Innovation, Experimentation and Improvability
Sustainability, as a concept or aspiration, falls short in our estimation. We prefer “improvability” – operating in a manner that each year improves the quality growing capability of our farm. Improvability relies heavily on a deep, abiding respect for experimentation and innovation, and a natural mistrust of “known fact”.
One visit to Native Flora should convince anyone that conventional rules and wisdom are regarded as not much more than tepid guidelines or suggestions. This doesn’t mean that convention is incorrect; it simply means that we often break the rules in favor of experimentation, challenge, innovation or preference. It also means we are willing to spend a little more money, forgo some extra profit, or simply be wrong in order to explore or pursue an ideal.
When we began developing our site, we were besieged with conventional rules. We chose to break the biggest one right out of the gate, setting up vineyards facing north, on the wrong side of the hill. Time has proven our biggest gamble to be our greatest asset, and sparked tremendous development around us. We continue to challenge the status-quo not for the sake of an argument, but to truly test the merits of “conventional wisdom”.
Sitting on 1.5 acres of south-facing Jory, mature firs with a few interspersed majestic oaks swayed in the breeze. Convention said cut down the trees, sell the timber, use the money to help pay for the vineyard development costs and expand your plantable acreage. All very true. But we liked the mini-forest at the edge of the vineyard, we liked the birds and resident raptors, we loved the big oak now overhanging Block 1. So we trimmed back the edges of the forest, thinned the trees to improve their health, cleaned out the underbrush and produced a little park for everyone and everything to enjoy. It does mean we miss out on about 3 tons of beautiful pinot each year. But that’s OK at Native Flora, since it improves the quality of life here for us and everyone and everything that visits.
Other conventions which we have chosen to set aside (and which always spark a lively discussion):
One cannot grow grapes on a north-facing slope.
One cannot keep sheep year round in an actively producing vineyard.
One must prune in a proven manner for Oregon.
Commercial activity and home life cannot be housed together.
It’s too expensive to collect, filter and re-use rainwater.
Profitability and plantability trump aesthetics.
Work and fun don’t mix.