Apples and Demeter Farming
After Labor Day, I automatically start thinking about apples. And each year, on an autumn weekday, my husband and I head to Apple Hill and visit some of the orchards on the Apple Hill map. We usually bring home frozen baked apple products and a few bags of different kinds of apples. We always stop and buy a caramel apple to split along the way, too, but this year was different.
While visiting Hendy Woods State Park on our way to Fort Bragg, we found a biodynamic (Demeter-certified) apple farm as we were leaving the park. The Apple Farm has a Philo address, but it is next to the California state park. We didn't see any baked goods, but we did buy the best apples I have ever tasted, apples I have not seen at Apple Hill. We brought home bags of Art's Apple and Sierra Beauty. There were at least 10 different types of apples and several pear varieties available for sale the Sunday we were there, but the orchard has over 75 varieties of apples grown on 1700 trees ranging in age from whips to 90 years old. Pears and quince are also grown on the farm. Everything grown or raised on the farm is organic. Some of it is sold at Oxbow Market in Napa and some at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market in San Francisco. At the farm stand, apples, pears, apple juice and cider, apple cider syrup, jams, and other comestibles were available for sale. It is all run on the honor system. Write on the log what you are buying and put the money in the box.
I was surprised to learn that the farm is Demeter certified. There are about 4500 farms worldwide that carry this certification, which has to be reviewed and renewed annually. Demeter agriculture is a comprehensive, organic method of farming that gives back to the soil and livestock that are being raised on the land. No chemicals are used. Pest, diseases, weeds are all addressed by taking care of the soil. Traditional farming tears down the soil, but this method gives back to the soil by treating it, the plants and the livestock on it as a working whole. The focus is on the health of the soil.
I had never heard of this form of biodynamic farming until I visited Benziger Winery last March. The winery tour explained exactly how all the components of the farm are linked together to give back to the soil. Flowers are planted next to the vines to attract pollinators and to repel pest invaders. Fertilizer is from the sheep that are eating the weeds. Compost and compost tea are made from the prunings. Everything gets used and recycled back into the system. These are just a few examples of how each part of the farm is integrally linked with the other components and with the whole closed system.
Having now tasted the best apples ever and sipped some excellent wine, I will definitely be looking for more biodynamic farm products to taste-test.
photos by Michelle Davis