By Sandy Zimmerman
(Photos by Sandy Zimmerman and Halter Ranch Vineyard)
There is a new classification for healthy vineyards and wines.
Skylar Stuck, General Manager of Halter Ranch Vineyards, explained, “We are part of a group called Sustainability in Practice (SIP). This certification differs from biodynamics and organic farming.
Our vineyards are sustainable as we must be stewards of the land.
We don’t use insecticides and from that perspective our ranch would qualify as organic.
Most of what we grow could be registered as organic.
Ecology looks at protecting the soil and environment when we grow and use different processes.
Sustainability in practice considers water reclamation.
All the rainwater that comes off the roof of our winery and all the gray water that flows out of the winery is recycled and brought back for irrigation through our irrigation ponds.
We are not using well water unless it is a last resort.
Halter Ranch plants cover crops like legumes and barley to put back into the soil and bring more nitrogen into the vineyard.
We spent more than $40,000 this year by hand hoeing the new vines because we don’t use insecticides.
The good insects are encouraged by having gardens throughout the vineyard.
Predator birds keep hungry birds out of the vineyard.
There are a couple of practices that fit into organic certification that we are not doing.
Organic takes vineyard practices into account but not the overall business plan and employee treatment.
Our sustainable program involves both of those as well.
There is a slight distinction with what we use.”
Kevin Sass, the Winemaker, feels, “When you see this label you know we are protecting the environment and conserving natural resources while treating our employees with care.
Lindsey Burrell discussed the Sustainability in Practice (SIP) certification, “Our practice is to use all sustainable substances without chemicals to control pests.
We don’t use anything that is going to be persistent and remain to damage the environment.
Overall with sustainability, we are working with mitigation as opposed to elimination. We think of the vineyard as an ecosystem.
The SIP program has been around since 2008.
It is more suited for the wine industry where organic covers a much broader group of products.”
The Halter Ranch Vineyard is one of the first vineyards to achieve the SIP certification.
The SIP certification is known as caring for people, farms and the environment.
Hens range freely in the vineyard, consuming bugs, fertilizing the soil, and providing eggs for the workers.
In-row tillers are used to remove weeds from the vine rows. This removes the need for herbicides.
Biodiesel is used in all our tractors.
One thousand tons of organic compost is added to the vineyard each year after harvest.
Oak woodlands surround the vineyard providing diverse habitat for wildlife. Boxes and perces are located throughout the vineyard to encourage hawks, owls, and eagles. These raptors help control unwanted rodents.
There are airports in Santa Maria and Santa Rosa that offer direct flights from Las Vegas.