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Shafer Vineyards - Sustainable Agriculture Timeline

1972 – Shafer Vineyards begins growing grapes.

Mid-1970s – Moved to a drip irrigation system. Goal: To use water resources with greater efficiency.

Early 1980s – Switched from using overhead water sprinklers to wind machines for frost protection. Goal: To save the tremendous amount of water required to utilize sprinkler system.

Late 1980s – Embarked on new vineyard techniques of leaf removal and water deficient farming. Goal: The initial purpose was to improve fruit quality, but a byproduct was a greatly lessened reliance on fungicides to control molds and mildews.

1989 – Began using cover crops such as barley, oats and a variety of vetch.These legumes enrich the soil with nitrogen when they are plowed under and create an active biosystem for insects. Goal: To reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers and to begin to create an ecosystem within the vineyard. Such a system creates a habitat in which vine pests (insects) are held in check by their natural predators, thus completely eliminating the need for pesticides.

1991 - 1992 – Because the cover crops began to attract gophers to the vineyards, Shafer began a program of installing hawk perches and owl boxes to attract the natural predators of gophers. Goal: To use natural means of rodent control (as opposed to chemicals) and further encourage a habitat within the vineyards.

1991 – When we dug our wine cave, we discovered a water source of 10 gallons a minute, which we piped to our irrigation pond. Goal: To conserve water resources.

1992 – Vineyard crews began to use hand-held sickles to cut down weeds on hillside vineyards. Goal: To dramatically reduce reliance on chemical weed killers.

1994 - 1995 – Installed a process waste water system and began to recycle the water used in our cellar (5,000 - 8,000 gallons per week) by piping it to the irrigation pond.

1998 – Began using compost instead of synthetic fertilizer. Goal: To further reduce reliance on chemical fertilizers. Today we rely 100 percent on compost.

1999 – Began using an in-row mower, a device dragged behind a tractor in flat vineyards, for weed control. Goal: To further reduce reliance on chemical weed killers.

2001 – Began designing and building bat boxes to attract bats to our vineyards. Goal: Bats are nighttime insect predators. But more importantly, bats are an indication of the health of a habitat. If bats thrive, then they provide evidence of a healthy environment.

2003 – Erected a dozen songbird houses throughout our vineyards. Goal: to provide homes for cavity-dwelling species such as swallows and bluebirds, that tend to eat the flying bugs that blight our vines.

2004 – Built a 784-panel solar array and converted to 100 percent solar power. Goal: to generate “clean kilowatts” that would lessen the need for energy produced by burning fossil fuels, meaning cleaner air and a healthier climate.

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