Ceres, the Roman goddess of harvest, and the love a mother bears for her child. She was beloved for her service to mankind in giving them the gift of the harvest, the reward for cultivation of soil. Perhaps the most human goddess, Ceres represents the powerful bond between nature and humans.
Over centuries, our connection to the natural world has gradually diminished until, by the 20th century it was largely lost especially in the Western world. We turned to science for answers and this took us down a path where we tried, and are still trying, to ‘control nature’ rather than trying to ‘work with nature’.
This thinking of ‘trying to control nature through science’ began to work into the production of our food. The revolution in agriculture of increasing production was achieved through the use of fertilisers to boost plant growth, prevent insect damage to crops, as well as the use of fungicides and herbicides to control disease.
This type of thinking also moved into the processing of food, where additives to aid processing, replace expensive ingredients, change the look, taste and mouth feel of food to perceived maximum acceptance, and to lengthen shelf life all added up to the industrialisation of food. The 20th century was about cheap food produced in volume, industrially reconstituted, repackaged and redefined food all to the detriment of a loss of food appreciation and culture.
This industrialisation of food also brought a host of negative baggage for human health and for the environment. Health issues from poor diets are rising through indicators such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer risk through carcinogenic chemicals in our food and of course with the steep rise in allergies. Our environment is under threat from this chemical agriculture with the degradation of soil, the runoff of chemicals into the waterways, the release of soil carbon and other pollutants into the air, the reduction in biodiversity through a farming monoculture mentality. This thinking also extends into our use of household products especially household cleaners, and into consumer items such as skincare, bodycare, and haircare products. Our scientific view of the world is not attuned to nature.
THE ORGANIC MOVEMENT
In the early 1920s, the first of the organic movements to reverse this thinking arose. Rudolf Steiner introduced a group of farmers in central Europe to a scientific way of working with nature that he called ‘biodynamics’. Other movements began soon after.
In the 1970s, a cultural movement among consumers began to take root. Strands from earlier in the century came together and the consciousness of seeking natural food began. The movement widened, branching out towards organics and biodynamics. Other movements began to gain momentum as groups formed vegetarians, vegans, the fair trade movement and later on the slow food movement. It gave rise to support for local food, seasonal food, fresh food, ethnic food and an appreciation of food from around the world. These movements all together signal a reawakening awareness of a food culture, still amongst a minority of people but with the new found interest in cooking as seen in television shows the idea of finding a new food culture is beginning to spread.
THE FOUNDING OF CERES
Ceres was founded by people with common interest in the work of Rudolf Steiner. Our story began in 1982, when a biodynamic and organic fresh produce stand run by Juliet Lamont premiered at the Michael Park School fair in Auckland. As a mother, Juliet wanted to feed her two boys organic food, but it wasn’t readily available in stores at the time. So she took the initiative to find others wanting organic food and called on organic farmers she knew to supply what they produced. The stall was so successful that Juliet began a weekly organic co-op out of her garage in Mt. Wellington.
This later became the first urban organic vegetable co-op in New Zealand and included four of the current founders of Ceres: Elaine Beadle, Noel Josephson, David King and Rodnie Whitlock.
By 1984, the weekly co-op had grown so much that David King worked with Juliet to transform the co-op into a shop in Ellerslie, Auckland. It was the first organic food store in New Zealand, sparsely stocked, but full of enthusiasm and it made a connection with customers. The store was given the name Ceres, after the Roman goddess of the harvest. Rodnie Whitlock had a business specialising in anthroposophical books including those about biodynamics and in 1986 this became part of Ceres. The demand from other stores and co-ops began to come and our wholesale division was started.
Juliet also worked with the organic certification groups in New Zealand representing the trading side of what were mostly grower organisations. A teacher at heart, Juliet returned to her first love in 1990, handing Ceres over to Noel and Rodnie as directors.
Through the 1990s, Ceres began to grow rapidly making the transition into an efficiently operating company with standards recognised by our suppliers and customers. In 2001, Ceres became the first BioGro certified organic distributor in New Zealand. Work towards obtaining HACCP Food Safety certification began in 1985 and we received full certification in 2009. That year we also became the first EcoSocial certified company in New Zealand, a certification that recognises an ethical and socially responsible sourcing philosophy based in the company’s operations. EcoSocial is a fair trade certification based on organic principles and social justice headquartered in Brazil alongside the Brazilian biodynamic movement.
Beginning early in the 21st century, we began to export our products and from 2007 began especially to concentrate on Australia. Today we are the premier certified organic Australasian distributor with our flagship brand Ceres Organics, our organic food ingredient supply to other companies and with the representation of other brands into the Australasian market. The company has also extended into health and beauty products and into household cleaners. We distribute to organic and health food stores, supermarkets, specialty food stores and co-ops as well as food manufacturers.
Our journey onwards continues with our 120 co-worker team, a strong guiding philosophy and some new developments on the horizon.