The role of the farmer is to be an environmentalist, by using the principles of biology and chemistry to achieve a healthier living system. By functioning at a sustainable balance with nature and science the land will continue to produce for generations. Unfortunately, the politics of agriculture and its influence by the petro-chemical and pharmaceutical companies has led to the demise of the family farm and sustainable living off the land. Those who have chosen to farm organically or promote bio-dynamic farming in the 21st century are revolutionaries and commit themselves to the land and these ideals with heart and mind.
La Vie Vineyards was founded by 2 UC Santa Cruz graduates who studied Biochemistry, agroecology, and integrated pest management from some of the foremost professors in the subject. Grapes have been proven to be one of the simplest crops to farm organically, so we wonder why some viticulturalists would invest so much money on synthetic insecticides, miticides, nematicides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides, soil fumigants, or fertilizers when there are natural and often economic alternatives. The chemicals used in conventional farming can be an easy solution to the grower, but can affect the health of the fermenting wine must and the stability of the final product. In the end, the consumer can be exposed to the chemicals or byproducts from the petrochemicals applied late in the season.
Anyone who has studied ecology can tell you about the Carrying Capacity of an ecosystem. Every environment has a maximum output given the inputs, or the climatic, geographic, geologic, and biologic contributions of the area. The amount of sun exposure, moisture, wind, temperature fluctuations, and organic matter can only be altered to some extent by humans. Farmers cannot turn a desert into the tropics, or an oak forest into a vineyard and expect it to be stable in the immediate future. Farming organically requires close to 20% more land to produce the same amount of crop as a conventionally farmed plot. The land production that is ‘lost’ to the farmer is food for many species including birds, insects, fungus, gophers, squirrels, and rabbits. Minimizing the damage caused by these grape hungry critters is often difficult and can require some clever solutions, but can be accomplished with diligence and sometimes a little luck from nature. The reward is that many of the solutions are renewable and do not require repetitive applications of toxic chemicals. And best of all they preserve the land and improve the long term fertility for future generations.
What is the vineyard grower’s worst pest? Is it the worrisome phylloxera aphid that destroys vineyard roots by night, day, or whenever we are not looking? Is it the gopher, similar damage as the phylloxera but much quicker and more efficient? The sharpshooter, who longs to suck on the vines vascular veins and pass along PD(like VD)? How about the fruit loving birds, who can deplete entire harvests in a matter of days and not leave any for seconds? Whatever is problematic to the farmer, it can be prevented by encouraging diversity, having patience, and providing some food for the 'pests.' Vineyard growers who are on the right path to ecological sustainability and organic farming can be identified by the use of a cover crop rich in legumes, grasses, and nectary flowers. Use of bird netting during harvest as opposed to bird shot or bird cannons (noise pollution contributors). Manual leaf thinning and weed hoeing instead of using increased amounts of fungicide and herbicides. Consistent monitoring of the vineyard for pest status and vine nutrition so that inputs to the system can be applied at the most optimal and efficient time.... or only when necessary. We hope more farmers choose the organic path in the future and encourage feedback from all those interested in learning more.
Next page: About Us