At the Fürstenhof in Hellikon with bio.inspecta

Excerpt from Jurapark-Zytig (Jurapark newsletter) No. 40, October 2022

The «Jurapark Aargau – regio.garantie» label recognises products in which 100 per cent of the primary ingredient and at least 80 per cent of the entire product originate from the Jurapark Aargau area, a regional nature park. Moreover, at least two thirds of the added value must be created in the region. bio.inspecta audits against the criteria. Patrick Spinelli, project manager for regional products at Jurapark Aargau, joined the inspection visit to the Meier family.

This summer, the Fürstenhof farm, run by Christine and Martin Meier, will be the first business to obtain Jurapark certification for non-food products. Since this is a first, I used the opportunity to accompany bio.inspecta during the initial inspection in Hellikon. Apple juice from the farm’s own trees on traditional standard rootstocks as well products made from alpaca wool, such as cushions, hats, headbands and insoles for shoes, are now being added to the current 330 Jurapark-certified food products.

At the Fürstenhof I am met by Ueli Müller and the farmers. Müller carries out the agricultural inspections for the «Jurapark Aargau – regio.garantie» label on behalf of bio.inspecta. After a short round of introductions, he explains the inspection process. First there is a tour of the farm, then the storage facility is inspected and the supply chain mass balance records are checked, and finally all the forms are gone over and signed.

Out on pasture with the alpacas, the inspector asks questions as to the feed, husbandry, shearing and the processing of the wool. The tour then brings us to the Meiers' small farm shop. Here Ueli Müller takes a closer look at the individual products’ labelling and examines the use of the Jurapark label. He also checks the presentation of Jurapark information material.

During the subsequent tour of the storage facility, the focus is on the flow of goods. Ueli Müller checks the ingredients and also calculates the approximate quantity of processed products based on the raw materials. Such a mass balance check is a way to reveal potential fraud. If more products are produced than the raw materials allow, sanctions will be imposed. Certificates of origin must be obtained in advance for the additional raw materials used, proving their origin in the region. In addition, all receipts and delivery notes must be retained for later audits.

The same process is repeated for the apple juice, where Ueli Müller bases his calculations on the approximate apple yield per tree. The fact that most of the Fürstenhof farm’s apple trees are located in the Canton of Basel-Landschaft instead of in the Jurapark in the Canton of Aargau poses a bit of a challenge: when it comes to processing, the apples have to be separated into two batches. Müller explains that with these two product types the calculation of the flow of goods mass balance is relatively simple. Composite products such as jams, sausages or baked goods are more complicated to audit. If a suspicion of fraud arises, samples are taken and subjected to lab tests. «My job is to check whether it really is what it says on the tin,» he says with a smile. For the recertification in two years’ time, he then gives Christine Meier tips on how to label and store the materials and products so that what is and is not relevant for inspections to come is readily visible.

Alpaca woollens from start to finish

At the Fürstenhof, all wool processing, from shearing to the final products , is carried out manually. Every spring, a professional shearer from the Alpakahof Bern alpaca farm comes out to shear the animals. The wool thus obtained is cleaned and carded. The sorted wool can then be spun on the spinning wheel, a process in which the wool is pulled and twisted into a stable thread. The spun yarn is washed in lukewarm water. Christine Meier uses the yarn to knit and crochet woollen products such as hats and gloves. Cushions are additionally felted. These products have been Jurapark-certified since the summer of 2022. Christine Meier also offers trekking with the alpacas - a very special experience.