Mimi Casteel and her family own the Hope Well Vineyard and Bethel Heights Vineyard, in Oregon. Mimi takes on issues like land use, agricultural practice, and vineyard work in this podcast, stressing the importance of a connection with nature to avoid future catastrophes.
Upload Date: Jan 08, 2021
Mimi Casteel and her family own the Hope Well Vineyard and Bethel Heights Vineyard, respectively, in Oregon. Mimi takes on issues like land use, agricultural practice, and vineyard work in this podcast, stressing the importance of a connection with nature to avoid future catastrophes.
Podcast host Levi Dalton welcomes distinguished guests from the world of wine – including winemakers, sommeliers and writers – into his living room for an in-depth interview, delving into everything from the sommelier trade, winemaking, the business of wine in an informed and insightful manner. Dalton is a former sommelier who has worked at restaurants including Restaurant Daniel, Masa and Convivio in Manhattan and also contributed articles to publications including Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit and Eater.
period of time. What's your experience of those changes? Being a kid here and then living here until college? What did you see in terms of development? Really, truly very little up until the time I left for college. And I remember still the time I left for college thinking, I wonder if this wine thing is ever really going to take off. I mean, seriously, that's how I felt that stuff. And we did see a lot of changes in the agriculture around us because a lot of the crops that are grown here annual crops, and so they change on a yearly basis. So we've seen Mawr hazelnuts in the last 20 years or whatever. But the main difference that I've seen just in the last 10 to 15 years is this immense growth in viticulture. And it's unchallenged, which is a problem in other regions. There are laws in place and there are boundaries drawn, and there are things that you can't do. And here we're still a little bit behind the curve in terms of being able to see into the future and how we might be affecting our own capacity to keep doing this. The way we want to do it, given how quickly we're growing without taking a moment to consider the ramifications of that. One thing you mentioned to me at one point was, if it was soybeans, people would be like, Whoa, totally! Let's do some limits. But then when you say it's grapevines, people like great anything you want. Yeah, yeah, Bring the economy. Yes, I think that's a very strong point, which is that viticulture gets this past that other types of agriculture don't get. And I'm not really sure what to attribute that to other than the mystique of wine and how how much value added you get from the product that you create, provided that you can actually sell that product. So you went to college, you stayed the humanities. He also did some science work M s. And then you did a lot of work in the forestry service and then fighting forest fires during different parts of your young adulthood. Yes, for me, that was very formative because it was really when I was fighting forest fires that I started thio pay attention, thio some of the implications of the way we managed the landscape and have managed the landscape for the last 152 100 years. And how how many of those effects take a century to really come home? But now we're at this point where if we don't begin to recognize the part that we've played in getting to this point, then we don't stand a chance of turning around. And agriculture really is at the heart of that, because the agricultural and privately held land base dwarfs what we have in wilderness areas and protected areas. And you do start to see the erosion of the protected lands when the privately held land bases. Not supporting that. And I started to really see that when I was fighting these fires that had we had no chance of beating them, we were literally trying to save homes. And in the meantime, the fires get mawr and more and more intense. And there's more and more devastation to the ecosystems, not to mention the neighborhoods now. I mean, that's what we're starting to really see. And that was really the beginning of me considering my way back thio agriculture because there was a me that wanted to just go into the wilderness and stay there. But I feel like the work really needs to be done on private lands and the wine the wine calls you back. What you realize working for the Forest Service is that like you mentioned, the percentage of public land to private land is a big difference. And if you want to make a real impact, you have to encourage change at the private level. Exactly. And I think that we have to recognize that for people to even value what we have in the wealth of public land, they have tohave a touch point in nature that's in their backyard. So one of the philosophies behind the project at Hopewell, which is the vineyard that you won't know exactly, is that it's an open teaching farm about how habitat supports agriculture and there is no there is no hope for doing anything sustainably. If habitats not at the heart of what you do and that I mean you can call it Habitat. You could call it food Web. You can call it whatever, but we use the word sustainability as if we think we know what that means, and I feel like most people really have a one generation view of what that really means, and that's not going to get us very far. What you're saying is that there's an ecological clock that's moving towards habitat collapse, and it's clicking. And it's going quite a bit faster than most people realize. Yes, I mean the whole tipping point theory. Or once you've crossed over the shoulder of the bell curve, it's a pretty steep fall, and these landscapes air tremendously resilient, especially in the West, where we do have a pretty temperate climate. A lot would be possible if the agricultural land base were to get on board and really embrace some of these ideas of working together, networking to form that. The threads of support Thio sort of nit thes little pockets of habitat back together. And it's not that hard. And it doesn't have to be at odds with the economics of farming. And that really bothers me. When people point thio the sustainability of the business model and the economics of France, I would hope that if you have come to work the land that first and foremost, you consider yourself a steward and that the value of the quality of life that doing that work gives back to you should factor into what you consider your economic model thes noneconomic values of proximity to the land and proximity to the things that keep, uh,