Tell us in a few sentences about your experience as a viticulturist, how did you arrive here?
When we moved to Langhorne Creek, we planted grapes in 2005, initially Shiraz and Chardonnay and have added small patches of interesting alternates that we enjoy, Prosecco, Tempranillo, Sauvagnin and Nero d’Avolo.
We have a small 11ha block so diversity and personal was always the plan. I had an academic background in botany and worked with CSIRO Division of Soils for 10 years but had no experience in viticulture. I just loved growing plants.
Why did you decide to apply to be an EcoGrower, was there something specific that influenced your decision and/or had you attended a previous EcoVineyards session?
I was involved in the initial discussions and establishment of the program while serving on various committees so was keen to join the program as a participant, partly due to my background in botany, a passion for biodiversity and a commitment to more sustainable systems.
Has there been a defining moment or catalyst for you to move towards more ecologically driven viticultural practices?
I saw an overwhelming body of evidence all pointing in the same direction rather than a defining moment. The damage and dangers of mono-cultures is more apparent every year as opposed to the resilience and health of biodiverse systems. This extends beyond plants to microfauna and flora and entire agricultural production systems.
Can you provide a brief overview of your project ideas, and what you wish to achieve over the 3 years and why is this important to you?
Our plans include bio hedges and flowering plants associated will all our vineyard rows to increase biodiversity, encourage predatory arthropods and build a vineyard which can be used as a demonstration area and teaching tool as well as a wine outlet. We are brewing compost tea to improve soil health.
We have a significant interest in vegetation to encourage beneficial birds and bats as well as raptors. We are re-growing sandalwoods and a wide variety of fruit.
Are you just starting to learn, or have you been enhancing biodiversity on your property and is this an extension of what you are currently doing? If so, please tell us more.
I’m still learning a lot. Every year there are new things to learn and build local solutions as well as confidence. Our first years were very conventional and full of problems like caltrop, each year we have improved with better plant cover, less chemicals, greater plant diversity, less tractor work.
Tell us about your hidden superpowers, something that others don’t know about you or a practice you would like to champion?
I’m endlessly curious and willing to learn. I want to spread a passion for feral cat control and sandalwood regeneration throughout the state. The destruction of small mammals by cats means sandalwood seeds do not get buried and hence do not regenerate. Sandalwoods are just one of the obvious Australian native plants which are beautiful, useful and have potential commercial value.
There is much to learn about our amazing native plants. I hope we can incorporate many more of them in synergy with grapes and other food crops.
Where do you see grape growing in the future, do you feel there is an urgency to change current practices? If so, why?
I think we are facing challenging times and need to be flexible and imaginative with regard to what we grow where and why. Tradition is important, but innovation more so. This applies to every aspect of the supply chain from breeding plants for climate and pest resistance, to varieties and presentation of wine, packaging and the use of grapes in every form from food to fuel not only wine. Current uncertainties in global demand and the power of the anti-alcohol lobby are and will have an increasing impact on our ability to trade both locally and internationally.
What else would you like to share with the broader EcoVineyards community, what gets you excited about the future?
This is a powerful program, based in strong science. It is a program of its time with significant public appeal and the capacity to engender a whole new generation to connect in a positive way with the land which sustains us all. It is more than a way to grow grapes, it is a signpost to a better way to live. It is also sorely needed in an environment under pressure and facing significant losses to our unique Australian fauna and flora which we don’t yet understand.