(Written by Carolyn Brown, landscaper and gardener at Frey Vineyards.)
In 1924 Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Bio Dynamic Agriculture, discussed in his Agriculture Lectures how we must view the soil as being alive and full of life-giving forces. Also, how a living soil is akin to a plant and how plants themselves are an extension of the soil. This vitality is passed on to us through the energy contained in foods grown from healthy, living soils. That wellspring of life energy is not to be found in soils that have plant nutrients applied in a synthetic, chemical form. Steiner also stressed the importance of making a farm so self contained that it becomes self sustaining; its soil’s fertility is generated, conserved and recycled and the farm becomes its own entity. Creating and applying compost made from spent plants, cover crops and animal manure produced on site is the best way to realize this. The farm’s soil fertility becomes individualized to the land. How different this is from relying on importing soil amendments from different regions or even from different countries.
Current scientific research is discovering how very complex the living soil is. There is a complex relationship between soil mycorrhizae – bacteria and fungi – and the plant kingdom. Plants produce sugars through photosynthesis. These sugars are exuded from plants’ roots into the surrounding soil, which feeds the soil fungi and bacteria. In turn, these soil borne microorganisms help dissolve minerals and nutrients essential for plant growth and make them available in a form that plants can use. The end result is that we get food which is much richer in vitamins and minerals than vegetables grown with synthetic fertilizers. These microorganisms also allow plants to communicate with one and another! Mycorrhizae form a giant underground web connecting plants together. Plants that are being attacked by harmful insect pests pass the word on to other plants, which may protect themselves by making bad tasting chemicals, or chemicals that mimic predatory insect pheromones. These pheromones draw the plant allies into the farm or garden and they keep the bad bugs in check. What a great system! Bio Dynamics means “life engenders life” and healthy living soil creats vibrant, healthy ecosystems and people – a wonderful testimony to this way of farming.
The new winery site on West Road in Redwood Valley
At Frey Vineyards we are looking forward to breaking ground at our new winery this spring, and several of us are enjoying these rainy winter days making plans for the landscaping. The site is surrounded by oak-forested hillsides and reflects the incredible natural beauty of Mendocino County. In the middle of the vineyard is an irrigation pond fringed with cattails, which hosts an abundance of frogs, birds, insects and other wildlife. Garden themes will bridge the exquisite natural landscape with the art of winemaking and culinary pairings. The garden will include edible foodscapes as well as plantings of drought-tolerant California natives that are host plants for pollinators, beneficial insects, and Monarch butterflies.
At this winter’s Biodynamic Farm and Garden meeting I learned about Jail Industries, a two-acre nursery in Sonoma County that produces a wide variety of ornamental nursery stock including many California natives. It is the perfect plant resource for our new project. The nursery is part of Sonoma County Jail’s vocational program and provides low cost trees to cities, counties, schools and public agencies. In addition, it has provided over 50 schools with free vegetable starts and seeds. Their nursery is open to the general public by appointment and during their three plant-sales each year. All of the revenue goes toward funding the Agriculture Vocational Education Program for the inmates.
We are looking forward to working with this innovative project, which aims to help individuals gain practical life skills, as well as helping to preserve and protect the environment. To find out more go to: scoe.org/jailindustries
We look forward to having you visit our new winery in 2018!
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