News from Harvest 2019https://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/IMG_1492.jpg40323024vidacyclevidacyclehttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/IMG_1492.jpg
This year’s Summer at the Vidacycle farm has been so exciting – it’s brought us our first grape harvest since the devastating fire we had in 2017. We’re completely in awe of the resilience of our amazing País vines, which have mostly recovered from their burns. Some of the old trunks were too damaged to continue their growth, but their strong tap roots have created new life – shoots can be seen emerging from the ground. Many of the old trunks are still growing though, and we ended up harvesting just as many grapes as in previous years!
Resilience is really important to us on our farm – we see it as essential for creating a sustainable system that can survive droughts and fire, as these are all part of nature’s pattern in Chile. This year’s harvest was a real gift from the land, and we’re excited to learn more from our vines in the coming years. The País grape that grows from our vineyards in Chile is pretty special, and has a long and fruitful history. Check out our recent blog all about País here to learn all about it.
We thinned out some of the green grapes on the vine in Spring time (January), which we use to make our Agraz. This thinning process is also important because it allows the sun to reach the grapes on the vine, and the sun’s rays are essential in the ripening process, and in creating sugars in the grapes. We began our Tinte harvest in March – which was a little later than usual because it had been a fairly cool and dry start to the year. We also trialled something different this year, and left some grapes for a later harvest in April. These late grapes were noticeably darker red in colour, and sweeter and less tangy than those collected in March – we were reminded of the grapes we collected for our 2014 Tinte. We can’t wait to taste the final product of our learnings!
Another thing we noticed during the later harvest in April was the real abundance of wildlife also keen to taste the sweetening grapes. There were lots of birds and wasps enjoying the harvest alongside us, so it felt like a balancing act to make sure we could get our share of the grapes before they all disappeared! We love seeing the benefits of our ecological approach to farming – with no chemicals or irrigation, the landscape can support all kinds of life, and this is so important to us.
Our 2019 grapes are bubbling away as you read this – we are always astonished by just how quickly the fermentation process begins, especially as we don’t add any yeast. Our grapes are teeming with their own natural life!
Our harvest is all about bringing our community together, and celebrating the grapes that have grown. We’re really excited to announce that we’ll be launching ‘Friend of the Farm’ in June, where you’ll be able to subscribe to our wine community, and receive all kinds of special benefits – including an invitation to come out and visit our vineyard! Stay tuned for more info about Friend of the Farm…
History of the País grapehttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Screen-Shot-2019-05-01-at-17.46.44.png559364vidacyclevidacyclehttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Screen-Shot-2019-05-01-at-17.46.44.png
País is a red wine grape grown in Chile, sometimes known as Negra Peruana. Ampelographers (grapevine identifiers) think that along with Argentina’s Criolla Grande grape, and California’s Mission grape, País is descended from the Spanish ‘common black grape’ brought to Mexico by Hernán Cortés, the famous Spanish conquistador, in 1520. This grape was then probably grown by Spanish Jesuit missionaries and became diversified throughout the Americas.
País grapes have a long and fruitful history – they’re in fact the oldest variety grown in Chile! Our País vines are over a century old, which is a real marker of the rigour of this variety. País was the most widely planted grape in Chile until the turn of the 21st Century, when it was overtaken by French varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère. It was forgotten for decades, considered a minor grape only suitable for bulk wines, but today, a small group of winemakers are engaging with País to produce fascinating and enchanting wines. The grape is again becoming more valued by winemakers and growers, enjoyed for its abundant berry aromatics and its tendency to bring an exciting zingy quality to its wine.
The País grape has distinctively thin skin, and has been likened by some sommeliers to the French ‘Beaujolais’; perfect for making light, easy-drinking reds. It is naturally vigorous, and can produce high yields without irrigation. Our vines are a real testament to this resilience – 90% bounced back from the devastating fire in 2017, and this year we’ve picked a great harvest!
Our ‘Tinte’ wines made from our very own País vineyards are a result of low intervention farming. They are dry farmed (only ever receive rain water) and never sprayed. We use a creative winemaking approach by taking the traditional País grape and doing a direct press in a basket press – so instead of the typical dark red wine you’d expect from a País grape you get a pinky orange colour, because the red skins are not re-added into the juice after the pressing. The beautiful juice from the press goes into barrels for an 18 month fermentation. The natural yeasts from the skins of the grape enable the fermentation process – we don’t add in any yeasts or sulphites to influence the fermentation. We also make Agraz from the sour green grapes we collect as we thin out the vines in the late Spring. Thinning out the vines allows the grapes left on the vine to ripen in the sun. The sour green grapes get pressed in the basket press and bottled – Agraz is perfect as an acidifier to replace lemon juice or vinegar in a dressing or sauce!
