Stephen and Tania Walter grow a diverse number of cereal and legume crops at the biodynamic farm ‘Burrum’, which is located in Marnoo West in North West Victoria along the Wimmera grain-growing belt. Stephen, a fifth-generation farmer has lived on this farm his entire life; with the property itself being purchased by Stephen’s father in the 1950s. As a child, Stephen was encouraged to plant his own crops in the vegetable garden and even had his own sheep breeding program.
After Stephen and Tania married, they went on to purchase two neighbouring properties, allowing their farm to diversify and become viable, giving them a total of 951 hectares to work with. After converting to biodynamic farming in 2000, Steve and Tania noticed immediate changes to the biological soil activity. Prior to 2000, Steve and Tania had been direct seeding and no-till farming for 18 years and had become reliant on chemicals. In Tania’s words “Going biodynamic gave us a way out of the chemical treadmill” and “we wouldn’t go back to conventional farming in a million years”.
The Walters received Demeter “In-Conversion” status in 2005 and then a full Demeter Biodynamic Certification in 2008. Growing spelt, barley, oats, lentils, peas and faba beans, they rotate crops so that the legumes set up a nitrogen base for the grains, followed by a resting period to allow the soil to recover. This requires years of planning to avoid weed competition by green manuring and cover cropping.
In 2010, the property was flooded, damaging the lentil crops, particularly the skins. The skins had become discoloured, making them unsellable on the domestic market. To salvage the crop, Steve and Tania invested in processing equipment. Now they can skin, split, clean, dehull and pearl everything they grow themselves. By doing it on farm, they can guarantee the seed is never desiccated by glyphosate (a common conventional practice), never fumigated, or treated with chemicals or pesticides. Their processing and storage facilities are audited by their local shire and the Demeter Certification Team, ensuring everything is safe and free from chemicals.