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?”