Last week the 2012 APLD conference visited the Benzinger Winery in Sonoma, California. Benzinger uses some of the most highly certified green farming practices of any vineyard in North America and we were fortunate to get a quick lesson in their farming practices from Winegrower and General Manager, Mike Benzinger. http://www.benziger.com/sonoma-organic-farming
|Mike Benzinger explaining their organic and biodynamic farming methods|
Since 2001, Benzinger has been transitioning from conventional to organic and biodynamic farming methods. Mike feels strongly that the quality of the farming systems, and the resulting quality of the land is reflected in the quality of their wine.
Most people know that organic farming avoids the use of synthetic chemicals and favors the use of natural practices, such as compost application and crop rotation, to improve the quality of the soil.
Biodynamic farming takes these concepts even further, and according to Mike, is “organic farming 2.0”. It views the farm as an integrated, closed system, where instead of using insecticides and fertilizers they use plant and animal systems to improve soil and treat pests. Everything they apply to the land, comes from the land.
As a closed system, they strive to create a natural balance between predator and prey. They do this by attracting insects, birds, bats and other creatures that suppress pest populations. Their insectory does the job of attracting these beneficial predators, and it does it in a beautiful way. A series of gravel paths wind through grasses, flowers and vegetables, all plants that naturally attract beneficial creatures. They also grow medicinal plants which are used to create homeopathic teas. Similar to compost tea, these homeopathic teas are applied to the grapes and vines to naturally remedy problems.
|Gravel path through the insectory|
|Views of the vineyard from the insectory|
Benzinger Winery offers a great tour and educational experience, where they can showcase their farming system and offer insight into the connection between healthy land and quality product. Though they are farming at a large scale, the lessons of balance and working with nature are applicable to any garden.