Sustainability In the Vineyard
The term sustainability is being used quite a lot these days in relation to the environment. Certainly, practicing sustainable agriculture is one area that can have a major, long-term impact on the environment; farming the land in order to minimize environmental impact will help to ensure that farming can continue into future generations.
At Manatawny Creek Winery, we are attempting to practice sustainable agriculture as much as possible. Instead of chemical fertilizers, we are solely fertilizing our vines with compost made from horse manure at our local horse farms and from grape skins, seeds and stems leftover from processing our grapes. Composting is an amazing way not only to add nutrients to the soil for the vines to use, but also to increase the level of beneficial microorganisms and the organic matter in the soil.
East coast viticulture is challenging compared to West coast viticulture in that, due to rainfall and humidity, we have many types of fungi to combat in the vineyard. Fortunately, less dangerous and more environmentally sound materials are being researched and developed all the time. For example, natural phosphorous acid products can now be used to fight downy mildew instead of more harsh compounds. We use pheromone ties and an insect growth regulator to interrupt mating of the grape berry moth, a severe pest, instead of conventional insecticides. Better canopy management practices, like opening up the fruiting zone, are being employed to increase air movement and decrease use of pesticides.
Weed growth in the vineyard, particularly underneath the vines, is always an issue. We have stopped using pre-emergent herbicides which can remain in the environment for long periods of time and are using only post-emergent herbicides which break down quickly. We are currently experimenting with various techniques to try and eliminate herbicides altogether.
We still have much work to do, but feel like we are headed in the right direction in our sustainable vineyard management practices.
Sustainability in the Winery
All businesses can practice sustainability to minimize environmental impact. Our biggest step taken to reduce use of natural resources at Manatawny Creek Winery is to install an 11 kilowatt solar energy system which has greatly reduced our need to buy electricity. If you drive around the winery, you will see an entire roof filled with solar panels, also known as photovoltaic modules. When the sun's energy hits the silicon cells of a module, electrons are stimulated to flow in a circuit. This electricity is in direct current (DC), so it goes to 3 inverters we have installed on the crush pad for inversion into alternating current (AC). Then the electricity goes to the electric panel where it can be distributed throughout the building to power equipment. If the solar electricity is not needed, it travels out to the electrical power grid for someone else to use. Producing clean electricity in this manner is a great example of environmental sustainability!
During harvest time, we generate quite a bit of waste pomace, the skins and seeds of the grapes that are separated from the juice or wine in the press. All of the pomace goes out to our composting area where it gets mixed with the neighborhood horse manure and turned into valuable compost for our vineyard. The stems which get removed in the destemmer/crusher also get added to the compost mix. In addition, we are experimenting with composting our used filter pads from the filter press in order to eliminate sending them to the landfill.
In the office and tasting room environment, there are many small contributions to the reduction of our carbon footprint including recycling toner cartridges, using recycled copy paper for our tasting notes, using recycled paper stock for our wine labels, and recycling used wine bottles or giving them to our customers who make their own homemade wine. New innovations are always being introduced; for example, an aluminum capsule that can be recycled may soon be taking the place of the tin capsules that we use.
Perhaps the Iroquois' "great law of peace" best articulates the spirit of sustainability: "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." Whether deciding on how to farm a vineyard or how to most efficiently use our natural resources in our business, reducing our environmental impact is an important goal that we'll continue to try and meet at Manatawny Creek Winery.