What is natural wine?https://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/vidacycle-blog-1.png559397vidacyclevidacyclehttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/vidacycle-blog-1.png
Whether you are a wine-lover, or not, natural wine is a whole new experience. Most of us only ever go through life tasting chemical wine: mass-produced red, white or sparkling wines that taste the same year after year, bottle to bottle and give you a nice hangover to boot.
Real wine is radically different, this is vibrant wine that is filled with exhilarating flavours and that’s better for you and the planet!
Our small farm was setup with the purpose of building and sharing ecology, beauty and abundance: we live in a coastal hill valley which is very dry, so we work with what is there already, we do not use irrigation and only grow crops that will be resilient in the face of changing climatic conditions. Our 100 year old vines have survived multiple fires, frosts and earthquakes. The vines are dry-farmed, amidst a wealth of biodiversity so they stay healthy. We never add any chemicals or fertilisers, constantly listening, learning and working with nature. We call it “beyond organic”.
So it seemed totally ludicrous to take the carefully crafted grapes and doctor them with sulphates to ensure they tasted very similar to every other bottle of wine you’ve ever drunk!
Hence the hours of research began and we came across the world of natural wine-making pioneered by some phenomenal winemakers and farmers in France and spread by the brilliant Isabelle Legeron.
Natural wines are diverse in flavour and colour: bright yellows, burnt orange, cherry red, blossom pink, golden, each year a slightly new flavour or hue depending on the sun and rain. And what’s more, no one can tell you how they are meant to taste.
Natural wine is a craft, not a science, where you work with the gifts of the land: organically-farmed grapes, fermented with local yeasts (already plentiful on the grape skins) and the microbiome of the fermentation process, fully alive from start to finish. And you get a much more exciting and unpredictable collection of wines as a result.
We invite you to taste with an open mind and heart and experience the journey of flavours as they swirl into your mouth.
Plateau – a natural wine wonderland in Brightonhttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/vidacycle-blog-2.png559397vidacyclevidacyclehttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/vidacycle-blog-2.png
By Natalie Valenzuela, Natural wine lover based in Pucon, Chile
Friends, Thierry & Vincent, arrived in the UK in 2001, 17 years ago (thanks for the photo @RestaurantsBrighton)!
After working in the catering world, they discovered natural wine & fell in love (as many do, me included). Together they realised they wanted to open a wine bar, the first was Mange Tout: a natural bistro, and then came Plateau: a natural wine wonderland & cocktail bistro.
Plateau is on a winding street just set back from the seafront in the centre of Brighton. They describe themselves as a place where – “everything is curated with a focus on the authenticity and the passion behind the raw product“. YES!!! Authenticity & Passion, two things we love at Vidacycle.
In fact we love it so much that sisters Abby & Joy from Vidacycle headed to Plateau for a tasting of their new vintage of Tinte & to talk about permaculture, biodynamics, mixed farming, soil health & natural wine. Below are some photos from the event. 🙂
Plateau is definitely worth many visits: delicious food, lots of fun, and an amazing selection of natural wines, including our Tinte 2014 and 2015.
The curious beings that we are, we thought it would be cool to ask Vincent from Plateau a bunch of questions about wine in general. Maybe you can ask yourself these questions too…
What is your first memory of wine?
Wow, this takes me right back to my childhood when I used to get offered a water diluted glass of Saumur champigny (cab franc) on special occasions! Usually followed by a bit of champagne with the cake, I remember not liking that harsh acidity…
What wine regions would you love to explore?
Most of South America is appealing to me, a complex place to make natural wine- but amazing stuff is produced there. Plus ancestral wine regions located in Georgia & Slovenia, for their use of amphora in winemaking.
What is your favourite part of the wine making process & or the business of wine bars?
Probably the unmaking – opening the bottle!
Working in hospitality is hard, & everyday is different to the next. You get to meet a lot of interesting people and provide them a good time.
