The Clever Root

Winter / Spring 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 102 of 104

1 0 2 | t h e c l e v e r r o o t TAKING ROOT AFTER FOUR DECADES OF FARMING, raising livestock and making wine, Lou Preston can barely remember his former life as an accountant. He blends into the field, with his un-groomed beard, weathered sun hat and vegetable oil–powered Mercedes (license plate: Vedgy). As a teenager, his father invested in a farm near Healdsburg, CA, but it was not until much later that Preston realized farming and viticulture would become his life's passion. On any given day, you'll find Preston chatting with a neighbor who has come to purchase a jug of wine, loaf of bread and fruit from the Preston Farm and Winery's Farm Store. In the late 1960s, Preston was "bitten by the grape bug" and bought 120 acres of land in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley. "At the beginning, my interest was exclusively with vineyards as a business, although I grew vegetables for home use." Today, the property comprises 60 acres of vineyards, 15 acres of pasture, eight acres of olives, five acres of grain and nine acres of fruit trees and produce. Preston explains, "The rest is fallow riparian creek footage and land we choose not to use for aesthetic reasons." Preston's diversity has taken shape in the last 15 years. A known educator and com- munity advocate himself, he eagerly credits his mentors, citing friends he met at the EcoFarm Conference in 2000, and Kelly Mulville, who taught him about rotational grazing to improve soil condition. With electric fencing, Preston keeps a tight mob of sheep on fresh pasture, moving them a couple times a week. When sheep are moved out of an area, laying hens are introduced. "It's about the health of the land—not what I can take from it, but what I can give to it." To bring things back to accounting, it's proven to be a sound business model. Most of Preston's restaurant clients buy his produce, lamb and wine (sold under the Preston of Dry Creek label). Preston's products can be found at dozens of farm-to-table restau- rants, including Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen, Mateo's Cocina Latina and Valette in Healdsburg and Zazu in Napa. "The things you taste from Preston express the personality of our farm," says Preston. The 5 List 1 1 I fell in love with Dry Creek Valley in the early '70s for its natural beauty and rough edges. Americo Rafanelli was my real estate agent! "Architected" foods: silly little cubes of this and that with inde- cipherable dots of condiment flicked around the plate. 2 2 Chef Lewis Maldonado of Spoonbar has a magic touch . . . battered rye toasts topped with broc- colini, roast baby lamb with scrumptious fat lay- ers, the best ever sweet potatoes cut into coins, baked en papillote with lemon grass. Failure is more a challenge than a frustration. Farm- ing is a learning experi- ence. No-till farming in an organic setting is definitely something we have not yet learned to do well, but we keep trying. 4 4 5 5 Zinfandel has always been my favorite grape, and serves as a reminder of my Italian neighbors of the past who grew and made Zin for their family table. Maybe I do hate modern conventional farming for its disingen- uousness of claiming to be able to feed the world while destroying the true farming com- munities and traditional practices. Baking bread has been my hobby for 30 years. We grow rye for our estate loaves, which I find fascinating, chal- lenging, and tasty. They say the average age of the American farmer is almost 60 years old. It's really exciting to see younger people getting into farming so that we're not a species dying out. LOU PRESTON'S TOP FIVE FAVES ■cr Taking Root with Lou Preston Owner of Preston Farm and Winery, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California by Chelsea Kurnick 3 3 I love apples for being a metaphor of health and family farming. We eat the apples we grow at the farm out of hand and make it into juice, vinegar and hard cider. Green washing: claims of sustainable farming amidst clear signs of glyphosate herbicide (aka RoundUp). LOU PRESTON'S TOP FIVE PET PEEVES

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Clever Root - Winter / Spring 2016