Organic Agriculture

Rosnay is an organic farm that was planned and created by the Statham family in 1995-1997, and which is now a part of Rivers Road Organic Farms, a unique model of cooperative organic farming using Community Title. Rosnay is certified organic to the Australian National Organic Standard by Southern Cross Certified.

We farm organically because it is possible. We are convinced that chemicals should not be used to produce food. We are not convinced that simply fermenting grapes magically removes chemical residues. In fact, we believe that fermentation and digestion are metabolic processes that can alter the toxicity of chemicals, in ways which are poorly understood.

Rosnay was recognised as a pioneer in organic farming in 2012, when Sam Statham was awarded the Inaugural NSW Organic Pioneers Award.

The Beautiful Science of Organics

The science of organic farming is more than “farming without chemicals”. According to Australia’s organic gardening pioneer Peter Bennett, it is “a collection of skills, combined with experience and observation, which can maintain a stable life support system and produce vegetation of a high nutritional value upon which people can depend for a vigorous and healthy life-cycle”.

These are what we believe are the three most important principles of organic farming.

1. “Feed the soil, not the plant”. The foundation is the soil’s organic matter, humus and biological activity. Grazing animals transform pasture into manure, to return to the soil and become humus – essential for good soil structure and plant health. Plants need water for photosynthesis and respiration, but when water soluble chemical fertilisers are used the plant is forced to take up the fertilisers dissolved in the water, resulting in vigorous but soft, sappy growth, susceptible to pests and disease. However, when humus and the soil ecosystem are well developed organically, the vine can drink clean water, or it can absorb nutrients, as required. Deep rooted, organic vines and trees are lean but healthy and balanced, expressing the typical characters of the season, region and variety.

2. “Weeds are nature’s workers”. Rather than eradicate any plants which may “compete” with the crops and pastures, the organic approach is to see “weeds” as the builders of organic matter – the matted grass roots provide fibre, the tap roots extract deep nutrients which become available to the vines after the weeds have died and broken down. Many plants seen as “weeds” are actually “fixers” of atmospheric nitrogen as free fertiliser, or harbour beneficial insects.

Of course, noxious and declared weeds have to be eliminated by hand.

3. “Pests and diseases are the symptoms of other problems”. Fungal decomposition is part of the natural cycle in all ecosystems, and pests and disease can be seen a part of this. Rather than fighting disease with “systemic” fungicides which are absorbed into and translocated throughout the plant to kill invading diseases from the inside, the organic grower tries to avoid disease, (eg opening the canopy to air and light). Failing this, non-toxic, non-systemic products can be used, such as soap, milk, or sulfur, to help control the spread. Sanitation may help to break a disease cycle (eg burning infected canes in winter).

Similarly for insect pests – infestation may be a symptom of unhealthy plants and overuse of pesticides. By not spraying you actually encourage beneficial parasites and predators to keep the pests in natural balance.

Biodynamic Practices

This is organic farming science, developed by Rudolph Steiner, a scientist who looked open mindedly beyond physical matter and into the life forces which influence soil, plant, animal and human health. He took ancient experience such as lunar planting rhythms and built a complete system of agriculture which is low input and self reliant. A healthy, balanced “farm organism” is developed by working with these subtle influences using various homeopathic, biological and herbal preparations, all of which may be produced on the farm using herbs, manures and minerals. Biodynamic methods help produce improved shelf life, flavour and cell structure.

Biodynamics is often derided and attacked by the other, hard end of science. However it is important to observe impartially. Before Rosnay began, Richard, Florence and Sam Statham visited organic and biodynamic farms in Australia, France and New Zealand to discover their methods. Without prejudice, we found that the best looking plants and animals, and the best tasting wines, tended to be from the farms which employed the Biodynamic method.

We have been using the biodynamic preparations at Rosnay since 1997.

Here is a paper on Biodynamics that was presented by Sam Statham to the Australian Society for Viticulture and Oenology in 2009.