Doing the Impossible: Growing Wine Organically in the Midwest

I started an experimental vineyard 8 years ago at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage and have been developing a method of growing grapes organically in the Midwest. Nearly every commercial vineyard in the country outside of the West Coast and Southwest is highly dependent on chemical herbicides and pesticides. Vineyards on the West Coast make great wine, but they are consuming water at a dramatically unsustainable rate. In this video, I walk you through the details of my vineyard project. The vineyard requires minimal fossil fuel inputs and minimal irrigation, and it’s helping to rebuild land devastated by conventional agriculture. The water I use is caught from the sky, not taken from unsustainable sources. I use livestock and a scythe to mow and maintain the vineyard, improve the soil, and avoid having to use toxic herbicides.

When you take away the fossil fuel and the chemicals you are forced to come up with more sustainable methods, or you learn for real what is possible and not possible in a world without oil. Most vineyards in the US exist thanks to cheap fossil fuel, and in most places they would not even be possible without the unsustainable consumption of water. It may be possible to have a vineyard and make wine without fossil fuel and with sustainable water use, but you can never know until you try.

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