Woolly Weed Whackers
Two local wineries — Benmarl in Marlboro and Bashakill Vineyards in Wurtsboro — have introduced the latest in biodynamic farming: sheep. Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep, to be specific. One of the oldest known breeds of sheep in the world, these miniature animals (usually standing no more than two feet) graze their way through the vineyards, reducing the need for herbicides and noisy lawnmowers. These little guys can get into tight, low spaces, but — because they’re so short — they can’t reach and eat the grapes. “Most of the time they have their heads down and they’re just weeding,” says Bashakill’s Paul Deninno, who has eight Babydolls at his vineyard. “They work great, and their fertilizer is just fantastic; it can go directly to the vineyard.”
Deninno points out that sheep ownership “is a lot more work — you have to rotate them, take care of them, get their shots, get them hay in the winter — but in the long run, it is worth it.” And besides, they’re a big hit with the guests. “They’re very docile animals; kids love them,” he says. “They’re a cute breed with funny-looking faces. It always looks like they are smiling.”
Employing sheep isn’t the only way that local vineyards are going green these days. Many are drastically reducing (or, like Adair, completely eliminating) their use of pesticides and herbicides. And some, including Glorie Farm and Stoutridge, are now 100 percent solar-powered.