May 11, 2018
Biodynamic Marketing Company Q&A with Mark Peterson Part 2
Bio-dynamic Marketing Company recently caught up with Demeter Biodynamic dairy farmer Mark Peterson on his Alcheringa dairy farm north of Melbourne in the small town of Nathalia. From the outset, it was clear that this was no ordinary Farm. Mark’s passion, knowledge and the care he has for his animals, product and the Demeter bio-dynamic farming method is truly inspiring. We sat down with Mark and asked him some questions.
Q –What would you say is the greatest accomplishment since the beginning of the Alcheringa farm?
A – I suppose, initially I just thought it was wonderful and everybody should be doing it (Demeter Bio-dynamic Farming). But I soon felt that a lot of people were starting to look sideways at me and thought that perhaps I was a little bit crazy. So, this made me keep to myself for a few years unfortunately.
However, fast forward a few years and consumers starting to take a much bigger interest in our products and started asking where they could buy our milk. In particular, I suppose a bit of a breakthrough was when Biodynamic Marketing Company took on the distribution of our milk. It was also at this time that ‘The Age’ did a blind taste test on 10 different milks in Victoria and ours happened to come out as the winner and the only one rated as ‘Outstanding’.
That was a real plus for us because we thought we had a great product and we love to drink it ourselves. But when you start to get that external recognition through a blind taste test people really started to take notice.
This created even more demand and when customers did start to try our milk they loved the flavour and wouldn’t go back to anything else. I think one of the best compliments I’ve ever received was when a Dad came up to me one day and explained how his son just wouldn’t drink milk until he bought our milk. He just loved it. It’s always a good feeling as you know you are producing a good quality product that people want.
Q – How do you deal with animal welfare issues on the farm?
A – It’s a big issue this one and we get a lot of consumer questions in relation to how we deal with this. Particularly with our bobby cows which are the male calves that we don’t keep for replacement.
We’ve been developing markets over the years to be able to grow these animals out. It’s meant we’ve changed the breeding of our cow to a more robust animal that will grow out into what we call a dairy beef market. So, a lot of the animals we rear, we have a lady who buys them off us at a couple of weeks of age and she will take them and just finish them off on milk herself for a conventional market.
But we do also have some cows that we will rear for 2-3 months here at the farm and get them weaned off milk and then send them off to other bio-dynamic farmers where they will finish them off on grass and live a good life.
We need to emphasise that we can do all of this with our calves and ensure they are getting the best life, but to be able to do this it does take time and money as we need to create demand for this product. So, consumers really need to go to their Butchers and ask for this dairy beef because they know it is ethically raised. So far, we find it’s working really well.
Q – How has growth of the organic industry effected your bio-dynamic product? Specifically, do you feel this has been a positive or negative for you?
A – It’s certainly been a positive for our product, without a doubt. It’s created demand and awareness. I think when the consumer wants to know more about organic and biodynamic products, when you tell them what we do and keep in mind that we have been doing this since 1987, their reaction is always, “wow!”
We aren’t just coming in and following the trend that is popular at the moment. I always come back to the fact that we need to produce a product that the consumer wants. Not a mass-produced product to try and sell it as cheap as possible so they will buy it. But produce a high-quality product at a reasonable price. This is when the consumer is happy to pay for quality. And for me, that’s what it is all about.
Q – What is the difference between organic and bio-dynamic for you?
A – Flavour! This was shown with the blind tastes test that they did a few years ago now. The organic milk was only rated in the middle somewhere. Yes, the organic milk has no chemicals, but it didn’t taste any different to the conventional milk.
What really stood out with the Demeter bio-dynamic milk was the flavour of the milk. We get told this all the time. it simply just tastes better.