An update from Brett Thiessen - Manager of Viticulture
On our 80 acre property that is directly on the Similkameen river bank, we are planning to remove the original posts, wires and vines that are serving no purpose to us. These were put there by previous owners, but it is now apparent to us this cold spot on a floodplain is on a very sensitive riparian zone. Currently, we have a deer fence blocking wildlife traffic in an important area and infrastructure that is just taking up space where we would rather restore habitat than grow grapes. Not only do we want to restore the nature corridor, but we have already dug out a few catch ponds for floodwaters that remain still. This has already created a great breeding ground for the endangered Spadefoot toad. Once complete, we plan to turn 10-15 acres of the property back into natural habitat instead of using every acre just for grapes. This whole ecosystem focused approach will help increase beneficial biodiversity all around our new vineyard and return the space to crucial species of the Similkameen.
I look at this property as more than just a vineyard. We are lucky enough to have 80 acres, but why use it all for profit when we can encourage the life around our fences to thrive. Sustainability is more than just running a tight budget and being profitable by growing on every acre we own. If the environment under our vines and outside of our fences is not healthy, we can’t expect the best fruit or land. So I plan to work with nature instead of against it, restore and give healthy land back to wildlife, encouraging them to be around our vineyard instead of inside of it. This pathway on the water was cut off a long time ago, migration patterns changed and the adaptation of habitat to farmland hurt certain species. This is our way of giving some of it back and benefiting the entire ecosystem.
Okanagan Simlkameen Stewardship Society has partnered with us to identify vulnerable species of plants and animals and monitor their numbers upon return. They have staff and volunteers that will be helping us clean up the current infrastructure on the property, as well as sourcing and planting native species of trees and grasses that will encourage rehabilitation in this fragile space.