Describe Tinte as you see & feel it in your mind? What does it remind you of?
Tinte is a gentle expression of respectful farming and friendly wine making. Depending on the millesime, Tinte can be generous and sweet or bright and fresh, and always honest, alive and tasty!
Thanks Vincent and Thierry for all your support over the years, you inspire us every day and always make us laugh 🙂
Bonus: We love this short video of Vincent and Thierry talking about what are natural wines with the crew from Restaurants Brighton
From London to Peru——meet TINTE lover Dashahttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/TINTE-2-scaled.jpg25601709vidacyclevidacyclehttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/TINTE-2-scaled.jpg
Dasha developed her love for TINTE while living in London and shares her story——
“I lived in London for 4 years where I worked as an architect. I found your wine, TINTE, on the shelves at E5 Bakehouse in East London where I bought it and had it at home—— and it was delicious! Loved it!
I continued enjoying TINTE in London until I moved earlier this year to work on a sports project in Lima, Peru. So far it’s been an amazing experience!”
“I absolutely love Lima. I didn’t really know what to expect as this is my first time in South America. The people are very warm, welcoming, kind and generous. That’s definitely helped with the transition. Plus the work is interesting and I work with a really interesting and diverse group of people.”
“The food is amazing here! Beautiful seafood—wonderful ceviche! And I live by the coast so I’m learning to surf and try to go surfing in the mornings before work—— a great way to start the day.”
“Whenever I can, I always try to get a natural wine. To be honest, when I tasted TINTE it just stuck with me and I’ve not had that kind of reaction to many wines. It’s quite earthy and dry and very fresh. The flavour develops in your mouth and tends to linger a while after you sip it and you get a tingling in the back of your mouth. It’s not sweet——it’s dry and pleasantly acidic.”
“When I got to Lima I was looking for a similar wine, but orange wines, or even organic, aren’t very common here yet. I knew TINTE came from Chile, so I got in contact with Vidacycle to see where I could get TINTE in Peru—but sadly it’s not available here at this time.”
“So I was trying to figure out how can I get some TINTE?—— when my parents were coming to to visit me in Lima via Santiago. Thomas from Vidacycle kindly arranged for a case of TINTE to be delivered to their hotel and they brought it to me in Lima, which was perfect timing!”
“I really like the naturalness of it. It reminds me of a perfect wine to have with a group of friends over food. We love to cook and we love to host people, so everyone eating, talking, laughing around a table enjoying themselves——that’s what I think of when I think of TINTE.”
We love that image Dasha, (and the amazing table of food you shared with friends – yum!) – definitely TINTE is all about everyone laughing around a table enjoying themselves! As winemakers, young entrepreneurs and caretakers of the earth, we are excited to share our naturally produced wine ‘TINTE’.
Community is the future of our continued creations and our commitment to build beauty, ecology and abundance, so thank you Dasha for telling your story and sharing your experience.
*Of course this is a true story but Dasha is a false name to preserve this TINTE drinker’s online anonymity
Sustainable Summer Drinks at Ducksoup Soho, London: The Dry Ginger Cocktailhttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/vidacycle-blog.png559397vidacyclevidacyclehttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/vidacycle-blog.png
by Natalie Valenzuela woman of the world, natural wine lover, currently residing in Pucon, Chile.
Sometimes the most unpredictable ingredients when mixed together make mouth-watering flavours, like sea salt, peanuts, rosemary & chocolate (for me this is a mind-blowing experience, every time). Ducksoup a restaurant and wine bar on London’s Dean St is a place that does this – they mix unique ingredients & serve dishes with amazing aromas & flavours.
Ducksoup is a special place, when you enter & retreat into the space you feel like you’ve teleported to an underground bar from the 50s, possibly Californian or Greek, the record player forever spinning sweet tunes to up the ante on the already mid-century modern vibes.
Back to the food & wine, they’re known for their use of fresh sustainably-sourced ingredients, aromatic flavours, instagramable beauty-filled food & of course their selection of natural wine (more on this in a future post). When in London we definitely recommend heading there…some of the best food and drinks around, no faff, just top quality offerings.
(Image via @Ducksoupsoho instagram.)
