Organic Wine Podcast

Mark Shepard - Restoration Agriculture & Growing GrapeVines In Trees

November 21, 2022

My guest for this episode is Mark Shepard. I’m so excited to share this conversation with you because Mark has a perspective on viticulture and agriculture in general that is revolutionary… while also being incredibly common sensical. He’s as funny as he is passionate and that passion comes from wanting to share an incredibly important message not only for producing wine, but also for our survival.

Mark is the author of Restoration Agriculture which is a top 10 Amazon best seller in multiple categories. Restoration agriculture is his term for ecomimicry permaculture or multi-story perennial polyculture using what thrives naturally in your ecosystems. He practices this at scale on his 110 acre New Forest Farm in Wisconsin, and on several other properties, and he provides agricultural consulting around the planet.

One of the quotes from his book that stood out to me is when he is talking about our conventional, monoculture approach, and says, “We have created the conditions under which pests and diseases thrive, while almost completely ceasing the improvement of the crops’ own resistance to the threats we have created.”

This is so true in wine, where we have a global monoculture of a handful of European grapes that have been propagated by cloning for two hundred years or more. And in the last 50 years we’ve spent literally billions of dollars developing chemicals to enable these clones to survive, while investing very little in breeding new varieties that don’t need the chemicals… or in expanding the idea of wine to include other ingredients besides European grapes.

Mark doesn’t spray his fruit, whether it’s apples or cherries or chestnuts or grapevines, he employs a kind of vitiforestry, and his approach to agriculture illuminates some incredible perspective shifts in how we could think about growing grapevines differently… as well as how we could think about wine differently… as one symbiotic element in a holistic perennial polyculture.

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