Organic vs Sustainable Farming in Napa Valley

With so many wineries in Napa Valley, there’s a bigger push than ever for healthy farming habits. The most common types of farming you’ll hear about in the area are organic and sustainable farming techniques. But what’s the difference between them? After all, they both focus on the environment. Let’s look at how organic and sustainable farming compares in Napa Valley.

What is Organic Farming?

Organic farming focuses on not using any synthetic products, meaning they avoid synthetic pesticides and fertilizers as well as any genetically modified crops. This style of farming requires crop rotations and cover crops to make sure soil stays rich enough to keep plants healthy. 

Organic farming can be more expensive than traditional farming because it uses supplies like manure for fertilizer versus synthetic options. It can also be more time-consuming at times, due to the need to regularly cultivate the soil to keep weeds away. 

Organic farming can take many seasons to fully implement in a winery – it usually takes three years of organic farming to be able to say that your harvest is certifiably organic. The grapes on organic farms can be sold at higher prices but also cost more to grow. 

What is Sustainable Farming?

Sustainable farming is focused on minimizing the loss of natural resources found in the farm soil. This style of farming works to keep more organic matter in the soil, which can help reduce erosion over time. Sustainable farming helps make the soil more resilient and healthier, which allows for better harvests. 

Sustainable farming usually has little to no tilling of the soil. You’ll also find that many sustainable farmers will plant cover crops to help eliminate soil erosion. It also involves the creation of buffer zones, such as waterways or filter strips, that help reduce the runoff of soil nutrients. 

Sustainable farming doesn’t allow for as high of a sale price of grapes compared to organic farming. However, it allows for healthier soil over time which can end up allowing for higher revenue in the long run. 

What’s the Difference?

The main difference between organic and sustainable farming is that organic focuses on the products put into their crops while sustainable farming focuses on the treatment of the land itself. Both are considered environmentally friendly, but they are very different in practice. 

There are elements of both farming styles that overlap, such as the limited use of fertilizers and pesticides. However, tillage is an area where they are much different. Organic farming requires extra tillage while sustainable looks to eliminate or seriously limit tillage. 

What Farming Techniques Are Used in Napa Valley?

You’ll find that many of the wineries in Napa Valley are dedicated to green farming in one way or another. In fact, over half of the winery acreage in the area is certified Napa Green Land. This means that the farming techniques being used are healthy and safe for the environment. 

Some wineries implement organic farming techniques while others focus more on sustainable practices. You’ll also find many wineries that focus on mixing the two styles to create their own green farming style that works for their land. 

ELLMAN Family Vineyards and Green Farming

ELLMAN Family Vineyards is dedicated to providing quality and environmentally friendly wines to anyone who wants them. We practice sustainable farming techniques to give back to the land that provides us with our grape harvests every year. Stop by our tasting room to see what sustainably farmed grapes can taste like!

ELLMAN is one of the top wineries in Napa Valley. They are partnered with winemaker Andy Erickson and are one of the best family wineries in Napa Valley. ELLMAN offers private tastings and special mailing lists for their standing allocation wines. Check out their wines here, or sign up for our mailing list. See what sets Andy Erickson wine apart, by checking out one of the oldest family-owned vineyards in Napa Valley today! 

You can learn more about the different types of farming, check out these resources: 

Resource 1 | Resource 2 | Resource 3