Published: 1 years 201 days ago
Kyle Lerner is proud to be the fifth generation of a family that has been growing winegrapes in the Lodi area since the early 1900’s. Judging by how his five-year-old son, Ian, shadows him around the ranch, it appears likely the operation will end up in the hands of a capable sixth generation.
Lerner recognizes the importance of taking good care of the ranch and all its natural resources, as well as protecting it from urban development. “We saved a block of vines that was planted in 1904,” he said, pointing to a thick and gnarly trunk. “A developer had purchased the property and built four large homes adjacent to the vineyard, and this was divided into four seven-acre parcels ready for more homes. We owned the adjacent vineyard, did a lot-line adjustment, and purchased this block from the developer. It had weeds taller than the vines.”
Innovation and leadership come naturally to Lerner, who is president of the Lodi District Grape Growers Association. Sustainable practices – from environmental stewardship to economics – play an important role in Lerner’s operation. “We also care about the social aspects,” he added. “We’ve got to be fully aware of our neighbors and employees, who are basically our extended family. In fact, my head foreman, David Cadena, started working for us when he was 16, and he’s been with us for 20 years. We make sure that as we grow we take care of our employees’ financial needs as well.”
Lerner hopes to be certified next year under the Lodi Rules, a sustainable farming program monitored by Protected Harvest, an independent entity that certifies farmers for an eco-label. “We’ve found that we don’t have to modify our practices a great to deal to meet the standards,” Lerner said. “It’s simple stuff, like monitoring nutrition levels and applying only the fertilizer we need, and not just working off a calendar. We track pests closely, again not relying on a calendar to tell us when to spray. We know which pests are in the fields and what predators we have. We may not treat a whole vineyard, but maybe just a corner where we’re having pest pressure. We’ve also decided to let native grasses grow instead of disking the ground several times a year. And we’re monitoring our water usage very closely.”
“We’ve been here for five generations and the farm is still viable,” he said. “We want to make sure it will be here for the next five generations.”