“Why wouldn’t I farm organically”, states Charlie Barra. “Yes, it’s more work (annual audits/certifications, paperwork, labor requirements), more risk (crop devastation from pests) and not necessarily a bigger payout, but it’s essential to the well-being of this planet”, says Barra. “We need to leave this earth the way we found it, and this doesn’t include chemicals”.
The Barra vineyards have been certified by the CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) for over 20 years now (and it had taken another three years of inspections prior to that for the certification to become complete). But Charlie’s favorite saying is “I’ve really been farming organically for 55 years…I just didn’t know it the first 30!” Prior to World War II, growing without commercial chemicals and fertilizers was standard procedure.
Organic certification requires that our grapes are grown without conventional pesticides or herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. Bell beans, red clover, peas and vetch are planted between the rows of vines, and then, just when the flowering plants are turning to either seed or starting to bear “fruit”, the plants are turned back into the soil where they are converted to nutrients for the vines. The soils are alive with micro-organisms that allow the vines to take up the nutrients in a more efficient manner.
The run-off from our land that goes into the Russian River is much cleaner than if pesticides and artificial fertilizers were used, and the water we collect from the watershed behind the ranch and store throughout the year is protected from chemicals leaching through the soils. Our vineyards are also home to abundant wildlife, including deer, osprey, wild turkeys, and the large-eared jack rabbit in the picture at the left !