Rory McCoy (co-owner & all round legend) has invented a cocktail using a most unusual ingredient, our very own Agraz – enter The Dry Ginger cocktail: Mezcal, fresh ginger & Agraz. Mmmm, got you thinking. Rory has described our Agraz as “Its own thing. It goes so far to the extreme that you can’t actually drink it neat but you can recognise it’s going to bring equilibrium to whatever it’s used in”.
Co-founder Rory McCoy & Clare Lattin, Tom Hill executive chef. Images via @Ducksoupsoho instagram.
Agraz or verjus, French for green juice, is used as a healthy and delicious alternative to vinegar or lemon. Ours is made from unripened Pais grapes handpicked in early Spring at our farm Fundo Meza, as Rory mentioned it’s got the right kind of acidity & minimal sweetness. It’s grape-based, but not fermented & alcoholic, & therefore the flavors complement whatever it’s being served with. In this case, Mezcal & ginger.
Mezcal is native to Oaxaca, Mexico, made from 100% Agave, it is one of the oldest distilled spirits in the Americas. Artisanally distilled it has a smokey, sweet & floral flavor. Like wine, the soil & growing conditions are important not only for quality but for its naturality, meaning it’s one of the cleanest spirits on the market.
Fresh ginger as we all know is a healing spice, an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, a natural gem.
Rory mixed these 3 together and The Dry Ginger cocktail was born. A peachy coloured drink, tarty & smokey, he describes it as “a total new dimension in your mouth, you have to adjust your palette. Tart and sharp to that extreme are not normally eaten, nor drank — almost an inversion of how you normally approach drinks”.
The Dry Ginger cocktail is available at Ducksoup, try it there and get the whole experience. Or try it at home with friends, Ducksoup said we can share the secret with you all 🙂 – recipe below. Shop Vidacycle Agraz on our online store.
THE DRY GINGER
25 ml Mezcal
50 ml Agraz
few grams of fresh ginger
In a cocktail shaker, smash or muddle the ginger, release the fire and liquid from within it, quickly chuck in the mezcal and agraz, then fast shake it with lots of ice. Double strain into the glass ‘ you don’t want bits of ice it in nor do you want it to water down.
Almost 12 years ago, my family started farming in Chile. Our time there has been full of ups and downs. We’ve survived one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history, as well as a devastating forest fire that burned through all our olives and vines last year (I wrote about it here). But we’ve also experienced the joy of drinking wine and eating olive oil made by our own hands. We’ve lived the dream of harvesting almonds straight from the tree (the tastiest evening snack imaginable!). Plums, pears, peaches, black beans, tomatoes, squash — there’s an abundance we are grateful for and savour.
At first, I found farming dull, old-fashioned and backwards. I was interested in science, technology, culture and cities — the way forward, the future. Farming seemed to be about sitting on tractors and keeping animals in dark, smelly barns. But over the years, I’ve realised that farming is a key part of the future and it’s incredibly innovative. Farms are our way of making food, fuel and fibre: they’re at the heart of our existence.
As a co-creator of monthly podcast Farmerama, I share the voices of the smaller-scale farmers who will shape the future of farming. But what does that mean, and what does that future look like? Over the past two years of making Farmerama, I’ve had the privilege of visiting farms across Chile, the UK and the US, and the pleasure of sharing amazing stories from Malawi, Cambodia and beyond. By attending conferences and field days, and speaking to everyone I can, I’ve gained insights into what an ecological farming future might look like. Here are the 10 trends I believe will create a positive farming future for all and enable us to feed the world in 2050.
1. Soil Health: We are in the middle of an agricultural revolution, where soil is king. Much agricultural land has just 60 harvests left before nothing can be grown there, according to latest forecasts. Faced with rising costs and declining yields, farmers across the spectrum are focusing on improving soil health. Knowing that the important thing about soil is not just its chemical components, but also its structure and the critters that live in it, has changed everything.
2. Diversity: At the heart of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is the idea that diversity is key to resilience. A farming future that will last the next 50 years — never mind the next 100 — must be rooted in diversity. Mass monocultures are the opposite of this. Diversity comes in many forms: agroforestry; companion cropping; cover crops; multi-layered animal rotations; wheat populations; growing heritage seeds; and seed saving, to name a few. If you haven’t heard of any of those, look them up — they are all very exciting!
3. Inclusive & Female Leadership: Last month, I attended a conference celebrating female leadership in the farming world. It was so inspiring to hear from female farmers and food crafters from across the US. Making space for a more diverse mix of people as the leaders of our farming future is a big part of ecological farming. Diversity on the ground will be reflected in the diversity of people making choices and working together.
