Published: 1 years 196 days ago
Duff Bevill steered his diesel pickup onto the short, steep onramp to Highway 101 in Healdsburg, California, and stepped hard on the accelerator to gain speed for a smooth merge between big rigs barreling north on the freeway. “See that?” he asked, looking over his right shoulder. In truth, there was nothing to see. No black smoke billowing out the tailpipe of his diesel truck. He switched all his trucks and tractors to biodiesel fuel in 2007, virtually eliminating sooty emissions while cleaning his engines.
“When we first switched to biodiesel we had trouble with clogged filters because it cut loose all sorts of crud in the fuel system,” he said. “Since we changed the filters, everything has remained clean – no more clogging.” Bevill Vineyard Management is the first vineyard operator to switch to biodiesel in Sonoma County, which is home to only two suppliers of the new, cleaner fuel. In the summer, Bevill uses a blend of 40 percent soybean-based biodiesel with petroleum-based diesel, and he switches to a 20-percent blend in winter because of cold-temperature problems with viscosity.
“When it’s blended at 20 percent, biodiesel adds about 3 percent to the cost of gallon of conventional fuel,” Bevill reported. In addition to switching fuel sources, he takes great care to use equipment that is appropriate in scale to the task at hand. “What size tractor do you really need? How much horsepower is required for the job? If you’re using larger equipment than you need, you’re wasting fuel and causing excess soil compaction.”
Bevill has been pursuing sustainable farming for years and helped develop a statewide workbook for the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program. “We look at components that an ‘organic’ designation doesn’t consider, such as social responsibility. We provide health care for our fulltime employees, whether it’s a guy pumping a shovel at the bottom rung of the economic ladder or a foreman or a supervisor. They get vacation, holidays, and retirement. And we look at other things, like how we’re treating the fish in the river, whether we’re being good stewards of the land, whether we’re controlling our energy use, whether we’re good neighbors, and whether we’re economically viable.”