Will Bucklin at his dry-farmed vineyard Old Hill Ranch in Sonoma Valley. Photograph: Charlotte Simmonds for the Guardian

When in Drought, California Dry-farming by The Guardian

Dry farming forgoes modern irrigation and, farmers say, produces much tastier crops. In a drought-stricken state, should others follow suit?

Wine grapes were not watered in Sonoma and Napa before the 1970’s. Corporate wine moved in after that and water use became the norm. Grape growers are paid by the ton and water plumped grapes weigh more, you do the math. As our aquifers dry up and well owners compete with big wine for the precious public resource, maybe it is time to go back to the old time honored tradition and preserve our natural resources.

There’s something different about Will Bucklin’s grape vines. At first it’s hard to notice, but a drive through northern California’s Sonoma Valley, past waves of green, manicured vineyards, makes it clear. The black ribbon of PVC irrigation pipe that typically threads the vines is curiously absent here – because Will doesn’t water his crops.

Bucklin’s Old Hill Ranch, purchased by his stepfather Otto Teller in 1980, claims to be the oldest-rooted vineyard in the area. Teller fell in love with the vineyard because it was one of the few that still “dry-farmed”. Dry farming is a method that bypasses artificial irrigation, relying instead on seasonal rainfall and working the soil in such a way that it holds on to water for the drier months.

Is it possible to grow healthy grapes without watering them? Actually, if conditions are right, he says, it’s possible to grow even better ones. Less water means smaller, more intensely flavoured grapes with a higher skin-to-fruit ratio…

Read the full story at The Guardian >>

1 comment

  1. johanna lynch

    Thanks Johanna!

    Grapes for hundreds of years were grown on farms throughout history in locations apart from the fruit orchards. No one would tear out trees, orchards or dream of poisoning the soil to create antiseptic bugfree dirt, to plant grapes. Those smaller grapes struggled and sought water deep down in the earth between rocks and stones. Magically without a drop of water all summer long, those grapes thrived in that arid rocky soil with no water at all during the summer months. Today in Sonoma County’s tourist-driven “Wine Country” the idea of drowning grapes with potable drinking water, often taken from diverted streams, is unimaginable at any time; forget a drought. The fish are dying, the Roundup used by those lying “sustainable farmers is killing all the bugs good and bad leaving no food for birds and other insects to eat. There are no birds, rabbits, deer in these hatefully destructive greedy grow vineyards (ditto the marijuana industrial size, “farms” ).
    The greedy anti-environmental grape growers are now twisting words like “sustainable” and “organic” to mask
    their dreadful deeds of destruction, soil poisoning and outrageous use of water to come up with not so
    interestingly complex wines whose noses are limp. They are typically watery & underwhelming on the palate.
    Stop the local banks from loaning these wannabe “gentlemen farmers” spat out by corps somewhere insisting on their “early retirements” to have a go at vineyard farming. Hey! The interest rate for the grape industry novitiates is very low; and you get to sign a document that you will use every available pesticide & legal poison, whatever, to assure a big crop of grapes to sell and pay back the loans. Meanwhile you can pose, preen and take a zillion photos of you and your happy wife on the desolate site you now call home in Sonoma

    STOP the abuse of industrial grape farming that kills the birds and establishes prison=like green deserts throughout northern California.
    Save the trees, the birds and the bushes, shrubs, weeds they need to thrive.

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