4. Ecological Farming: The binary times of organic vs conventional farming are slowly fading away. New Ecological farming methods — working with and listening to natural systems — are being adopted across the organic and conventional divide. One example is Conservation Agriculture — never ploughing the soils (no-till) and growing a diverse mix of crops — which has brought a new level of wildlife, health and financial return to many conventional farms. Mob grazing — regularly moving a herd of animals to graze on different parcels of land — is another ecological practice adopted by farmers across that old conventional-organic divide. The new more nuanced world of ‘good’ farming is not yet being reflected in public discourse. We will find force in uniting under the new banner of ecological farming — leaving behind discussions of elitism that have haunted the organic farming conversations for years.
5. Data and New-Fashioned Farming: New tools and technologies will enable more ecological farming methods. For example, the ease of adoption of mob grazing is thanks to polyethylene pipes and electric fencing, which allow the traditional, labour-intensive system of rotational grazing to be managed by one or two people over a large land area. New digital services such as Open Food Network, which provides a centralised platform for farmers to sell direct to customers, promote more efficient harvesting and help smaller operations thrive. Mobile phones also let farmers collect data and observations in the field, so they can start to draw out patterns of what works and doesn’t work on their farm. I call this Permaculture 2.0 and have developed an app to help fellow smaller-scale farms here.
6. Multi-layered businesses: Part of resilient farming is having multiple income streams. One option is an alternative business run on-farm — such as adding solar panels to one field, or having a wedding venue in a barn. Another is a multi-enterprise farm — for example, a dairy farm might have a cheesemaker, honey producer and market gardener working in harmony on one farm. Equally, a grain farmer might work with a roaming herdsman. Clever land-sharing agreements are also opening up new ways of sustainably supporting multiple incomes from the same plot of land.
7. Sharing and Stories: For ecological farming to become the dominant paradigm, everyone who is part of it will have to share their stories far and wide. We’ll need more peer-to-peer learning networks, and we’ll also need to share the realities of farming — including the raw details of the constraints we face — with political leaders, cultural organisations and the public. Not everyone will want to be involved in farming, but everyone needs to believe that it’s possible for smaller-scale farmers to feed the world. Once people believe, we will regain our food sovereignty (the right for people to demand their own food and agricultural systems) as we start demanding this approach from governments and retailers.
8. Waste and Cycles: It turns out waste is a very human concept. The reality is that everything is cyclical. By shifting to this perspective, we can make better use of what is produced on the farm and that of neighbouring farms. That means we can work together to create more localised ways of sharing resources — a win for all. This message has already hit the public psyche in recent years and could be a great success story to follow. Many supermarkets now sell ‘wonky veg’ and several enterprises that make use of ‘waste products’ have sprung up.
9. Bigger is Not Better: More farmers are recognising that the ultimate success story is when what you produce is profitable, good for the environment and good for people. We’ve heard stories of people halving their sheep herds, so they can graze them outside all the time, and increase their profits. A farm in Denmark is dividing its 1,000 acres into ten 100-acre farms, as this opens up more potential for the farms to thrive. We can strive for maximum abundance as the ultimate success, not just maximum profit. Sometimes economies of scale do not maximise abundance. Abundance is a wishy-washy term, but I hope we can use tools such as True Cost Accounting to better understand the actual cost of scaling up or down, in order to define value beyond pure financials.
10. Working beyond your borders: For all the amazing improvements you can make on an individual farm, some of the most exciting projects are happening at the scale of water catchment areas and community-wide. For example, collaborative groups are tackling flood prevention across the borders of many farms. Others are implementing wildlife migration routes that traverse many plots of land. All these projects require a concerted effort across communities (or ‘bio-regions’) to transform the system.
Wanna find out more about these trends? Tune in to our monthly episode of Farmerama Radio to hear stories from farmers across the world, check out the apps I have helped create here and see a bit more about what we are doing on my family’s farm here.
Thank you to Hayley Ard for editing this article and James and Fred for looking over it! And thank you to all the farmers, scientists, & people supporting the farming community who have shared their time, thoughts and insights to help me formulate these ten points. This article is a tribute and thank you to all the great work you are doing.
