Our Vineyard uses Sustainable Agriculture and Environmentally Friendly Farming Practices

At Pipestone Vineyards, we do strive to be gentle on the land while making a living for our family. It is not always easy and we learn something new every day. We don’t use any non-organic herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides or petro-chemical based fertilizers (can you imagine this stuff is in most of your food!?). We farm using a cover crop to hold the soil in place and prevent erosion, and to provide habitat for beneficial insects and other animals. Watch Jeff explain his Conservation Viticulture on You Tube. Pipestone Vineyards is the proud recipient of the Central Coast Viticulture Green Award.

Sustainable agriculture is a broad goal of agricultural production that is dynamic and emphasizes the full use of biological (renewable and recyclable) resources. It is a group of farming methods that do not deplete soil, water, air, wildlife, or human community resources. The term generally refers to farming practices that strive for this ideal, as opposed to typical farming practices that rely heavily on petroleum products (like gasoline, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides) and/or exploited labor. Of the 1.8 million farms in the US, maybe 2-4% use some kind of sustainable methods.

Environmentally friendly farm practices
Rotating photos showing natural environmental farming practices
  • Horse-powered vineyard: We farm with a team of draft horses in order to be gentle on the soil.

  • Cover crops: Our orchards have been in native grasses and legumes for at least 35 years. In the vineyard, we have inter-planted with the naturalized flora, native grasses that include bromes and fescues along with clovers, medics vetch, lupine and other legumes. We are experimenting with a large and vigorous legume called bell bean in rocky areas to add extra organic matter and natural nitrogen to the soils. The cover crops hold the soil in place preventing erosion and keeping the dust down in the summer months. Since no tillage is used, the earthworms even have a fighting chance! The cover crops promote bio diversity in the types and numbers of invertebrates (bugs!) (and even in the microbes) living in the vineyard. Many of the insects we see are beneficial, and they are all living in the cover crop. At certain times of the year, we have seen 1000’s of lady bugs in the vine canopies! The cover crop roots also give the soil better structure, allowing water and nutrients to penetrate more easily into the root zone. Organic matter is returned to the soil annually as the plants are mowed. The legumes even produce excess nitrogen that is taken up by the other cover crops and the vines themselves.

  • Weed control: Accomplished using a combination of horse drawn tillage, hand hoeing and flaming small weedlings in the early Spring.

  • Chemical Use: The orchards, (including where the vineyard is planted), have been farmed organically for as long as anyone can remember with no chemicals used since at least 1988 and likely for 10 years prior to that. Certainly our kitchen garden is totally organic, as are our chickens! If you come at the right time, we often offer our surplus vegetables to visitors! We have eliminated the use of non-organic farm chemicals in the vineyard. Anyone who would like to volunteer for hand hoeing (seven miles of vine row) should call me immediately!! We have never used any pesticides and enjoy an abundance of insects in the vineyard. Parasitic wasps (too small to bite you!) are common and their prey (leaf hoppers) are far and few between. Only stylet oil (food grade mineral oil), and kaligreen (form of baking soda), is used as a fungicide for mildew control, a practice that dates back to ancient times even predating Rome.

  • Fertilization: We only fertilized the first year the vines were planted. We do keep close track of the nutritional levels in the vines and have not had to fertilize since. Maybe it is attitude, but our vines are generally on the lower end of nitrogen levels, which is fine by us to avoid overly vigorous growth. We would rather the vine’s energy is directed to the fruit and not into growing a jungle of tangled vines and leaves. Fertile soils have a balanced mix of minerals, organic matter, microorganisms and macroorganisms (like earthworms). Sustainable farmers like us, try to keep these components in balance (see the page on feng shui) by adding compost, minerals, naturally occurring fertilizers, and by returning back into the soil crop residues and the cover crops grown specifically for fertility. The pomace from the winery is also returned to the vineyard after being composted.

If you want to learn more about our practices, we encourage you to come visit and take a walk in our vineyard and orchards; we may even learn something from you!

How can you support sustainable agriculture?

  1. Grow your own food in whatever space you have;
  2. buy organic or sustainably produced foods at food co-ops, natural food stores, or ask your supermarket to carry organic. Better yet, buy them directly from a small farmer (at farmers’ markets or directly from the farm) dedicated to sustainable farming methods;
  3. visit a small farm that is managed sustainable to learn what it is all about.

We invite you to visit us anytime!