Halleck Vineyard has been farmed organically for well over a decade. We are not certified, but we are wholly and intentionally organic. This means that all our farming practices, amendments and pest control is both sustainable and everything we use comes from the earth with no synthetic chemicals.
Certification requires thousands of dollars in paperwork and fees, but does not yield a different result. Given the one acre size of our vineyard and the intimate relationship we have with every purchaser of our wine, we determined this money better spent on things other than government, lawyers, and administrators. We chose expenses that contribute to the quality of the wine.
Farming organically costs a bit more money than "conventional" farming because naturally sourced material does not hang around as long. So it must be administered a bit more often. It's also slightly more expensive. We are investing in a new in-line fertilization system to reduce labor and enhance control over the delivery of nutrients. Further, we are embarking on a revitalization of Halleck Vineyard, now 22 years old, moving emitters, diagnosing the health of every vine, and taking steps to bring each to its fullest potential.
Going organic was a decision Jennifer and I made early, prior to its recent uptick. We were growing our sons on this property, as well as grapes. Keeping them safe and healthy was the highest priority. When we began, the "word on the street" was that organic wine was not as good as conventional wine.
Fortunately, this has been proven dead wrong.
We are determined to move this needle further, so we decided to ask Ben and George, owners of The Farm Vineyards, to follow suit. We are the only winery to have made wine from this pristine site. The decision to go organic required a lot discussion.
Ben and George live on the vineyard with their dogs, llamas, and bees. When I approached them about organic farming, they listened intently to my romantic notions of the importance of organic farming for the land and community.
They responded with their hard truth: while they understood, they weren't convinced the hard costs outweighed the benefits. In their own research, they visited a local wine store and called friends who control some of the largest brands in the world. All reported that "organic" is not important: not worth the time, or the money. My experience told me otherwise. After much conversation, we came to an agreement. The Farm Vineyards will be using organic farming starting this spring!
We are in for the long haul. On the front lines, as we are, people are purchasing our wine at the vineyard. Almost everyone asks if we are organic. I want to answer yes, but can only do so partially. It's not the same as a retail environment where that question is not obvious nor the vintners within reach. Halleck Vineyard is also at a much smaller scale than agri-business; large enterprises turn like a cruise ship rather than a speedboat. We are a boutique winery, working with mostly boutique vineyards.
We are hoping to influence our community to going wholly organic across all our wines. We are asking all our source vineyards. We are often very small purchasers of their crop. But the more who ask, the faster it will change.