Making TINTE: photo storyhttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/3.png559397vidacyclevidacyclehttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/3.png
Step 1: Our 2 hectares of vines in early Summer, ripening in the warm sun. We farm listening, learning and working with nature. That means that we never water our grapes, they thrive on their own with super deep tap roots. And we never spray anything(in organic farming you can spray both Copper and Sulphate to prevent disease). We are beyond organic in our methods observing the plants, soils, insects and animals all around to ensure we have a flourishing ecosystem so our vines will be healthy enough to resist disease pressures.
Step 2: The grapes turn purpley-red. They are ripe and ready to be picked in Autumn.
Step 3: A team of 5-6 of us head into the vines early morning, before it gets hot and harvest all the grapes by hand over 1-2 days. They are loaded into the car in batches and taken to the Bodega.
Step 4: Lots of delicious grapes ready to go in the press at the Bodega.
Step 5: We use a traditional basket press and squeeze out the juice from these delicious grapes, straight into barrels or tanks. (2014: 25% tanks, 75% barrels. 2015: 50% tanks, 50% barrels). We take natural wine to the extreme as we don’t have any chemicals at all on our farm, including sulphites. That means that our wines are completely sulphite free. A beautifully raw process which is much easier on your head.
Step 6: We continue to taste the grape juice as it evolves into wine over the year and when it tastes just right we bottle it, label it and mark down the year it was harvested. It’s put into boxes ready to ship.
Step 7: And of course we keep a few bottles for ourselves to enjoy at the end of a hard day’s work!
We are proud to share TINTE with you, it truly is just grapes and sunshine, nothing added along the way. Get a bottle or two here!
The full storyhttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2.png559397vidacyclevidacyclehttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2.png
About ten years ago, we heard about a opportunity to become part of the farming community in the Loncomilla Valley, Chile. Friends of ours informed us that their neighbours, the owners of a small farm tucked away in the coastal hills near San Javier, were moving away. Our family had fallen in love with Chile on a recent trip. It seemed as if the stars had aligned and that small farm, Fundo Meza, became our home. At first, our dad (and to-be farm manager) Tom spent some time camping out on the land to get a feel for the fields, before the entire family joined and the hard work began.
And so began our journey into regenerative farming.
We planted our first baby trees in 2008. Since then, we’ve worked with the land to slowly and steadily grow over 8,000 olive trees, from which we produce our delicious extra virgin olive oil. Each olive is harvested by hand on our farm as part of our simple philosophy: we do not add anything synthetic and work with the life of each tree. It takes time, but we learn more from each tree year upon year. Sadly the farm suffered a devastating fire earlier this year, destroying almost all of our olive trees and making our produce minimal. However, our energies are focused on healing the land and subsequent regrowth. You can read more about the effects of the fire here .
Olive trees are only part of the story. We began making natural wine and agraz from the old pais vines that remained on the land. We also work with the bees to produce a small amount of honey and care for our vegetable gardens. Today, we distribute our raw, homegrown products in the UK and Chile.
As we learn more about the web of life and organisms everyday, we also learn more about the vital elements of creating a flourishing farm. We aim to work with all parts of the ecosystem to increase biodiversity on the land. While we initially drew influence from ‘conventional’ organic farming, we have expanded our thinking toward permaculture practices, natural agriculture, solar energy and more.
Without access to irrigation canals, our nearby natural springs and two shallow wells are our only source of water. We’ve embraced this by nourishing our olive trees with little water to eventually become dry-farmed. Over the last decade, we’ve experienced earthquakes and forest fires that have dramatically changed the landscape. Still, we do what we can to work with the land in its natural state, which helps us stay aware and have respect for the lifecycles around us. In doing so, we’ve gone far beyond our farm’s organic origin.
We’re committed to building a holistic ecosystem.
Inspired by certain challenges we met along the way, as well as the observation of the archaic ways in which many farmers record vital information about their farms – we set out to create more modern solutions. Abby, the coder and physicist of the family, developed mobile apps designed as smart and simple farming solutions: Sectormentor, to help us keep track of our fields, and Workmentor, to help us keep track of everyone working in the fields. Through building these tools, Vidacycle Tech emerged as a way for us to empower other smaller scale farmers around the world to be more resilient in the digital age.
Along with these apps, we’ve also built a combination of solar pumps and windmills on the farm that keep our water running. From our windmill pump and our solar hot water, to our organic vegetable and fruit gardens that feed us year around, there are many exciting and forward-thinking things happening here.
