Organic Pastures at Paris Creek
The Paris Creek is a pleasant location in the rolling hills of the Mount Lofty Ranges on the Fleurieu Peninsula less than one hours drive from Adelaide. The Paris Creek B-d Farm dairy is a unique dairy operation run by partners Helmut and Ulli Spranz and Urs Von Arx. They have owned and managed the property for 14 years, and during that time have increased its size to 85 Ha, with another 41 Ha of leased land (also organically and biodynamically treated). On this land they run 80 milking cows and produce milk, yogurt and quark and other cheeses, with another sixty young animals not yet in production. A new 1400 square metre yogurt and cheese factory was completed last November, and several immediate neighbours have now converted to organic or biodynamic, and supply milk.
After five-years of Agricultural Studies course in Germany, which included both conventional and biodynamic courses, Helmut finished with an engineering degree. He and Ulli then traveled around Australia looking for a place to establish their own farm and vale added production. They liked working with cows and had been involved with cheese making during some practical work experience in Switzerland as part of the formal studies. They saw Australia as a land of unlimited opportunities, while everywhere in Europe was well established.
Urs, who came later, had studied at an agricultural school in Switzerland that had a high emphasis on organics and had several years of practice on biodynamic and organic farms including a special biodynamic course at the Goetheanum in Doruach.
The pure Fresian herd has been bred on the property, by keeping the healthiest heifer calves, and selective mating. Cows are mated at two years of age, either from and a bull runs with the herd at all times. The average yield is 6,000 litres per cow per year. One tonne of grain per cow per year is fed out, with the daily ration varying depending on individual production. Cows are fed a well balanced diet and the health of the herd is very good. All feed except the grain is grown on the farm. Barley and oats are purchased direct from other certified BD farms. They do not believe in boosting milk production artificially, and are content with a healthy average milker, with no pressure to increase performance from every animal, and they attribute their lack of veterinary treatments to this regime, and the use of homeopathic preparations.
The property uses some mineral fertilizer, and all animal manures are recycled onto the land as liquid compost. Their own BD500 and compost preparations are made on the property and they try to apply BD500 twice per year. Effluent from the dairy is directed to 2 metre deep holding tanks and treated with the B-D compost preparations. Flow forms are used to activate the liquid fertilizers, and the tanks are never completely emptied, to provide inoculation to the next lot of effluent that is collected. Two tanks are used so that loads can be treated separately, for experimentation, or to ensure that it is completely matured prior to use. An agitating machine was acquired from overseas to manage the compost. While the flowforms aerate, they do not stop the product from settling when back in the tank. The agitator uses technology that prevents algae forming, yet is compatible with fish, and keeps sediment suspended.
Strip grazing is used, to provide access to fresh feed every day. A fence is used in front and behind the herd, to spell pasture and allow it to recover well before the next grazing period. A 40-50 day rotation is usually possible before cattle graze back over the same land. Pasture is grazed very close and Helmut believes that this time is necessary for good recovery. Helmut says it takes little more than a quarter of an hour, twice per day, to move the fence, but the technique makes a dramatic difference to pastures.
The old factory was upgraded every year or so to cope with growth of the herd and processing operations, but eventually they outgrew the old plant, and were forced to rebuild. The factory has now commenced production of hard cheeses, although these are still in the development stage, and has recently sent its first export to Asia. In the current climate of the dairy industry, which is recovering from major adjustments over the last five years, the Paris Creek Farm is seen as a major local success story, and has won many awards. The farmers had to contest local legislation, which expects that factories, including processing of primary production, will be located in townships. The owners always emphasized the close connection of milk with the farm, and the integrity of the entire operation. They say that many visitors to the farm, including schools, customers and tourists, like to see the whole operation, and the farmers encourage the view that it is all one process, from soil care to cow management to final product. They were eventually successful and inj the process gained much support from the local population, which is pleased to see new development and is very supportive of organics and the associated reduction in chemical use.
Flowform and effluent treatment dam
Product lines now include quark and yogurt with apricot, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and bush honey and vanilla flavours, with plans to release mango in the near future. Yogurt is also available as natural and low fat. They also produce pasteurized and un- pasteurized fresh milk, cream and butter, with plans for new products in the future.
The yogurt utilizes specially produced fruit base, made out of biodynamic fruit, organic sugar, honey and pectin. In yogurt production they use the healthful ABC (Probiotic) cultures. The products have been available in Brisbane and Cairns for 3-4 years. They are also available in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Darwin, Alice Springs and Canberra. A year of demand from overseas has now resulted in B-D Farm Paris Creek preparing for Exports to Singapore.
German (low-fat) and Swiss style (whole milk) Quark is a unique product from the farm. All B-d Farm Paris Creek products are free of artificial colours and flavours, salt, thickeners or milk powder. None of the products are homogenized, which the farmers believe should be a principal for b-d dairy products. Only raw milk, organic fruit, organic sugar, pure blue gum honey produced under chemical free management and vanilla pods are used to produce the flavours in the products. Cultures used include Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bacterium bifidum. These probiotic cultures are also very helpful for digestion. Ulli says they reject some lines of yogurt culture, because although they make a more solid style of yogurt, they are not suitable for children, and are not recommended for long term use by adults. Some people take a while to develop the taste for the looser, more runny style of yogurt produced by the more healthful yogurt culture, but once accustomed, they become advocates of the health effects, and Ulli says they will stay with these cultures, to remain true to their goal of providing the best quality, most healthy food possible. Both yogurt and Quark are kosher products as well as having BFA organic and Biodynamic certification.
Ever hopeful of finding the time to increase the community supply and education role of the Farm, the new factory was constructed with a retail area, for sales of dairy produce and coffee. The design includes viewing windows into the yogurt processing line, so visitors can watch without entering the sterile areas.
Several neighbours have now received certification from the BFA and supply milk to the factory. Another neighbour, a larger producer, is about to apply. This will permit significant expansion of the production line, and distribution is about to expand to more interstate supermarkets, and exports to Singapore. The factory now processes 65,000 litres of milk per month, and that is expected to double in the next year.
Helmut, Urs and Ulli believe that value adding is a critical component to their success, producing the return required to support the labour force and justify the high investment in land, plant and stock. In order to produce these products there has been a considerable expenditure on buildings and plant and they remain committed to the idea of biodynamic growing.
Success of the product is reflected in a wall hung with awards related to business development including the Adelaide Hills Development Board Manufacturing and Processing Award 2001 and the AHRDB Food Business Award 2001. They were also finalists for the Premiers Food and Fibre Award 200i (and winners in 2000); they also received a High Recommendation in the SA Great 2001 Food Business Award.
Food related awards from the Dairy Association of Australia in 2002 are the “Prestigious Champions award’ for Swiss Quark and 1st in class best Entry Cheese for Quark German Style, 1st in class for Non Cheddar Cheese (also awarded for the for Quark German Style), 1st in class Yogurt Natural Set, for Bush Honey and Vanilla Yogurt, 1st in class real Fruit Stirred for raspberry Yogurt and 2nd in the same class for Apricot Yogurt.
Other stalls at the Willunga Farmers Market are very pleased to see the B-D Paris Creek Farm stall. They believe that the availability of a broad range of product is part of the attraction, and that shopper appreciate a ‘one-stop’- shopping experience, where they can get most of their food needs for the week.