by Santé New Zealand Limited managing director Peter Hope
Barley grass has long been considered an important ‘functional food’ that promotes health and supports disease prevention. For many years it has been a foundation part of the health and wellness industry and is widely used by health-conscious consumers around the world. This ‘superfood’ contains high levels of chlorophyll and is rich in vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. It is a powerhouse of nutrients.
The popularity of barley grass continues to grow as more and more consumers, worldwide, discover its benefits. At Santé New Zealand Limited, we recognize the powerful properties of barley grass and, its health benefits. This has led us to develop a comprehensive selection of everyday barley-based products.
Our Barley Grass Growing Region
Our barley grass is grown in the Canterbury region of New Zealand. Canterbury lies in the central-eastern region of the country’s South Island. This is an area of 44,508 square kms and is one of the most important agricultural and horticultural areas in the country. The soils of the Canterbury Plains are formed on an alluvial plain and are particularly well suited to growing cereal crops such as wheat, oats and barley.
Our region has a long history of growing barley, but this has been mainly for its grain. The barley grain is used in the brewing industry and in baked products.
Given the local expertise in growing these barley grain crops it has been an exciting innovation to partner with expert farmers to grow ‘barley grass’. This is the same barley plant, but it is grown, harvested and dried at the green leaf stage, well before the plant matures and develops the grain. Over time, we have developed optimal growing techniques and harvest to suit growing the barley plant for its leaf rather than for its grain.
The local Canterbury climate with its cool winters and warm summers, along with the free draining soils are very well suited to growing superior barley grass crops. We consider the crops of barley grass we grow to be truly outstanding in when it comes to chlorophyll and nutrient levels. Our barley grass crops are world class.
Certified Organic Production
More than simply growing the barley grass we grow it under a certified organic system. This is an independently audited system that ensures the barley grass is grown according to organic principles. The farms on which we grow the product are all certified organic and have been so for many years. This means our barley grass is grown without chemical pesticides or artificial fertilizers. Additionally, our region is considered one of the cleanest and least polluted regions of the globe.
We grow our crops in a method called ‘broadacre’. This means the crops are grown in large paddocks (i.e. fields) often 10ha or more. In this method the barley grass receives natural sunlight, airflow and rain as the main water source. The soils these certified organic barley grass crops grow in are in a ‘rotation’ of animal grazing and cropping. This naturally balances inputs of nutrients (i.e. from the grazing animal’s manure and from legume plants) with the extraction of nutrients from cropping. Typically, the farm rotation may involve 3 years of animal grazing (sheep or cattle) and 3 years of growing a variety of crops including barley grass.
Ensuring the quality
The production of premium barley grass requires that the plant receives enough water (either via rainfall or irrigation), sufficient macro-nutrients along with enough magnesium, Sulphur and calcium from the soil. The macro-nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) or NPK for short. Often the availability of the macro-nutrients to the barley plant is governed by the soil pH level, presence of micro-nutrients and the levels of organic matter in the soil.
Farming under organic principles is demanding as there are a limited number of ways the organic farmer can influence the availability of nutrients. This requires careful planning and great attention to the soil’s fertility and structure. Our farmers spend a great deal of time considering all aspects of what it takes it make a healthy soil including the soil microbiology and the presence of enough earthworms and other beneficial soil dwelling creatures. Application of certified organic compost and other approved fertilizers is a key part of maintaining fertility in the cropping phase.
An important part of the crop husbandry is to prepare a fine seedbed when the barley seeds are sown. Generally, barley grows to about 30 cm high before it is harvested with and specially designed harvester. Time to harvest depends on the time of year – it takes longer in the colder autumn months of the year.
It is important that, at harvest, the leaf is cut and delivered to the dryer as quickly as possible since it can’t be kept in a heap too long. The drying process is designed to reduce the moisture content and stabilize the barley leaf as a safe and nutritious food product.
Milling the barley leaf is an art and a science. Well-milled barley leaf can be easily absorbed by the body and is a perfect ingredient for drinks and smoothies.
Respecting the land
Santé New Zealand Limited knows that the way we produce our crops impacts the health and purity of the environment. We are extremely mindful to grow according to organic principles and strive to leave the environment better than we found it.
The farms are certified organic by BioGro Ltd, one of two government approved certifiers of organic production and products in New Zealand. BioGro auditors ensure that our products and systems conform to their standards which include paying attention to the health of the ecosystems in and around our farms,
As BioGro-certified producers, the products developed from our barley can carry the BioGro logo. This helps our customers know that the product they buy is genuine and has been grown under organic principles. Additionally, our products come from a system in New Zealand where there is no genetic modification allowed.