In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, 2022, we wanted to dedicate our April blog to sustainability on the vineyard and farm.
Sustainability is a term people are hearing and embracing in their wineries, farms, ranches, and at home. Although the term may feel new and progressive, sustainable farming practices are as old as time.
Mother Nature is an incredible powerhouse. She has mastered the art of intuition, wound care, regeneration, and how to make all these seemingly random variables harmonize together. It is a living miracle to be celebrated each year, each harvest, by working in cooperation with Mother Nature.
And we do.
For over 5 generations, spanning over 140 years, the Gallagher family has been living and working alongside Mother Nature in greater Grand Traverse County, Michigan. Heeding and listening to her commands – but most importantly – observing as we work the vineyard and farm to build a sustainable relationship with the land.
That’s the thing about farming. There isn’t a “one size fits all” manual out there. Each farm is composed of many unique microclimates and soil types that all have unique compositions and ecosystems. It takes DECADES to really dial into the land.
Our initial planting of 15 acres of 9 wine grape varietals will be 10 years old this May. And it has taken nearly that entire time to dial into the nuances of our soil and what wine grape varietals do best on our farm. It can feel like a painful process of elimination at times. But there is no denying the joy of unveiling the delicate balance that reveals premium fruit.
“We like to think a happy farm grows happy vineyards that produce happy grapes that in return make premium wines.” – Creighton Gallagher
Farming takes a tremendous amount of patience, perseverance, and faith. It is not for the faint of heart but for those who have a lot of heart!
Now more than ever, Mother Nature needs us all to be stewards of the land. And we do our part to protect and nurture her by using sustainable farming practices that take care of the land and the grapes we grow.
Farming is all about the DIRT!
Building up organic matter and making sure our soil is healthy and full of all the right nutrients and microorganisms is priority number 1. The tricky part is doing this without getting in the way of Mother Nature’s biological plan.
With every new vineyard or orchard we plant, we use the old, sustainable farming practice of cover crops.
We take at least 2 years to plant cover crops like alfalfa and rye. These cover crops break up compacted soil and help build up the organic matter in the soil. Although these practices can take a lot of time, they are critical for the general health of our soil and vineyards.
By working the land with cover crops before planting, nutrients such as nitrogen, carbon, and phosphorus remain in balance. They have their part to do in the greater scheme of the grapevine life cycle.
Healthy soil composition also is critical for water retention in the vineyard. We want to make sure rain absorbs into the soil and doesn’t run off taking vital nutrients with it.
Besides focusing on the natural ecosystems of our farm, we also focus on canopy management – the big, beautiful leaves that are critical for photosynthesis. We use compost and other natural sources of dense nutrients (like turkey manure) to restore and support the soil and farm each harvest and season.
It is truly a lot of work to grow any fruit, so we want to make sure we show our trees and vines the love and respect they deserve by embracing sustainability at the vineyard.
This symbiotic relationship between a farmer and their land is a story as old as time. To put it in a more humorous context: “You scratch my back, I will scratch yours” is the playful mantra between the two.
All kidding aside, this partnership is what makes a bountiful harvest and eventually beautiful wines.
Sustainable grape growing and farming is a journey, not a destination.
Whether you are a conventional farmer, organic, or biodynamic, we believe building a sustainable and environmentally focused farming journey is what we all should work towards year after year.
This consistency and collective mission of conscious farmers will surely have a positive impact on many generations to come.
We are committed to this journey and give ourselves grace and understand that it is not a race.
In our journey to become a fully sustainable winery, we are actively working towards integrating new vineyard practices to minimize and someday eliminate synthetic chemicals.
Stay tuned by signing up for our newsletter – hint, the sign-up is at the bottom of this page!
You don’t want to miss out on learning more about new practices and equipment we are so excited to start using this season. We have made significant investments and can’t wait to share it all with you soon!
We love connecting with our guests and sharing what we’ve learned throughout the years. We would hardly call ourselves experts, but consider ourselves forever students of this way of life: always learning and growing, trying new things to make our Michigan vineyard stronger and more sustainable each year.