Published: 1 years 203 days ago
Becky Jenkins hopes her children will become fourth-generation winegrape growers. Her husband, Clarence, started working in the field when he was 14, graduated from college with a degree in viticulture, and now brings 43 years of experience to Madrone Vineyard Management Company in Sonoma, California. Their daughter has a degree in marketing and graphic design, and their son is going to study enology – good skills to bring back to the family business.
Becky recognizes that being a good neighbor is key to being sustainable. “When a client is putting in a vineyard, I suggest that they go out and talk to their neighbors about what’s going on. We put the neighbors on a list and call them to explain what we’re doing, especially before we spray.”
Linda Marquez-Hale, supervisor at Madrone, says a client’s inevitable first question about sustainability is how much it will cost. “The fact is, part of being sustainable is to be economically viable, so we’re not going to do anything that doesn’t make financial sense,” Linda said. “We’ve been very effective. Our average cost per acre is in line with everybody’s budget, and we’re doing it sustainably.”
This year for the first time the management company used all organic products in their fungicide program, and they found that the costs were not prohibitive. When the neighbors ask which sprays are used, they’re relieved to hear that the products are organic. One of the vineyards under Madrone’s management is certified organic, but others continue to use an herbicide that excludes them from the certification.
Encouraging natural habitat, predatory birds, and beneficial insects is part of Madrone’s management strategy. “If we don’t have to cut down a tree, we’ll work around it,” Jenkins pointed out. “The oaks provide habitat for raptors. We’ll leave natural grasses and plants on the borders to encourage beneficial insects. We have owl boxes, bat boxes, and bluebird boxes strewn around the vineyard so we can encourage natural predators. These are simple things that don’t cost much.” This winter, Linda plans to plant native species among a stand of oak trees to establish an insectary for beneficials.