Soil to City | Parducci Vineyard
When we arrived at the Parducci Vineyard, we were greeted by an alumni named Jess Arnsteen who attended CSS from second through sixth grade. We got a chance to explore the main building where we were given a brief presentation on the motive and pursuits of the vineyard and its owner Tim Thornhill. Mr. Thornhill pursues self sustainability and eco-friendly environments in his business, and I could see them happening all around the vineyard. I was pretty amazed when I found out his vineyard does not use any fossil fuels for electricity; instead, it uses fifteen percent solar energy and 85 percent wind power. At the same time that he reduced energy use by fifteen percent over the years, he also nearly doubled crop production. Mr.Thornhill also uses the method of biomimicry, where one mimics the environment, and he applies similar structures in his business to make an eco-friendly environment in his vineyard. He employs a structure that resembles a natural habitat to increase the oxygen level in the water that is used on the crops. With this method, he is able to reclaim and reuse millions of gallons of water that used to be a giant lake of smelly rotting purple runoff from processing grapes. He created waterfalls to filter the waste water using naturally forming bacteria and to increase and maintain a certain level of oxygen in the water. Mr. Thornhill created habitats and allowed wildlife to settle in, so much so it’s now a bird sanctuary. He provided natural areas for insect predators who in turn decrease the population of pests. Thornhill’s natural habitats and vineyard have achieved a balance in nature where no pesticides are needed and therefore the soil stays healthy and all the products are organic.
When the presentation was over, we happily received a tour of his vineyard and processing plant. First, we explored where wine was made. We saw grinders that separate seeds, skin, and stems from the fruit. Next, we found huge tanks that cool the grape juice. There were also wooden tanks where the juices were in the process of fermentation. I’ve got to say both storage areas were kept pretty cold. After we saw how wine is processed, we went over to the fields where the grapes are grown. There were no grapes on the vines yet (not the season), so we explored natural habitats/structures that were built on the fields. The most impressive structure was of course the waterfalls. Although they are artificial, the floor of the waterways is very natural and beautiful like the ones in nature.
After the tour in the vineyard, we took a little bus ride over to the company garden. Jess led the tour in this area, and we were able to see a huge organic garden. It was funny that chickens were let loose and roaming around freely in the garden for the purpose of eliminating pests. They were brought into the garden only once a month and stayed just for a day, or else they would do too much damage to the crops. As we strolled across the garden, we learned about cover crops. The cover crop in this game was fava beans. They could be either fed to humans or used as cover crop and planted with different crops. The bacteria that grows on their roots produces nodules that fix nitrogen, which in turn feed other plants. Therefore, half the beans were grown for food and the other half to promote growth of other crops in the garden. The garden supplies food to their more than ninety employees. After our tour in the garden, we went to the ranch across the street where they raise livestock also to feed their employees. We saw a lot of animals in the ranch. We saw several mother pigs with their piglets, a lot of chickens, and a couple of sheep. We all enjoyed interacting with the animals and ate our lunch with the sheep. Though, there was a depressing moment during the tour where piglets had to be separated from their mother to be sent off to another ranch.
We returned to our farmstay in Sebanstopol, and after a short break we walked down to the farmyard to do some farm chores. It was the first time I’ve ever done such exhausting chores other than washing dishes or doing laundry at home. We were split into four groups of similar interests in chores: goat, chicken, horse, or garden. I personally wanted to spend time with the goats, but I missed my chance and got a job in the chicken coop. I would say it was the most wonderful chore I’ve done in my life, cleaning three weeks worth of chicken poop all over the coop. Like me, everyone was fatigued after the chores, and going uphill back to our house felt like the longest walk in the world. Before I went to help cook dinner, I got a chance to take a shower and wash off the awful odor of chicken poop that was already smothering me.
After dinner, we all enjoyed some quiet time and good night sleep after a busy day.
Joohyung K., Junior, Class of 2016
Thursday, March 5, 2015