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

BerriesReal Estate Firm, Wish Farms Strike Large Land Deal
October 1, 2014
$13.8 million transaction includes more than 800 acres acquired from longtime Central Florida produce operation. Read More
FruitsOrganic And Local Food Economies Receive More Than $52 Million In USDA Grants
October 1, 2014
Most of the grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill. Read More
BerriesPractice Persistence When Battling Botrytis In Blueberries
September 30, 2014
Cognizance of resistance is key to managing formidable fungus. Read More
CitrusFarming Is Quite The Scary Prospect For Some [Opinion]
September 30, 2014
Florida Grower managing editor Paul Rusnak says economic realities might frighten off future leaders from noble professions. Read More
FruitsNew Suppress Herbicide Gets Green Light From EPA
September 30, 2014
Approval gives organic growers new weed management tool. Read More
BerriesNew Fill-By-Weight Clamshell Filler For Blueberries
September 30, 2014
Lakewood Process Machinery's equipment offers a simplified user interface, minimized drop heights, a new dribble-gate system designed for an increased level of accuracy. Read More
BerriesDrought Could Impact Spring California Strawberry Crop
September 29, 2014
Ventura County expects reduction of acres planted as surface water availability takes a hit. Read More

The Latest

FruitsOrganic And Local Food Economies Receive More Than $52 …
October 1, 2014
Most of the grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill. Read More
CitrusFarming Is Quite The Scary Prospect For Some [Opinion]
September 30, 2014
Florida Grower managing editor Paul Rusnak says economic realities might frighten off future leaders from noble professions. Read More
FruitsNew Suppress Herbicide Gets Green Light From EPA
September 30, 2014
Approval gives organic growers new weed management tool. Read More
CitrusFlorida Announces Its 2014 Woman Of The Year In Agricul…
September 29, 2014
Longtime award recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to the state’s farming sector. Read More
FruitsNational Security May Depend On A Healthy Diet [Opinion…
September 29, 2014
Your bottom line as well as the future of our country will depend on promoting healthy eating to the next generation. Read More
CitrusFlorida Produce Industry Embracing Progress, Confrontin…
September 29, 2014
Production pressures and politics hot topics at FFVA’s 71st Annual Convention. Read More
CitrusFlorida Farmers Finding Ways To Cultivate An Environmen…
September 26, 2014
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam salutes producers putting their best management practices forward. Read More
CitrusGrowers Should Partner Wisely To Stay Afloat Amid WOTUS…
September 26, 2014
According to Florida Grower editor Frank Giles, the Clean Water Act is muddying waters for farmers. Read More
Farm ManagementUSDA Takes Steps To Help Farmers Manage Risk
September 25, 2014
New programs offers farmers protection against price drops and additional unforeseen risks. Read More
CitrusNational Farmers Union Submits Comments On Clean Water …
September 23, 2014
Organization urges other industry groups to submit constructive comments. Read More
CitrusLuke Bryan Pays It Forward For Farming
September 23, 2014
Country superstar honors agriculture with his Farm Tour. Read More
FruitsFlorida Fruit & Vegetable Association Seeks Fresh A…
September 17, 2014
New partnership bolsters Fresh From Florida program. Read More
CitrusFDA Announces Cooperative Agreement To Implement Nation…
September 17, 2014
Agreement will provide information to help plan and carry out the produce safety rule in partnership with state regulatory agencies. Read More
FruitsDeadline Nearing For Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistanc…
September 15, 2014
Fruit growers who suffered losses due to frost or freeze in 2012 could be eligible for assistance through USDA’S Farm Service Agency. Read More
Fruits5 Mistakes You May Be Making With Your Orchard’s …
September 15, 2014
These deadly sins may be hurting your customers’ experience — and costing you money. Read More
FruitsSuccess And The Not-Top-100 Grower [Opinion]
September 15, 2014
Innovation isn't only happening at the top. Some of the most interesting ideas in the fruit industry are being executed by small growers. Read More
FruitsAmerican and Western Fruit Grower’s 2014 Top 100 …
September 13, 2014
The nations’s largest growers reflect how technology, innovations, and promotion help make their businesses run more efficiently. Read More
FruitsSolve This Grower’s New Planting Problem
September 12, 2014
American Fruit Grower’s advice forum focuses on solving your problems and issues that arise in business and the growing season. Read More