We’re keen to nurture our growing community, both locally and globally, as we share our journey. Whether visiting us on the farm or following us on social media – instagram, twitter, facebook – we want to share with you as we carry on learning by doing. Together, we can inspire a better future for people and earth.
The devastating inferno: thoughts from the farm after the fire.https://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/1.png559397vidacyclevidacyclehttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/1.png
I (Abby) wrote this post in January 2017 straight after the massive forest fires passed through the Loncomilla Valley where we live, I was feeling pretty disturbed by the fact that all of our good efforts to work with the land had come back to bite and actually made the fire damage worse for the crops we are meant to be nurturing (and generating a business from)…
At the time we had to go straight into recovery mode as all infrastructure except the main buildings was destroyed (water, electricity etc) so I didn’t get round to sharing about this until now.
Everyday we are still recovering from the fire and will be for a while yet, things like the 4km of fence that needs replacing so the neighbours cows don’t come and eat the olives seems an overwhelming task…but there is hope as the rains have come and the land is covered in green once again. The barren trees may still have life in them yet, we will see in the Spring.
And so, back to January this year:
What was left after the fire: a farmer’s nightmare
Just days ago, the fire ripped through our farm from the pine forests, leaving nothing to spare. The entire valley is black. The spines of pines stand like statues. Years and years of life lost in a matter of hours.
Eight years of care, planting, replanting, nurturing, picking off bugs by hand, watering, observing… all singed in a matter of minutes.
Our farm’s vines are burnt to a crisp, their one hundred year old trunks still smoking as bits of ash fleck onto the ground. Their leaves are burnt golden and ready to fall. Where once the olive groves were golden and green, now they are black and brown. Even the water tanks melted completely, leaving behind damp circular graves where water once was. It’s a sad, sad sight.
We are forever indebted to the volunteer firefighters and our neighbours for working courageously and with perseverance through the night to save the buildings.
The true extent of the damage will become clear next spring, when the olives and vines sprout new shoots of green — or they don’t. The vines that aren’t dead certainly won’t yield many grapes next year, as the plant remembers the stress of January 2017… but what about the year after? Will they ever return to full production? So many unknowns.
Working with nature takes time
Now we must wait — years. It’s so clear: you can’t just ‘pivot’ or take an ‘agile’ approach to farming. Things take time and can’t be sped up. This is even more true with our Vidacycle approach to regenerative farming, which goes beyond organic. We endeavour to listen, learn and work with nature in a way that allows natural lifecycles to flourish. Over the past ten years, we as a family have learned a lot through doing it ourselves, so many things that are specific to this little valley, this particular spot on earth that no one could tell us beforehand. We’ve also learnt a lot from the many amazing fellow smaller-scale farmers around the world and so have developed the farm using ideas of permaculture, natural agriculture and lots of solar energy. We’ve embraced the dryness of the land and the natural water sources, and from that learned to craft beautiful natural products such as our natural TINTE wine, agraz and olive oil.
Fires are natural
The fire of course is part of nature (although many people were arrested for starting the fires) but no one had foreseen how ruthless it would be — the thousands of acres of pine monoculture meant the fire travelled insanely rapidly and burst onto our farm with an extreme heat. An inferno.
Interestingly the fire didn’t really progress much further than our farm. It was amazing how our many acres of native woodlands stopped the fire from reaching our neighbours, it just gradually trickled out, the regularity of the pine tinderbox was not around to carry the fire forward. So yes fires are natural, but monocultures are not, and it seems humans create an uncontrolled hell when we combine the two.
A way forward
At times, farming can feel like a lot of hard work. Looking out over the blackened landscape for months to come will be a constant reminder of what we are working with. And right now things feel kinda bleak.
I can only think our society need new ways of relating to our food and farming systems. We need to share this risk more widely if sustainable farming businesses are to survive. All of our lives depend on food. All our food comes from farms. Let’s celebrate the work of farmers and their commitment to live through the highs and the lows, live with the unknowns and to feed us all.
You can follow our story here and hear live dispatches as the fire happened on episode 18 and 19 of Farmerama, a podcast we help make, sharing the voices of the smaller-scale farming community.
And you can read more about the damage the fire caused and some of the conundrums we found ourselves in here.