Multigenerational Attitude at YF&R Leadership Conference

Last week we attended  the annual CFBF YF&R Leadership Conference held in Modesto, California . It was a fascinating experience and we enjoyed every part of it being that this was our first year of attendance. The tours of the different facilities were beyond anything we could have imagined as well as meeting all of the young farmers and ranchers , those who have taken over from their parents or starting out on their own.

Wearing our safety goggles for our E&J Gallo, Glass factory tour

We took the Eastern tour, touring E&J Gallo, Duarte Nursery, Burroughs Family Farms , an organic dairy, almonds, and chickens, and Dutch Hollow Farms, a tulip farm and pumpkin patch. This tour was more interesting to us than the other regional tours because it was specific to grape growing and other small-scale productions. Touring along with us were all sorts of young farmers producing almonds, cherries , peaches , and walnuts. Along with the farmers, commodity and insurance brokers spent time touring Modesto and networking with other next generation and like-minded individuals.

Inside the nursery, grafted grape vines start their career to become UberVines

The highlights of the tour included our visit to Burroughs Family Farm,  a  successful organic dairy surviving the current challenges in this economy and gaining insight into  the new styles of grapevines that Duarte is offering producers, especially the UberVine (a 42″ vine composed of an extra long rootstock cane) . Our time at Burroughs Family Farm hit close to home because of the daughter/father dynamic. The daughter and father have worked together in order to transition the operations into organic farming.  We have seen this same occurrence especially in grape growing , however, sometimes the transition isn’t as smooth and it is difficult to get our fathers to transition into retirement or to adopt different farming principles or methods.

A constant theme across the whole conference was the renewed interest in family farms and ranches and the generational transition that is occurring in a lot of family businesses including farming . 

The UberVine, allowing grape growers the opportunity to replant and get back into production sooner.

There were interesting speakers at the conference . A current hot topic within the Ag industry is the release  of the water toxicity report in California, attributing  chemical fertilizers as the culprit. This is another problem that is in direct relation with the farming methods of previous generations. This current problem paired with lower prices on our products and higher farming costs are issues we have to consider when considering our future in this industry.

On a positive and exciting note, there is a wonderful synergy within the current and next next generation in the ranching and farming industries. It is great to see everyone working together and mentoring the next generation , namely,  the children, teenagers, and young adults whom participate in 4-H and FFA. All of us together can definitely pave the way to profitable and superb farming in the future.

Cheers to the retired farmers, the current farmers, the young farmers, and the future farmers of America!


Andean Farming- terraces, Incan techniques, and an abundance of produce

From our trek to Machu Picchu to observing various farms along our trip through Peru we have asked lots of questions regarding farming techniques adopted by the modern-day Peruvians.

Ancient terraces, `looks like Hossfeld Coliseum block`-according to Steve Ventrello , proprietor of Parador Cellars

Lots of them are tried and true methods from the 1500`s from the Incans. Terraces are the most popular way to cultivate vegetables. Peru is such a diverse area containing well over 28 microclimates. The fruit markets are loaded with impressive amounts of fruits and veggies, from tropical and arid climates. The potato , chile, and maiz (corn) have lots of varieties , textures, and colors. Fascinating compared to our U.S. supermarkets just carrying the standard allotment of Yukon Gold, Red, and Russet potatoes.

An assortment of Potatoes in the mercado central , Cusco

The chocolate and coffee aren´t to shabby as well. The Choco Museo  in Cusco, Peru, is outstanding and we highly recommend it.

Cusco Coffee - Peruvian version of Starbucks

Since transportation is limited in Peru, it is difficult for the farmers to get their produce to markets or to export it. It is a shame lots of produce goes unused and ends up decomposing or farmers just grow their crops for themselves and neighbors.

I didn`t see many tractors, however, we did see a lot of traditional plowing with oxen. A family would work together which is important because it is crucial for not only the Andean farmers but all the farmers to be self sustainable. As the father controlled the oxen and the plow tore at the earth revealing that seasons potatoes, the children would take a blanket and basket and collect the bounty. It really gave you a sense of the importance of family and tilling the land.

The Incas had an impressive repertoire regarding hybridization of plants, where one plant might grow well in the jungle , they hybridized and experimented with it until they could grow it in higher elevation or near a river  most likely the Urubamba River, which to them was a powerful entity that resembled the Milky Way.

Urubamba River

Quinoa, of course a huge mega food and originated in the highest elevations in Peru. It has now gained popularity all over the world especially in California as a gluten-free power food.

