Lodi Growers Create A High Standard For Sustainability And Better Market For Their Grapes

Bruce Fry, left, and father Jerry in a vineyard of truly “Old Vine Zin.” The Zinfandel block was planted in 1901. (Photo credit: David Eddy)
Bruce Fry, left, and father Jerry in a vineyard of truly “Old Vine Zin.” The Zinfandel block was planted in 1901. (Photo credit: David Eddy)

If you want to pick up a few tips about sustainability from California winegrape growers, Mohr-Fry Ranches isn’t a bad place to start. The agricultural history of the Mohrs and Frys extends back to the 1850s, when Cornelius Mohr left his job on a whaling ship in the port of San Francisco and began a farming operation on a Spanish land grant in an area south of a town that had just become incorporated, Oakland.

Urban encroachment eventually caused family members to look elsewhere to sustain the growing business. Today, Mohr’s great-grandson Jerry Fry and his son Bruce — who represents the fifth generation — farm nearly 600 acres of mostly winegrapes in the Lodi Appellation south of Sacramento.

There, they grow a dozen varieties of winegrapes, eight red and four white, everything from Alicante Bouschet to Zinfandel. Or, as Jerry puts it, “We’ve got all the wines from A to Z.”

It’s the latter variety, Zinfandel, for which the region is best known, producing 40% of the nation’s total. The Frys are justifiably proud of their Zinfandel, especially the “Old-Vine Zin,” of which one block of vines were planted in 1901, and another 70 years ago or more. Actually, they don’t produce a drop of wine themselves, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t familiar to the oenophiles who descend on the region’s wineries. “It’s not unheard of for wine tasters to ask, not for a given wine, but for a Mohr-Fry Zin,” Bruce says, noting that a few of the wineries take advantage of the fact, adding a Mohr-Fry label to their own.

Playing By The Rules
All of that Zinfandel acreage — plus Sangiovese, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Sauvignon Blanc — about 40% of their total, has been certified sustainable under a Lodi Winegrape Commission program, the Lodi Rules. Launched in 2005 — the Frys were one of the original six growers — the Lodi Rules is a strict program detailing many aspects of a farming enterprise. It is based on the three-legged stool concept of sustainability, each beginning with an “E”: Economic, Environmental and Equitable.

There are 24,000 acres “Certified Green” in the Lodi Appellation, and an additional 6,000 acres have been certified in other regions throughout California. Approximately 20 wineries produce wines bearing the Lodi Rules seal.

“The economic consideration is number one because if it’s not economical you can’t help the environment, or provide social equity either.” - Bruce Fry (Photo credit: David Eddy)
“The economic consideration is number one because if it’s not economical you can’t help the environment, or provide social equity either.” – Bruce Fry (Photo credit: David Eddy)

Standards To Abide By
The Lodi Rules is not just a catchy slogan; it is a 128-page workbook of sustainable winegrowing standards. There are 101 standards, and to be certified you not only need to pass at least 70, you cannot fail any of the six chapters. (For an example of the standards, see “From The Workbook.”)

And while the program is based on self-evaluation, it’s not like growers can skate through with less-than-honest self-assessment, says Bruce Fry. There is random auditing by a third party, Protected Harvest, which is quite thorough. Protected Harvest representatives will ask for such details as information from a certain week’s monitoring sheet detailing practices regarding insects, mildew, vertebrates, etc.

If it seems intrusive, Fry says none of the growers involved mind because it’s grower-based.

“A group of growers, a very diverse group of growers, debated about this for a lot of time,” he says. “It’s not the third-party certifier that’s telling us what to do; it’s kind of like a research project that’s peer-reviewed.”

Scoring A Bonus
Following the Lodi Rules isn’t all about being an environmental do-gooder, Fry says. Besides making your grapes more sought after by many wineries, a few of them actually pay a bonus to growers enrolled in the program. It’s not a huge amount, perhaps $25 to $50 per ton, but it’s worth it, he says. That’s why all of the Frys’ acreage isn’t enrolled, because it only pays to be in the program for those grapes that command premium prices.

There’s nothing wrong with that, Fry says, because it’s important to remember that the first leg of the sustainability stool is Economic.

“You can’t do all these things unless they pencil out. At the end of the day you have to make money to stay in business and pay your employees,” he says. “The economic consideration is number one because if it’s not economical you can’t help the environment, or provide social equity either.”

Besides, what many people fail to realize is that economical and environmental considerations often go hand in hand, he says. For example, the Lodi Rules state that only “essential crop protection” products are used.

“Farmers use pesticides only when needed because they are very expensive to use and apply,” Fry says. “When a grower sprays it’s not because he wants to spend money; it’s because he has to protect his crop.”

Fry says he likes the public relations aspect of the program, but he’s a practical man and that’s certainly not his primary consideration.

“It’s partly there for the consumer, to show how Lodi growers farm,” he says. “But farmers need clean water to irrigate, and good soil. Farmers are going to protect those things because if he doesn’t protect them he will hurt his crop, and that will hurt him economically.”

