­ter, see www.deme­ter.ch.