BADGER MOUNTAIN VINEYARD ECO PROJECTS
In 1988 Badger Mountain vineyard converted to 100% organic viticulture, and in 1990 became the first Certified Organic winegrape vineyard in Washington State. Our vineyard has also been certified Salmon Safe, a Northwest eco-label that recognizes sustainable growing practices determined to protect biodiversity, water quality, and habitat for fish and wildlife. Progressive, natural farming techniques are at the heart of all of our wines and we constantly pursue new and innovative organic farming methods — we’ve even come up with several on our own. Below is a list of all of our current environmental sustainability projects:
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Under USDA organic requirements we are not allowed to purchase commercial or synthetic fertilizers for our estate vineyard – so we make our own, which we call Compost Tea. Using a 500-gallon tank, highly oxygenated water is steeped with compost and other nutrients such as molasses and alfalfa meal. The densely concentrated liquid creates economical and healthy bacteria and fungi for the vines and cover crop without toxic chemicals. Beyond the environmental benefits, making our own “tea” allows us to change the recipe based on the particular needs of the vines.
Bill’s newest addition to the vineyard’s natural arsenal, this weed burner uses fuel from a propane tank mounted on a small but powerful energy efficient tractor. The fuel is sent to small burn blades which can be directed at specific troublesome weeds in the vineyard.
Under USDA guidelines we are severely limited in approaches that we can take to control “bad bugs” that sometimes invade the vineyard. In order to control harmful cutworms that attack the vines, Bill devised a huge and powerful fan that fits snugly on the back of a tractor. This fan blows the worms into netting that has been draped on the other side of the rows, so we can dispose of the “bad guys” properly.
Since 2006, Badger Mountain Vineyard has been producing bio diesel for all of the vineyard equipment and farm trucks. We have a weekly “route” to local restaurants to retrieve their used cooking oil for the conversion. Housed in a solar-heated building, in order to create the proper temperatures for conversion, the bio diesel provides us with clean burning fuel for the vineyard equipment.
The European designed in-row cultivator mimics hoe plowing and allows us to keep control of the weeds and if necessary, the cover crop. This replaces the need for any herbicides for weed control, which is not allowed under USDA organic guidelines.
Our vineyard is robust with natural vetch and rye that thrive between the rows of vines. These particular crops help increase the natural nitrogen and hummus that is found in the soil. The cover crops also attract many of the “good guy” insects to the vineyard. It is a very healthy and “alive” location, which facilitates the healthy lifecycle of the vineyard. In the late summer and fall, these cover crops become dormant, such that all of the nutrients can go towards the vine.
The vineyard is monitored weekly. Our goals are to create a good habitat for predatory insects (the good guys), and a poor habitat for the bad guys that damage the grapes. If the bad guys are overwhelming the good guys, we take corrective action to balance the battle, such as applying natural soap compounds (Safer Soap) and other all-natural materials, instead of pesticides.
Natural soaps are on the USDA list of approved organic materials that can be used on the vineyard. These all natural compounds are applied directly to the challenged area, often by hand, in order to maximize their effectiveness.
All pomace (grape skins and seeds after crushing) is composted and returned to the vineyards. Cover crops of vetch and rye are grown between the vine rows for nitrogen and humus. Additionally, all-natural blood meal and fish meal are added as needed for nitrogen and other trace elements. These natural, organic fertilizers are used instead of synthetic fertilizers.
The vines are trellised upright, using the Scott-Henry trellis, which improves sun penetration and air movement, developing character and balance in the grapes. Crop and shoot thinning controls vigor and limits yields, increasing flavors and aromas in the finished wines.
Badger Mountain soils are of volcanic origin. Our average annual rainfall is 6 inches, 95% of it occurring between November and March. With our irrigation we can maintain a controlled environment of watering, another natural tool in controlling vine vigor and crop yields