More than grapes in Napa Valley?

2010-02-20T00:00:00Z More than grapes in Napa Valley?By MIKE TRELEVEN, Register Staff Writer Napa Valley Register
February 20, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Keeping Napa County sustainable means going back to the county’s roots when the first settlers arrived — producing not only wine, but also peaches, prunes, olives, grains, cattle and even tomatoes.

This was the conclusion after the group Napa Valley Preservation hosted farming panelists at Silverado Brewing Company to talk about agricultural diversity.

The panel included:

• Lee Hudson, a winegrape grower who also produces vegetables and livestock that are sold locally;

• Napa County Agricultural Commissioner Dave Whitmer; 

• Ted Hall, founder of Long Meadow Ranch, known for raising grass-fed beef and organic vegetables; 

• Cattle rancher John Ahman.

Whitmer said what makes this valley unique is its Mediterranean climate and diversity of soils “that can grow just about anything. So, yes there is a balance for something else to be grown here.”

Hall said that having a monoculture of  growing only winegrapes can make it more difficult to farm organically because of pressure from pests.

Hall said there are grapes planted in soils here in the valley that are better suited for other commodities.

“We need to preserve a diverse environment,” the Long Meadow Ranch founder said.

Hall said he has grown tomatoes on a small parcel in Rutherford, which proved to be more profitable than cabernet sauvignon on the same scale.

Hudson, a Carneros grapegrower and small-scale diversified farmer, said that if it hadn’t been for the explosive value of winegrapes in Napa Valley, the area today would be paved over with homes.

Hudson added that difficulties of becoming a diversified grower involve sales, distribution of perishable commodities and at what scale to produce a locally grown food.

“Here in the valley, there is tremendous demand and people who care for food,” Hudson said, calling them “localvores.”

He said diversified farming can be done on a small scale. “The good news is we can grow anything here with a high level of production.”

Whitmer said the next step is for someone to step up and help set a vision of what this can become.

He said there will be a day-long event on April 28 at the Napa Expo to discuss what it entails to produce food locally. 

“It’s about bringing together people producing food locally,” Whitmer said. “Diversity can only strengthen us. We should not put all our eggs in one basket. And what happens if it is dropped?”


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(11) Comments

  1. Downtown Local
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    Downtown Local - February 20, 2010 2:05 am
    Sustainability in farming is not measured by diversity, but by economic viability and efficient farming. Various crops may require more inputs per acre (energy and nitrogen for tomatoes) or loss of value per acre (grain crops). Additionally, there are few mills or canning facilities nearby to handle the crops, requiring more diesel for far-away transport. Regional diversity doesn't always equal sustainability.
  2. nwnapan
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    nwnapan - February 20, 2010 5:33 am
    I think it's great people are talking about growing other things besides grapes. My primary concern, however, is the transport of these goods on our roads, namely 29 and the Trail. Multiple growing seasons means heavy trucks on our roads year round versus the seasonal concentration during harvest. We should consider the use of rail as an alternative to congesting our highways with more trucks.
  3. AreYouSerious74
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    AreYouSerious74 - February 20, 2010 8:19 am
    bring back the real valley. You can make excuses about more inputs but we should get back to the local community and local sustainability. (People, food, etc) Wine can be a part but should not be all of it.
  4. freeport56
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    freeport56 - February 20, 2010 9:17 am
    First, what a waste of time and resources by the county. Napa was once full of orchards. My mother-in-law used to pick plums here in Napa.

    It is a no brainer to allow other crops to be grown. If the federal government is going to shut down the the central valley by turning off their water, than other areas must be used for growing crops. the ral question is WATER.
  5. kbc
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    kbc - February 20, 2010 1:04 pm
    It's wonderful that very wealthy people like Mr. Hall can afford to use his land to grow other crops - the community as a whole benefits from it. However, our land values will not go back to the past, so neither will our crops. Only two things that our land values can grow - wine grapes and houses. I prefer the first. Kudos to those with large parcels of land that are dedicating it to other crops, but it will never be a large or substantial part of our agricultural land.
  6. AO1982
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    AO1982 - February 20, 2010 1:14 pm
    Ahh Globalization how its changed the world all together. "Grass fed Cattle" sounds normal, but it isnt. Oragnic fruits and vegetables, again sounds normal but it isnt. Gotta pay extra for the "normal" items, now that sounds normal.

    Go Cowboys!!!
  7. Chrysanthemum
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    Chrysanthemum - February 20, 2010 5:01 pm
    To "go back" to the the way Napa was, would require future generations to want that first of all. They would need to be educated about how Napa was, and would have to form an opinion on whether or not it was better than what it is now. And what potentially lies ahead for Napa.

    For other types of agriculture (besides grapes) to truly have a positive impact on the community, it's going to take more than an a few gardens from the wealthy. Maybe the wine train tracks can be used for other purposes? Again, this would take years of planning. It begins in the classroom with basic history, oh wait we just shut down three schools.

    For many locals, it's come down to if Napa Pipe and/or Horseman's Associaton passes.. they are packing up their belongings and moving. A sad situation for many, and a not so sad situation for others. However, life does go on.
  8. napahystorian
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    napahystorian - February 20, 2010 9:26 pm
    The perfect solution is several acres of medical cannabis, a new Napa Valley purple. After all, cannabis is a bigger cash crop than wine. Cannabis commands far more per pound than grapes.
  9. napahystorian
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    napahystorian - February 20, 2010 9:36 pm
    By the way, Yountville City Council. Get real. How many of our Veteran's at the Veteran's Home, who rely on medical cannabis to ease their mental anxiety and physical pain are being denied because of your going against the will of the voters of California? Please reconsider. The tourists won't mind.
  10. MyPopeValley
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    MyPopeValley - February 20, 2010 11:35 pm
    Can't there be more than AG?
  11. MyPopeValley
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    MyPopeValley - February 20, 2010 11:38 pm
    When we go back to the "GOOD 'OL DAYS" remember to throw away your computer, cell phone, and Trisha Yearwood CD's
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