Contributing Monkie G Monkie
Published on February 12, 2010
All of us greenies know its better to buy directly from the small farmers at the farmers markets, then to buy from big business farming, right? Well, in most cases I would say that is true, but not always. I just came across Benziger Family Winery here in California and I am blown away. They not only grow all their grapes organically and Biodynamically, they also have built an sustainable water system. They save all the water used in production, clean it in their man made wetlands, and then re-use it again. Almost a closed loop system. Why isn’t everyone doing this?
Mike Benziger Talks About The Water System: “Winemaking can be a pretty water-intensive business. Preventing the conditions where bacteria could thrive means being meticulously clean. And that takes water. How do we to reconcile our commitment to environmental responsibility with our need to keep clean? How about a recycling system, built right into the property.
We pump gray water, which is the water used in winemaking production, into the first of two ponds. The water then flows through an embankment of water plants into the lower pond. By the time the water reaches the lower pond, about 3 days, the root systems of the plants have acted like a filter, and cleansed the water of impurities. Once clean, the water in the lower pond can serve as an irrigation resource during years as dry as we expect this one to be.”
Below is a featured video from the Sundance Channel about the Benziger water system.
More about the Benziger Winery
Via Growing Produce.com The 85-acre ranch, purchased in 1980, features 42 acres of wine grapes and 40 acres of gardens, wetlands, ponds, and olive groves. Driven by a concern over the decline in wildlife and insect populations on their conventionally farmed ranch, coupled with inconsistent fermentations in their wine production, they decided to research strategies to repair the health of their property. As family member Mike Benziger explains, “Through our research we found that biodynamics was the form of agriculture that had the ability to heal the land the fastest and continuously.” They began using biodynamic farming practices in 1996.
Biodynamic farming focuses on creating healthy soil and plants with deep root systems, which helps vines better tolerate drought. As Mike explains, this is important because, “Let’s face it, the number one problem that we see going forward in our area is water supply. The water tables are dropping quite a bit on Sonoma Mountain here, our wells are producing less water every year and we have to be very efficient in the way we grow our plants.”
The three levels of farming practices for Benziger wines are highlighted below:
Biodynamic-is the highest form of organic farming. It goes beyond the elimination of all chemical inputs. It incorporates the environment in and around the vineyard and works with nature to apply the knowledge of life forces to bring about balance and healing in the soil.
Organic-grape growing avoids the use of synthetic chemicals and uses natural methods like crop rotation, tillage and natural composts to maintain soil health as well as natural methods to control weeds, insects and other pests.
Certified-Sustainable-is an advanced farming program for all Benziger growers that are not already certified Biodynamic or Organic. The program challenges growers to use sound environmental techniques to cultivate grapes with more site-specific characters, flavors and aromas.