Pages: 1 2

Topics: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fruits Stories
CitrusSenate OKs Trade Priorities And Accountability Act
May 26, 2015
Late on the evening of Friday, May 22, the U.S. Senate approved the Trade Priorities And Accountability Act (TPA) of Read More
Apples & PearsSolve Your Labor Problems From Within
May 26, 2015
Summer is here, which means harvest season is just around the corner. Hopefully you’ll have the crews you need this Read More
FruitsWater Conservation Grants Awarded In Pacific Northwest
May 26, 2015
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has awarded 17 Water Conservation Field Services Program (WCFSP) grants in the Pacific Northwest Region, Read More
Disease ControlPartnerships Key To Healthy Northwest Vines
May 26, 2015
Washington’s grape industry has seen accelerating growth over the past several decades. That momentum is owed, in part, to the Read More
Apples & PearsSounding Off On Record Purchase Of Apples
May 26, 2015
Recently USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service announced the purchase of 34.9 million pounds of fresh apples and 16.1 million pounds of Read More
Disease ControlInland Desert Nursery Is Main Source For Washington’s Clean Vines
May 26, 2015
The Judkins family has been in the business of clean grapevines for more than 40 years. Today, their Inland Desert Read More
Operation Outdoor Freedom participants
CitrusFlorida Proud To Be Home Of The Brave [Opinion]
May 25, 2015
Operation Outdoor Freedom invites wounded service members and veterans of the U.S. military to enjoy recreational activities in state forests and on private lands. Read More
The Latest
FruitsRegistration Is Open For 2015 International Fruit Tree …
May 26, 2015
Registration is now open for the International Fruit Tree Association’s (IFTA) 2015 Regional Study Tour. This registration includes hotel accommodations Read More
FruitsCalifornia’s Delta Growers To Cut Water Use By 25%
May 26, 2015
The California State Water Resources Control Board have approved a proposal from riparian water right holders in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Read More
CitrusSenate OKs Trade Priorities And Accountability Act
May 26, 2015
Late on the evening of Friday, May 22, the U.S. Senate approved the Trade Priorities And Accountability Act (TPA) of Read More
Apples & PearsSolve Your Labor Problems From Within
May 26, 2015
Summer is here, which means harvest season is just around the corner. Hopefully you’ll have the crews you need this Read More
FruitsWater Conservation Grants Awarded In Pacific Northwest
May 26, 2015
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has awarded 17 Water Conservation Field Services Program (WCFSP) grants in the Pacific Northwest Region, Read More
Operation Outdoor Freedom participants
CitrusFlorida Proud To Be Home Of The Brave [Opinion]
May 25, 2015
Operation Outdoor Freedom invites wounded service members and veterans of the U.S. military to enjoy recreational activities in state forests and on private lands. Read More
FruitsQ&A With Penn State’s New Young Grower Alliance Coo…
May 22, 2015
Erin Dugan recently joined Penn State University extension as a specialty crop innovations program manager and Young Grower Alliance coordinator. Read More
FruitsHow To Start A Young Grower Association
May 22, 2015
You have recently returned to your family’s business. You have friends and family you can tap for their knowledge and Read More
Expansion groundbreaking for Southwest Florida Research and Education Center
CitrusSouthwest Florida Research And Education Center Embraci…
May 20, 2015
A 7,000-square-foot addition to the UF/IFAS facility will house labs and offices for potential new faculty members. Read More
storm clouds
CitrusSouth Florida Rainy Season Could Wind Up On Drier Side
May 20, 2015
National Weather Service anticipating El Niño to play a hand in possible below-normal conditions. Read More
Food SafetyProduce Safety Alliance Offers Course To Become A Certi…
May 20, 2015
The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) has announced dates for their first two Train-the-Trainer courses this June. The first of the Read More
Fruits$10 Million Available For California Water Conservation…
May 19, 2015
Applications for the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) California State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) are now Read More
CitrusBad Weather Or Not, Preparation Always On Radar For Flo…
May 19, 2015
You cannot prevent a natural disaster from taking everything you have, but you can lessen the blow if and when it happens. Read More
FruitsGreen Fruitworm Numbers High In Pennsylvania
May 19, 2015
In their latest insect report, David Biddinger and Grzegorz Krawczyk, tree fruit entomologists discuss the timing of pest control applications Read More
FruitsUSDA To Invest $21M To Help Growers Cope With Drought
May 18, 2015
USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will allocate $21 million for growers and ranchers to apply conservation practices in the Read More
BB Hobbs Inc. warehouse in Plant City, FL
CitrusBB Hobbs Bolsters Business In Central Florida
May 18, 2015
Irrigation specialists celebrate opening of new branch warehouse in Plant City. Read More
Disease ControlHow To Control Disease During Rainy Weather
May 18, 2015
The recent warm, wet weather conditions are prime for fungal and bacterial diseases, says Annemiek Schilder of Michigan State University Read More
FertilizerBioWorks Launches New Fertilizer And Biostimulant
May 15, 2015
BioWorks, Inc., launched ON-Gard, a new organic fertilizer and biostimulant. ON-Gard is a 100% plant-derived product with organic nitrogen and Read More