Land Use in the Napa Valley and Consciousness
It is the end of a season and of a year, and we in the Napa Valley are hardly in a sleepy, midwinter’s night space! Land use issues are reaching a boiling point, heated up by the drought and water scarcity, and the decreasing amount of land for grapevines resulting in incursion of vineyards and wineries into our watershed hillsides. It is easy to want to find angels and demons in these fights, but the truth is, we have both within. The dark gift of the season is the pressure cooker of having to face the issues more consciously of our responsibilities to land and to each other.
One way Biodynamic certification is so different from organic certification is that we are asked to view our farm/ranch as an individuality and to develop it according to its placement in the whole ecosystem of our locale. This is a complicated process: not anything goes. For instance, on our ranch, it would be destructive to run cattle on our fragile hillsides, to plant vineyards in one of the few remaining oak savannas in which we live. And in Biodynamics, we are asked to keep at least 10% of our farm “natural” so that native animals and plants have their place. We are learning that “natural” is actually a partnership with nature, one that uses fire, air, earth, water, and yes, the fifth element, the quintessential: human consciousness. “Natural” implies viewing Nature as sentient and of value in Herself.
As I watch the politics of land use develop, I am grateful for our discipline of Demeter certified Biodynamic agriculture. Bringing balance to what has been thrown out of balance by western European ignorance these last 200 years is an absolutely critical process, and it will require political partnership with the County of Napa to help define and institute some of the tenets already in place in the General Plan and the Ag Preserve. We ignore working for this balance at our own peril, and through the lesson of the drought, this is becoming more apparent.
Our wish for all of us in the New Year is that we each find our own way of establishing partnership with Nature and with each other.