Biodiversity plays a key role in organic farming. Since we don't use any synthetics in our vineyards, we must encourage nature to fill ecological niches and maintain balance. By allowing flowering plants to grow between the rows, we provide a home for beneficial insects such as ladybugs and praying mantises. The natural flora also help to improve our soil life and water retention, important elements to growing quality grapes!
Our home vineyard is 17 hectares and the only Demeter certified biodynamic vineyard in British Columbia. Natural springs emerge on the property, and join with creeks to create a beautiful wetland nature sanctuary that supports a variety of species.
At the core of biodynamic farming is living in harmony with nature, harvesting soulful, beautiful food and returning nutrient back to the earth.
Organic winemaking practices have been an integral part of Summerhill since the Kelowna vineyard was purchased by the Cipes family in 1986. Producing wine organically has a very meaningful benefit to the environment, and some scientists suggest that eating organic foods greatly benefits our health as well.
Aside from these benefits, we believe that organic practices allow for the grapes in our vineyards to honestly express their surroundings, providing deep, terroir-driven qualities that are a true articulation of Okanagan terroir. Please watch the video to learn more:
Summerhill is committed to producing 100% organic wine. Our Kelowna vineyard entered the certification program in 1988, and has received Demeter Biodynamic certification in 2012. In addition, our winemaking is also certified organic, allowing us to display the Canadian certified organic logo on our bottles, ensuring you can expect a high level of quality and purity.
Organic Winemaking Chart
|Conventional||List of inputs that may be used in Summerhill organic winemaking:||Summerhill Biodynamic Wine|
|Potential Wine Additions (ingredients)||Grapes, yeast, yeast nutrient (e.g. diamonium phosphate, thiamin [vit B1]), milk and milk derivatives, malolactic bacteria, tannins, sugar, corn syrup, stabilizing agents (e.g. CMC, gum arabic), enzymes, tartaric acid, malic acid, citric acid, calcium carbonate, fining agents (e.g. egg whites, gelatin, isinglass fish bladders), sulphur dioxide in quantities under 350 parts per million, various other adjuncts and additives. For an example list of what is available to winemakers please see: www.aebusa.com||Organic grapes (definitely), natural yeast, natural yeast nutrient (yeast hulls), malolactic bacteria, fining agent (e.g. bentonite), highly rectified organic grape sugar (for sparkling wine process), sulphur dioxide where needed in quantities under 100 parts per million||Demeter certified biodynamic grapes, sulphur dioxide where needed in quantities under 100 parts per million|
|Facility and Equipment Sanitizers||caustic soda, quats, phosphoric acid||ozone, steam, scrub brushes, citric sulphite||Same as organic|
|Certification Standards||Adhere to CFIA standards, all other accreditation and inspections voluntary||Third party inspection to Canada's national organic standard, ISO 65 accreditation, trace backs on all ingredients and all finished wines, adherence to CFIA standards||Same as organic + inspection by Demeter BC to biodynamic standard.|
Organic vs Conventional Vineyard Management
|Summerhill Organic and Biodynamic||Conventional|
|Fertility||compost, compost teas, green manure, cover crop, fish-fertilizer, mineral dust, biodynamic preparations||synthetic fertilizers, non-organic compost (may contain heavy metals and pharmaceutical residue)|
|Weed Management||Mowing, weeding, mulching, companion cropping||Herbicides, Pre-Emergent Herbicides|
|Powdery Mildew||biodynamic preparations, herbal and compost teas, bacterial preparations that occupy the ecological niche of the mildew, certified organic sprays (sulphur, lime sulphur, mineral oil, vegetable oil, potassium, baking soda)||systemic fungicides|
|Botrytis||early leaf removal, prevention||systemic fungicides|
|Leaf Hoppers||biodiversity from wild areas surrounding vineyard, flowering ground cover to give habitat fornatural predators, mineral oil||insecticides|
|Cutworms||leave extra buds, graze chickens under vines, flashlight and a pair of gloves to pick them off one by one at night if things get bad in an area||insecticides|
|Rodents||traps, natural predators||poisonous bait|
Conventional growers are free to adapt any of the methods and materials listed under the organic column. Organic growers are restricted to stay only within the organic column only.
Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting plants from their natural, or "wild" habitat, for food or medicinal purposes. It applies to uncultivated plants wherever they may be found, and is not necessarily limited to wilderness areas. Examples of wildcrafting include picking wild berries, rosehips, or nettle, or harvesting maple syrup.
Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in natural ecologies. Permaculture is sustainable land use design. This is based on ecological and biological principles, often using patterns that occur in nature to maximise effect and minimise work. Within a Permaculture system, work is minimised, “wastes” become resources, productivity and yields increase, and environments are restored.
Permaculture aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants. The ecological processes of plants, animals, their nutrient cycles, climatic factors and weather cycles are all part of the picture. Inhabitants’ needs are provided for using proven and ever improving innovative technologies for food, energy, shelter and infrastructure. Elements in a system are viewed in relationship to other elements, where the outputs of one element become the inputs of another. Permaculture principles can be applied to any environment, at any scale, from a farm, to an individual home, to a dense urban settlement.
Here is an example of Permaculture design principles in practice: building a chicken coop on the north side, and a greenhouse on the south side of the same structure. These two functions work in relationship to each other. The heat produced by the chickens helps heat the green house, the pecking of the chickens prevents plant pests, and their manure can fertilize the plants.
Biodynamic agriculture is a method of organic farming that treats farms as unified and individual organisms, emphasizing balancing the holistic development and interrelationship of soil, plants, and animals as a self-nourishing system without external inputs insofar as this is possible given the loss of nutrients due to the export of food. By creating a closed system, nothing is extra or wasted.
Biodynamic preparations aid in fertilization and prevent plant diseases. The prepared substances are numbered 500 through 508. The first two are used for preparing fields, and the latter seven are used for making compost. Biodynamic preparations have influence on soil structure and micro-organisms, enhancing soil fertility and increasing biodiversity.
- 500: (horn-manure) a humus mixture prepared by filling the horn of a cow with cow manure and burying it in the ground (40–60 cm below the surface) in the autumn. It is left to decompose during the winter and recovered for use the following spring.
- 501: Crushed powdered quartz is stuffed into a cow horn, buried into the ground in spring and taken out in autumn. A mixture of the powder with water is sprayed under very low pressure over the crop during the wet season, to prevent fungal diseases and increase photosynthesis.
Compost preparations, used for preparing compost, employ herbs which are frequently used in medicinal remedies:
- 502: Yarrow blossoms
- 503: Chamomile blossoms
- 504: Stinging nettle
- 505: Oak bark
- 506: Dandelion flowers
- 507: Valerian flowers
- 508: Horsetail
All compost preparations are added to heaps in homeopathic quantities. Each compost preparation is designed to guide a particular decomposition process in the composting mass.
Demeter International is the largest certification organization for biodynamic agriculture, and is one of three predominant organic certifiers. Demeter Biodynamic Certification is used in over 50 countries to verify that biodynamic products meet international standards in production and processing. The Demeter certification program was established in 1928, and as such was the first ecological label for organically produced foods.
Demeter’s “biodynamic” certification requires biodiversity and ecosystem preservation, soil husbandry, livestock integration (this requirement is exempt In biodynamic vineyards), prohibition of genetically engineered organisms and viewing the farm as a living “holistic organism”. The certification verifies the fulfillment of the standards on behalf of the farmers, which in turn guaranties high quality food products to the consumers.
Compost is composed of organic materials derived from plant and animal matter that has been decomposed largely through aerobic decomposition. The process of composting is simple and practiced by individuals in their homes, farmers on their land, and industrially by cities and factories.
Compost teas/Herbal teas are liquid solutions or suspensions made by steeping compost and/or certain herbs in water. They are used as both fertilizers and to prevent plant diseases. The liquid is applied as a soil-drench (root dip) for seedlings, or as a surface spray.
Check out this short video concerning a cancer epidemic surrounding conventional agriculture in France...