BY GARRETT COGGON, Grand Traverse Conservation District
---- — With a busy harvest season underway, area vineyards and wineries are operating at full swing.
Production and quality appear to be good to excellent this year; however, deer, birds and raccoons have been taking more than their fair share in some vineyards.
While certain crops have suffered this year (like cherries), the hot weather promises another year of outstanding wines from our region. As the wine industry in northern Michigan continues to expand and develop a national reputation, it's crucial we implement strategies for sustainable agriculture. One group of wineries in Traverse City is doing just that. Traverse City's Old Mission Peninsula is home to seven wineries that are taking advantage of the region's microclimate to grow varietal wine grapes. Each winery also benefits from the scenic views of the area's farms and the pristine freshwater bays which surround the peninsula.
Recognizing that our natural resources are just as critical to their success as the grapes they grow, these wineries ensured that not only their farms stay pristine, but also the surrounding waters. All seven of the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula (WOMP) have recently become environmentally verified by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Through verification in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP), these wineries have taken proactive steps to prevent pollution and protect the environment. MAEAP verifications, administered by the Grand Traverse Conservation District, have been completed over the eight years, with individual wineries undergoing the process at their own pace.
Peninsula Cellars and Chateau Grand Traverse were the first wineries to be verified, each completing their initial verification in 2004. Chateau Chantal, 2 Lads Winery and Bowers Harbor Vineyards also became verified in the years following. This summer, Brys Estate and Black Star Farms attained verification, completing environmental verification of the Old Mission Wine Trail.
Each of these wineries has reviewed and implemented practices such as: fertilizer use, nutrient management, pesticide use and storage, soil conditions, fuel storage, waste recycling, well condition and emergency planning. They are using science-based standards to ensure their operations are environmentally responsible and proactive by preventing pollution and/or other negative impacts on our landscape.
Visitors can be assured that in addition to crafting award-winning wines, these wineries are taking care of the land and water they use to grow their grapes.
In addition, there are environmentally verified wineries in Leelanau County, including Black Star Farms and Shady Lane Cellars.
Growers have been supportive of the program because promoting good agricultural practices is good for the environment, can save farmers money and they appreciate being recognized for their diligent farming practices.
Garret Coggon is food safety & MAEAP technician with the Grand Traverse Conservation District.