Tell us in a few sentences about your experience as a viticulturist, how did you arrive here?
I grew up in Sydney and got involved in agriculture in the mid 80’s (1986) where I worked on several properties producing fine wool, beef, prime lambs, lucerne and oats. I was introduced to viticulture in 1992 when the property I was working on at Rockley NSW decided to establish a vineyard.
I sucked lots of knowledge and away I went, driving to Orange every weekend for a year and helped build vineyards. I moved to Orange in 1994 where I ran a training company putting trainees into the vineyard industry and managed several vineyards. In 1997, I purchased Cargo Road Winery with two partners and Westpac Bank, with the plan to develop the original vineyard which was planted in 1983 from 3.5 ha to 16 ha.
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 have been watching the EcoVineyards program from NSW and was impressed as I have always been striving to run the land that I am custodian of sustainably. in 2009, I studied holistic management which I found game changing! I then entered the Ecological Verification Outcome program under the Savory institute run by Land To Market Australia, and achieved the first EOV certification for a vineyard in the world! I wanted to learn more about achieving a balance with the land and environment.
Has there been a defining moment or catalyst for you to move towards more ecologically driven viticultural practices?
Having been here at Cargo Road Wines for 26 years I have seen firsthand climate change. I have been in acknowledgment of climate change since the early 2000’s.
I have lived the hottest, hots, the coldest, colds, wettest wets, and driest dries in the last 26 years.
We keep breaking records, as I write this Europe have seen the hottest temperatures ever recorded!
,Running the land holistically has proven to be very successful, having the backing, support, communication and friendship of like-minded people in the EcoVineyard program adds more tools to the toolbox.
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?
- To successfully grow native insectary plants at the end of the vine rows and around the property.
- For the insects.
To demonstrate to the public and other growers what can be done. I am interested in working with nature, and by doing so reduce the LBAM population, caterpillars and scale would be amazing. With the added bonus of being able to demonstrate/educate others.
Improve overall soil health especially focusing on organic soil carbon, by the uses of multi species cover crops in combination of crimping rolling, timed managed grazing.
Hopefully all these management practices help me gain a more sustainable grape yield with quality.
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 have been on this property since 1997 (26 years) and in my first years I completed an audit of all the trees on the 37 ha and identified four main species growing.
- Peppermint gum, Eucalyptus radiata,
- Yellow box, Eucalyptus melliodora,
- Red stringybark, Eucalyptus marcrorhyncha, and
- Apple box, Eucalyptus bridgesiana.
In the last 12 years there has been the introduction of kurrajong trees, Brachychiton sp. by native birds. I have kept a keen interest in the trees on the property, fencing off regrowth areas and protecting self-sown seedlings and have watched my trees grow to 10 -15 metres tall.
I have introduced European bees and currently manage 24 hives about half a million bees this ensures excellent pollination of grasses, forbs, legumes, shrubs, trees including my cherry trees.
Honey is harvested and sold several times a year.
There have been no pesticides used on the property in 27 years, I have monitored the spider population in the vineyard area and have estimated at over 10,000 per hectare at their peak during the season.
Golden orb and St Andrews Cross being the most common and easily identified spiders.
For 15 years I have been sowing multi species cover crops in the mid row to increase overall soil health and increase the organic carbon content.
Tell us about your hidden superpowers, something that others don’t know about you or a practice you would like to champion?
I love the power of nature and getting close to it, working with it assessing its strengths in every way and adapting to them in to get where I am going something that I have been able to enjoy with my love of ocean racing.
Having grown up in the city (Sydney) I have not been taught by an old farmer/father who is set in his ways ‘always doing what he has done and always getting the same result’, I have an open mind and look at things with a new light ‘holistically’.
I’d like to champion holistic management and a new form of decision making using the seven testing questions, the use of holistically timed managed grazing, with particular emphasis on its use in a vineyard situation.
Where do you see grape growing in the future, do you feel there is an urgency to change current practices? If so, why?
- climate change.
- cost of production.
- cost of wages
- lack of skilled staff
- price taking not price setting.
Yes, it is urgent we need all producers to change as fast as possible, stop relying on chemicals and ploughs, start thinking of better ways which are also cheaper in my experience and then you benefit, better for the environment and you have no costs to repair it. It’s so simple.
It is getting harder and harder to make a medium living from grape growing, I have set up a multi-faceted business, grape growing, wine making, wine sales, lamb production, cherries, figs, quince, bees/honey, camping, and accommodation with all these enterprises it’s still very hard to make a modest return as the business is weighted towards grape production followed by wine.
Bad seasons, too hot- too dry- too wet- too cold- hail and of course smoke make it very hard to have a normal year.
What else would you like to share with the broader EcoVineyards community, what gets you excited about the future?
The ground swell of producers involved in holistic farming and really managing their land to improve it for the future regenerative farming. The sharing of information to show what has not worked and what has worked in various situations.
The development of the EcoVineyard program, with such a background of knowledge, here to share and help all of us grow and develop.
Keep it up.