Biodynamic Marketing Company

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					 Biodynamic Marketing
   Company - John Bradshaw
The Bio-dynamic Agricultural Association of Australia was
founded in the mid 1950s, an association of farmers
practising the “Australian Demeter-standard” method of
Biodynamics as developed by Alex Podolinsky. Their
primary aims were to rejuvenate soil and nature, to provide a
sound future for the earth and to produce healthy food for
consumers. In 1967, the Bio-dynamic Research Institute
registered the Demeter trademark in Australia, and
developed the first organic/Biodynamic certification scheme
here, to guarantee the integrity of Biodynamic produce to
consumers.
As the numbers of farmers and their acreage grew, Alex Podolinsky began
raising consumer awareness and understanding through public lectures.
Consumers started to seek Biodynamic food, and one by one the farmers
began marketing their produce - the farmers were pained to see their quality
produce so often ending up in the general pool. Gradually, the need arose
for a centralised distribution system for Biodynamic produce. A further
catalyst was that the farmers were not happy with the way Biodynamic
grains were being exported to Europe and wanted more control over the
process.

Foundations
In 1981, Alex, Trevor Hatch (Biodynamic beef and potato producer) and
John Claringbould founded the Biodynamic Marketing Company Ltd. a not-
for-profit company, to distribute Biodynamic produce to consumers. Peter
(Alex’s son) and Judy Podolinsky started delivering to health food shops
from a rented cool-room in Blackburn (Melbourne). They were both
working at other jobs - Peter would finish night shift on Thursday night and
deliver Biodynamic food on Fridays.

Peter and Judy attended many trade shows such as the Healthy Living
Show, to promote Biodynamic food, and introduce themselves to the many
people who didn’t know they existed. The business grew steadily, and in
1985 they bought their first truck. As the business grew, they employed
more people and moved their base to Powelltown. Trevor and Ginger Hatch
(Biodynamic farmers from Athlone) built the first shed with Peter.
Trevor and Ginger built the trusses and the timber came from their farm.
Peter: “It’s things like that (Trevor and Ginger’s contribution) that made
the whole thing possible”.

That original shed, which they thought was huge (“what are we going to put
in this enormous shed?!”) has since been extended three times. Grains were
first stored in outside silos but later, a bigger shed was built to keep them
out of the weather. Cool rooms and freezer rooms were added as needed.
In 1989 Peter and Judy were still delivering the fresh produce from a
warehouse in Melbourne, and the dry produce from Powelltown. An
opportunity arose to lease some space from a trader in the Melbourne
Wholesale Market at Footscray, and they moved the fresh produce
distribution there, later leasing their own space. Organic/Biodynamic fruit
shops buy fruit and vegetables from them there, but they continue to deliver
the dry produce direct to shops.

Biodynamic Products
A glance through their fifteen page dry goods catalogue reveals a
comprehensive range of Biodynamic produce – grains and seeds, flours,
breads, cereals, milk, ice cream, yoghurts, cheeses, soya products, dried
fruits, beverages, fruit juices, vinegar, nuts, oils and wines.

Biodynamic Marketing includes organic certified produce in its portfolio to
ensure that a full range of produce is always available – there are sometimes
gaps in the range of Biodynamic produce. Peter finds that they sell more
Biodynamic produce if they can offer a full range by including the organic
produce - they sell quite a lot of organic certified fresh produce, particularly
vegetables. However, the Biodynamic fruit and vegetables are always the
most sought after in the market because of their superior flavour and
keeping quality. For instance, the broccoli and cauliflowers from Harms and
the bunching spinach from L’Herbier have exceptional flavour and keep
fresh much longer than their organic counterparts.

 Peter estimates that of all consumers of organic produce, 40% consciously
seek out Demeter Biodynamic produce. Many people are advised by their
naturopaths to buy Demeter for preference.

