Seeder: Nadine Basile, Ranch Manager & Viticulturist, Mineral Springs Ranch/Soter Vineyards
The Farm: Mineral Springs Ranch & Soter Vineyards is 245 acres just outside of Carlton, OR. The 35 acre Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyard is surrounded by the biodiversity of vegetable gardens, orchard, forests, creeks and pasture for goats and chickens. Nadine manages the organic & biodynamic vineyard and farm. Produce from Mineral Springs Ranch goes to the winery staff as a CSA, used for winery events, and much of the produce gets donated to YCAP every week. Inside the winery tasting room you can also purchase goods sourced from MST Ranch and prepared by the Chefs of LETumEAT
With a Bachelor of Science in Biology from McGill University in Montreal, Nadine moved to California to get her Masters in Horticulture and Viticulture at UC Davis. After school, she worked at Robert Sinskey Vineyards in Napa under Kirk Grace as he transitioned the Sinskey vineyards to organic and biodynamic. Nadine’s scientific-self was skeptical of it all at first, “this is crazy” she thought to herself while Grace had her roasting bugs over a Coleman camping stove. She was not necessarily a believer at first but, “the results blew her away.” Over her 3 years at Robert Sinskey she saw and felt firsthand how the biodiversity and vibrancy of the vineyards changed as they adopted the organic and biodynamic farming methods.
” There were more wildflowers, dragon flies, and insects than I have ever seen before. Things were so much more vibrant and you could feel it. It became abundantly clear to me that if we are sync with the natural world than the natural world will provide and that means a healthy, productive, thriving world.”
Nadine went to work with Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard for 3 years, to help them certify their vineyards as biodynamic and organic. After taking a year to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, Nadine left sunny California and moved to Oregon to take a job with Rex Hill. At that time Rex Hill wanted to transition to organic practices and she was tasked with teaching a fleet of conventional growers about biodynamics. As one can imagine, this is when things became a job for Basile. The idea of farming was inspired when she and her husband began applying her knowledge to their backyard garden and were even able to being a small CSA program. During this time she had begun consulting for Soter Vineyards who finally presented her with the opportunity to really begin implementing the biodynamic processes that she believed in.
“The Soters put so much love and care into the project and it is what really brought MSR Ranch to Life”
2002 was when they first planted and now MSR Ranch consists of 245 acres of forest, creeks, pastures, 35 acres of plants, 1.5 acres of veg, 80 fruit trees, 28 acres of triticale and growing partnerships with the likes of Mike Atherton and his lambs. “Great partnerships are key,” Basile says.
The Soter vision that Nadine has brought to fruition is rooted in the philosophy that great wine has to be accompanied by great food and great food has to be as local as possible. The belief that the wine community can use its influence to promote the local food movement and to grow food based on the way people want to cook.
“The way we talk about terroir with wine is the same way we need to talk about terroir with food.”
Q. In your words what is Biodynamics?
A. “Biodynamics most importantly deal with the whole farm: diversity is the important word. Rather than it be a system where you withhold [toxic things], think of it as adding beneficial microbes and flowers, maintaining the forests, etc. All of that has to do with the biodynamic concept. In that are practices that bring together the natural world, the seasons, the moon. It takes broad rhythms and consolidates them into something we work with. In our sphere we see an apple tree go from a sprouted seed to picking the apples, at the same time planets and microbes are going about their own rhythm. Biodynamics seeks to marry the rhythm of what we can’t see to what we can. It’s like a dance. We want to find that rhythm and balance so we don’t have things like disease. Why we like Fibonacci, if we can understand the rhythm in nature we can mimics than everything follows through. Working with the lunar calendar is one way we can do that, it helps us to get into the rhythm. It’s all in our realm, rather than fighting against it and then having to spray. We know we are off track: people are obese, there’s cancer, people are dying. We’re not in sync anymore. On a smaller level, if you spray an herbicide then you throw everything off and you have a huge cascade of issues. We want to do everything in sync.”
Q. What is our greatest challenge as a generation for adopting a local food system?
A. “People have a weird idea about local food. They believe that only wealthy people can afford it and that idea is sinister. It is about changing peoples’ mindset about food and that is hard to do when going up against corporations because corporations stand to lose everything.”
Advice for New Farmers: Start small, just don’t bite off more than you can handle because the burn out factor is high. Find good partners and stay small. Focus. It works for everybody to have the right partners. Also, compost.
“Biodynamic has more integrity because certifying organic is limiting. Organic is a list of things you cannot do, biodynamics is what you need to do.”
“I don’t refer to myself as a farmer because that implies this image, I’m not any certain kind of farmer but I am growing food”