The curious world of biodynamic winemaking
(ABC Radio Canberra: Penny Travers) ABC Radio Canberra
March 18, 2018 08:00:47
Beatrice and Tobias Koenig have been biodynamic farming for more than 40 years.
The Koenigs make biodynamic soil preparations from cow manure along with a liquid fertiliser from carp caught during the local Carpathon.”Fertility is drained out of the country and into the sea, so we use fish and seaweed to bring something back to complete the cycle.” The couple, with the help of their son Laurence, also run 80 to 90 Angus breeders to raise soil fertility and heal the landscape.”We practise holistic resource management, and part of that system is time-controlled grazing — high stock numbers for a short time, on a smaller piece of land, and then moving them further and giving that land a rest.”Managed correctly, livestock is the only economical tool to heal the landscape to get back a functioning mineral cycle … Students learn the art of farming, connect to the land In addition to their farming, the Koenigs give Canberra school students from Merici College and Orana Steiner School the chance to experience organic farming first-hand.Grade three students from Orana ,where Ms Koenig worked as a teacher, visit the farm four times a year to experience each season.”For instance, they will harvest the pumpkin, they will take the seeds out and they will dry the seeds and then will come back to plant the seeds so they have a whole-cycle experience,” Ms Koenig said.More than 40 Year 9 students also spend nine days at the property, learning about food production and food waste.”Today children don’t have much experience on farms anymore … (ABC Radio Canberra: Penny Travers)
The rejuvenated soil then delivers organic potatoes, garlic, pumpkins and green vegetables that are sold at the Canberra Regional Farmers Markets and local organic shops and restaurants.”We are not set up to grow amounts for wholesalers; we really want to produce food for the local area,” Mr Koenig said. (ABC Radio Canberra: Penny Travers)
Biodynamic farming was founded by Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner in the 1920s to counter the emergence of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. When you bite into one of Tobias and Beatrice Koenig’s organic potatoes, there is a rich taste distinct from the average supermarket spud. you can see after a few days they connect back with nature,” Ms Koenig said.”It’s the practical involvement which you can’t teach in talking about it; they really have to experience it with their hands … (ABC Radio Canberra: Penny Travers) “We always go to a new paddock in order to improve that paddock.”
Each clove of biodynamic garlic is picked and cleaned by hand at Ingelara. and sequester carbon out of the atmosphere into the soil.”
Laurence Koenig and his parents sell their organic produce at the Capital Region Farmers Market. But the dry and challenging conditions faced by Australia’s soils are in contrast to the rich, moist climates of Europe where the Koenigs began farming.Adapting to Australian conditionsThe Koenigs came to Australia from Germany with their two children in 1994, bringing with them years of experience in biodynamic farming.When they started farming the 213-hectare property Ingelara at Michelago, south of Canberra, in 2004, they set about rejuvenating the land first.”You need a balanced system in your soil in order to produce good, nutritious food and it takes a long time to get there,” Mr Koenig said.”We’ve been growing potatoes for 10 years and we haven’t come back to the same area yet. (ABC Radio Canberra: Penny Travers)
The Koenigs have had to adapt their methods to Australian conditions.”The traditional biodynamic approach is that you strive to have as much a closed system as possible and try to raise fertility within that farm organism,” Mr Koenig said.”But Australia has very old, weathered soils, which are difficult to deal with and are lacking everything in nutrients and biology … and that experience will stay with them for life.”
Students get the chance to harvest potatoes and learn about the food production cycle. so we have to use outside inputs to a certain extent.”Livestock, seaweed and fish fertilising the landCrops and pastures are rotated over a seven-year cycle, with biodynamic preparations added to the soil and plantings done to coincide with phases of the Moon and moisture content. It views soil health, vegetation and livestock management holistically and focuses on enhancing soil fertility. It’s not because they are unusual varieties but because of how they are grown.”We incorporate all the basic organic principles and then on top, as the icing, comes the biodynamic approach,” Mr Koenig said.”It’s the most holistic way of farming.”
Each year the potato crops are planted in a new paddock to help improve the health of the soil.