Particularities of Demeter

Biodynamic farming is a holistic approach to agriculture in which vitality has the highest priority. Its origin lies in the agricultural course held by Rudolf Steiner in 1924. This oldest ecological agri-culture is the most sustainable form of management for all climate zones. Biodynamic farmers return more to the soil than they remove in the process of cultivating crops and animals; the farm is considered as an organism in which plants, animals and human beings are integrated together.

One of the most important aspects of a biodynamic farmer is to enhance the soil fertility by using crop rotation, biodynamic preparations and compost.

The biodynamic method attempts to work with the dynamic energies in nature and not solely with its material needs. An important aspect is therefore that agricultural farms keep animals.  

Animal husbandry

Animal husbandry, with the accompanying fodder production is an important part of the agricultural enterprise. This applies to the ruminant in particular. The fodder plants and the well-balanced manure from cattle, contribute considerably through the enlivening of the soil, to the long term flourishing of a farm.

Animals must be present on every arable farms and on each market garden larger than 40 hectares.

Fodder produced on the farm forms the basis of animal nutrition. At least 70% of the feed (DM) must be certified Demeter fodder and at least 60% must originate from the own Demeter farm. Conventional fodder is excluded.

Horns

... belong to the cow just as beaks do to chickens. Horns are important organs for cattle. They have an influence on the animals’ energy balance and on the digestion performance which subsequently has a decisive effect on the quality of manure.

The farm as an organism

Conversion applies to the entire farm - including all crops and livestock. Alternatively, e.g. for smallholder groups, a clear separation of the biodynamically managed project from the organically managed part with clearly defined responsibilities is strictly enforced.

The farm manager may not manage a Demeter farm and a conventional farm simultaneously.

Biodiversity

The farm must show a commitment to the maintenance of farm biodiversity. The Demeter standard requires a biodiversity reserve on the farm and in areas directly adjacent to it of 10% of the total farm area. The biodiversity can include other cultural elements such as the maintenance of rare or endangered breeds of plants and animals, fostering bird/insect life by providing habitats, utilisation of biodynamic plant and animal breeding, etc.

Fertilisation

The amount of nitrogen that may be used per hectare and year is limited to 112kgs on arable farms and  up to a maximum of 170 kgN/ha in Market gardens and perennials in the tropics and subtropics. This is to originate primarily from stable manure produced on the farm. All organic fertiliser materials (dung, compost etc.) are to be treated with the biodynamic compost preparations prior use. They contribute to better fermentation and maturation of the manure and the compost.

The basis for successful cultivation is a diverse crop rotation with a proportion of legumes (e.g. using perennial clovers) as well as the establishment of a composting system guided by the biodynamic preparations.

Biodynamic preparations

Use of preparations made from healing plants, minerals (quartz crystal) and cow manure, sprayed onto the land or inserted into compost are used to enhance root growth and soil life as well as to fortify the plants. Small amounts of the spray preparations are stirred for an hour before bringing them to the fields. The process, parallel to dynamisation of homeopathic medicines yields healing for the earth.

The DOC-experiment (Bio-dynamic manuring / organic manuring/ conventional farming) which has been running for over 30 years, has shown increased soil fertility on the biodynamic fields, as well as 85% more micro-organisms than on the parallel conventional plots.

copper

No copper may be used on annual crops. The use of plant protection agents is limited. A list with approved inputs you can find here  https://www.demeter.net/approved-inputs

Seeds

Preference given to use of Demeter or organic seeds, conventional seed requires approval and must be untreated.

Priority given to breeding varieties of high vitality. Such seed lines lead to food products of high nutritional quality. Seeds in the breeding programmes originate partly from old, regional varieties. No use of  treated and genetically modified seeds or breeding methods.

Processing standard

The quality and vitality of the raw materials should be maintained in the processed goods. The inner quality can be measured by the so called picture forming methods. In repeated blind experiments the products could clearly be classified according to their production method.

The Demeter processing standard regulates the processing methods for each product group. For example, the homogenisation of milk or the use of nitrite salt curing in meat and sausage production is prohibited. Instead of so-called “natural aromas”, real plant extracts are used. The inner quality can be represented with the help of “picture forming” methods of analysis and differences to other ecological and conventional production methods demonstrated.

The list of the permitted aid and additives in processing and of permitted processing processes is appreciably shorter.

Social work and social responsibility

There are many enterprises with a social work component for people with special needs. All Demeter operators have to sign a declaration of the social responsibility which describes how the rights of workers on the farms are protected.

Marketing

The Demeter raw material manager helps to coordinate Demeter operators and Demeter processors on the market.