Earth-friendly farming is more demanding than simply letting the chemical salesman tell you what to do. But the rewards are many – cleaner and tastier grapes, safer workers, and a natural environment that will continue to thrive for many generations.
The Duttons safeguard the health of their fruit while reining in chemical applications and other intrusions on the natural farming process. Yesterday, today and in years to come, the chief influence on the flavor of their grapes will remain the prestigious Russian River Valley itself.
Given their commitment to green farming, the Duttons must monitor their ranches constantly. They employ an entomologist who visits every vineyard weekly, alert to leaf hoppers, mites, sharpshooters or other unwanted pests.
They consider the history of each ranch, the legendary coastal fog and other climatic trends, and the population of native insect predators. Then they make a choice for the lowest-impact intervention that will still achieve results.
As the Duttons expand to new ranches, they often find themselves cleaning up after the sins of others, clearing creeks and hills of old cars and other debris. They make erosion control a constant priority. And recycling plays a major role at Dutton Ranch. Into the bins go all glass, plastic, paper, oil, batteries and card board.
The Duttons make common cause with other grape growers in fostering a sound environment. Joe Dutton is a board member of the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District, and the ranch plays host to regular seminars on such topics as sustainable farming.