Mari Vineyards Incorporates Bee & Butterfly Sanctuary Into Vineyards
April 23, 2021
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich- Mari Vineyards is part of a new movement for Northern Michigan farmers to create bee & butterfly habitats into their farmland. Alongside other Old Mission Peninsula agriculturalists, this 100% Estate producing winery looks to further their charge into being proponents of biodiversity and organic farming culture. Mari currently farms approximately 50% of their vineyards organically- meaning no usage of pesticides, systemic fungicides, and herbicides.
Mari Vineyards’ Viticulturist, Anna Atanassova, is spearheading her first project in her position. She is working closely with the Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund to replace standard lawns with sustainable cover crops in the form of pollinator habitats. This foundation is a non-profit that offers seed subsidization in the form of specially cultivated seed mixes made for each individual property. The mixes are created based on soil structure, insect biodiversity, and many other factors that differ from place to place.
“We’re trying to increase biodiversity,” says Atanassova. “We want to use insectaries to help create natural habitats for honey bees and monarch butterflies, as well as regain a healthy balance with predatory insects to rebuild the ecosystem and reduce the need for pesticides.” She also states that, while vines don’t need pollinators to reproduce, diversifying cover crops will benefit the microflora under the vines, creating a healthier and more beneficial soil.
Increasing bug biodiversity in a vineyard helps cull the need for a variety of chemical uses. This is one step in a journey toward organic farming that Mari Vineyards looks to employ. In addition to this, Mari utilizes organic compost, ozone systems, and a new addition to their farm machine fleet called a Clemens. This machine uses specialized tools to reach under the vines and remove weeds at their roots, rather than requiring the use of harmful weed killing chemicals.
“This year, we will plant wildflowers at Bella Vista [the vineyard visible from the tasting room], while clovers will make their way into the available open fields and some existing vineyards” said Atanassova. “The clovers will increase soil nitrogen, provide more food for pollinators, and reduce the need to mow, since clovers only grow so high. They will also help choke out existing weeds that are detrimental to our crops.”
Guests can look forward to seeing the clovers planted in May, while the wildflowers will be planted in the fall following the grape harvest. Per the contract with the Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund, the habitat must remain undisturbed for 5 years. The project is the first step in an institutionalized shift in the culture of Mari Vineyards’ farming practices; a step they have taken alongside some of their neighbor farmers on Old Mission Peninsula. Atanassova states that this will not only benefit Mari’s vineyards, but also, over time, the farmlands surrounding the vineyards that incorporate these practices.