Most of the produce is organic in Peru because the farmers for one can¨t afford petroleum-based fungicides, fertilizers, etc. and because they follow ancient rituals taking advantage of native plants growing in their respective area. One example is an insecticide that they create from a hallucinogenic flower called Brugmansia, also known as  the Angel Trumpet flower.  Also there is a native tobacco plant that when the leaves are steeped in water it can be used as an insecticide as well. We practice this similar method in organic gardening in California.

As one plot of land lays fallow from the previous crop , the cows, alpacas, sheep, and horses are allowed to graze their , thus adding organic matter and compost to that plot for the next season`s planting. Thus , the Incas and modern-day Peruvians believe in the importance of crop rotation have been using this method for centuries.

Before the weather channel, weather apps, and the internet, farmers would have to watch the stars and the Milky Way to predict when to irrigate, plant, and harvest. Very knowledgeable and independent .

Peru has showed us lots of prowess in the farming sector regarding self sustainability. We did enjoy catching a glimpse of their farming techniques and abundance of delectable produce.

We now move along to Brazil another powerhouse of produce and resources. Looking forward to the jungle, beaches, and regional cuisines.

Is Pinot Noir the Millenial’s Varietal? Pinot Smackdown Deux

The second annual Pinot Smackdown was held last week.  It seems that Pinot Noir makes the most appearances in the social media realm and has a large millennial following. With this second annual appearance, a few questions arise in regards to the attention Pinot Noir is commanding.

  •  Is Pinot Noir the most driven by social media than all the other varietals?
  • Are bloggers and millennial sommeliers partial to Pinot compared to the other varietals?
  • How come this is the only varietal to have a ‘second annual’ appearance?
  • Why are millenials so attached to Pinot Noir and creating  such a cult status of promoting this varietal across the world i.e. California, Oregon, France, etc. and the web?

In response to a few of these questions and a general theme is that Pinot Noir is a wine enjoyed by a more tech savvy and astute crowd, whom can tout their preferences of this diverse varietal. It has a varied price point and a broader range on the palette and due to its innate fickleness creates a diverse array of wines, from the dry French style to the thicker higher alcohol ‘jammy’ California rendition.

The millennial connoisseurs and perhaps Pinot Noir enthusiasts in general are a more brand conscious and image conscientious group, they like the prestige of this notoriously finicky varietal and getting their inputs out there. Not only from a winemaking stand point but from a viticulture standpoint as well, Pinot Noir is one of the most difficult varietals to grow due to its thin skin and susceptibility to mildew. As with all farming especially Pinot Noir, the weather patterns can be tricky, usually cooler climates with a bit of fog. i.e. moisture, and one heat wave could shrivel your whole crop. Pinot Noir garners a tragedy like story, this larger than life varietal experiences and lives through the whole growing season and is rescued and picked right at the best time to create this fantastic wine, some of the ugliest grapes produce the best wines. Growers and wine lovers alike love to relish in this story and empathize with its fickleness and greatness.

There is also a hierarchy within Pinot that people love to showcase, especially their knowledge of the clones and the hunt for wines made from specific heritage clones or field blends. It’s another example of the whole ‘one-up’ notion that Pinot has with its followers.  Touting which clone and region are the best and broadcasting this to all their followers and friends.

Being a Napa girl, of course I have a sweet spot for Carneros Pinot Noir. It is amazing the diversity of clones and expressions that these wines bring forth. On one hand you can have a French style Pinot Noir, nice bright acid paired with hints of dried cherries. On the other hand, there is the California-esque style of Pinot Noir, which sometimes is interpreted as a real thick ‘jammy’ fruit punch sort of Pinot Noir.  Not necessarily a favorite among distinguished connoisseurs of this varietal. However, I do know one farmer that is absolutely in love with this style of Pinot Noir and is excited when his grapes are made into a delightful fruity and ‘jammy’ Pinot (His daughter usually scoffs at his naiveté).  All in all, I love Pinot Noir and the farmers with nerves of steel that grow this varietal. I am partial to the field blends, blends create a more diverse wine that will change over time as you cellar it.

Cheers to everyone enjoying this varietal and to some of my favorite local producers: Mckenzie Mueller,   Mahoney Vineyards , Thomson Vineyards , Truchard ,and  ZD Wines.

We at Hossfeld Vineyards, are looking forward to the next Pinot Noir Smackdown as well as Cabernet day (9/1/11).