Hey farmer farmer
Put away that D.D.T. now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
- Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi
I felt like I was walking on blacktop. Hard, hot and lifeless it looked like a place where a parking attendant would work, not a farmer. But this was a vineyard. Each vine looked like it was a weed growing out of cracks in the blacktop on some worn parking lot.
Living soil gives life. In this vineyard the soil was dead and the vines were dying. Yet, it was a beautiful site and the vines were giving some good wines even as they struggled to survive. They deserved better.
There seemed only one route back to health that could provide the opportunity to make the wines I believed we had the potential to produce. That path was biodynamics, which is the best existing framework for regenerative agriculture. To craft the wines we aspired to make, our soils, indeed our entire farm needed regeneration. It is never just the soil that needs regeneration, but also the spirit. At Troon, not only our soils were abused.
How was a vineyard transformed into a parking lot? Only through the abuses of industrial, thoughtless farming can soil be so decimated. Sick soils make sick plants and these poor vines were overcome with viruses and fungal diseases that stronger plants could have resisted. It became our mission to bring them back to health so they could live out their remaining years doing what Mother Nature intended them to do with their lives - ripen grapes.
Then there is intention, perhaps the key to regenerative agriculture. Previously their intent was to extract all they could from the land and extract they did. Today our mission is to give back more than we take. To be a good farmer you must work for the farmers who will farm the land in the future with the same fervor you work for yourself.
The path from parking lot to vineyard started with science. We did extensive soil studies with Vineyard Soil Technologies and worked with Biomemakers to establish a complete cross-section of our vineyard microbiome through genetic sequencing. To know where you need to go, you first have to know where you are.
Then came the proactive part - biodynamics. The essence of biodynamics is building healthy soils. The main tool in the biodynamic toolbox is compost. Over the last years we have been applying tons of biodynamic compost to our vineyards. In addition to the compost, now that chemicals were eradicated and weed control was returned to manual methods our soils began to change, the microbiome bloomed. Today you can walk into our vineyard and easily dig your hands into healthy arable soil.
That parking lot has been replaced by paradise - a vineyard.