Biodynamic Marketing now employs fourteen full time and ten part time
staff, between the wholesale market and Powelltown, with Peter as manager
and Judy fulfilling many roles, working closely with Peter on business
development and direction.

Biodynamic Marketing sources product from all over Australia. Peter
pointed out just a few of the products stored in one coolroom: oats from
Western Australia, flour products from Queensland and Western Australia,
dried mangos from North Queensland, rice from New South Wales, sultanas
from Robinvale (Victoria) and lentils from Western Victoria.

Exports
Biodynamic marketing exports produce to Switzerland, Holland, Germany,
New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia and Tahiti. The export arket has
always been good for the company, but hasn’t kept pace with domestic
growth, which has been very strong. As Biodynamic production develops in
countries closer to Europe, the 42-day shipping time from Australia
becomes more of a hurdle. Grain exports are handled by Chris Podolinsky in
Melbourne and Bob McIntosh in Perth. Wool exports are organised by
Andrew Cameron ( Tasmania).

In the early days, a safe method of preventing weevil infestation in grains
was needed, particularly for export (grains are normally chemically treated
for weevils). The CSIRO researched the use of carbon dioxide in grain
containers, and this method is now widely used for the storage of BD and
organic grains. Not only does CO2 stop insects developing, but it also keeps
the grain fresher for longer by stopping oxidisation.



Biodynamic Marketing Company as Facilitator
The Biodynamic Marketing Company is a soundly based, viable business,
but is not profit driven. Rather, its genuine aim is to act as the effective link
between farmers and consumers. The thing that impressed me most about
Biodynamic Marketing was the extent to which it actively assists farmers to
ensure produce becomes available.

For instance, during the recent drought years, Murray River irrigation water
became extremely scarce and prohibitively expensive. The Biodynamic
Marketing Company bought the water for the rice growers so that they
could continue producing through the drought! This was a considerable risk
as water had to be bought a year ahead of the crop to irrigate the soil-
replenishing green manures and clover-based pastures. No insurance could
be obtained to cover crop failure. No bank would have lent the large sums
involved, given the risk.

When the flour mill used to mill the Western Australian Biodynamic grain
was to be sold, Biodynamic Marketing stepped in, financing a Biodynamic
farmer to buy it so that the flour products could continue to be available to
consumers. They have also financed silos for farmers so they can store grain
on-farm prior to delivery to Biodynamic Marketing, as well as financing
holding stocks of wool to develop an export market.

Peter advises the farmers on what crops need to be grown to supply the
market, and coordinates the needs of feed grain users (eg dairy and poultry
farmers) with the growers.

Peter feels that the marketing of the produce is the easy final part of a three-
stage process – the first stage is where the farmer makes a conscious
decision to convert to Biodynamics. The second stage is where the farmer
learns to successfully apply the method. These are the two hardest stages –
the selling of the produce is the easy part.

Peter believes that most consumers don’t realize how much pressure
certification can put on farmers – for instance, when times are hard and
severe drought prevails, a Victorian dairy farmer might have to buy
Demeter grain from W.A. to bring over to feed his cows so that he can
continue producing Demeter certified milk. This puts enormous pressure on
the farmer, but demonstrates his absolute commitment to the method and to
the consumer.

The Future
Demeter Biodynamics is expanding steadily. There are always farmers
retiring, but there are more new ones coming in. The trend is towards
diversification – for instance a farmer who, ten years ago only milked cows
might well now be growing vegetables as well. The farmers are also
becoming more aware that they need to try to have their product available
all the time – if they lose their spot on the shelf it can be very hard to get it
back.
Peter and Judy have, over the last 24 years, together with their dedicated
staff, built a very strong company that does an excellent job in bringing
together farmers, shops and consumers, to the real benefit of all concerned.
They are bringing the best, most enlivened food available to Australian (and
overseas) families and helping to build strength and vitality in the next
generation - a nation is only as strong and upright as its citizens.

				
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