Meet a Farmer: Bill Pease of Materra|Cunat Family Vineyards
Meet Bill Pease, Vineyard Manager for Materra|Cunat Family Vineyards in Napa, CA! He’s proud of the work he does every day and loves contributing to the success of the vineyards. Learn more about Bill and why he thinks sustainability is so important for the future!
CA GROWN: What does a typical day look like for you?
Bill: Usually we have a meeting about an hour before work starts with all the foremen and supervisors just to make sure that we’re all on the same page. Then we go out to do whatever work is on the schedule for the day. This time of year, we’re mostly preparing to do erosion control work to get the vineyards through the winter. Also, we’re seeding cover crops and we’re doing some last minute counts of diseased vines which will need to be replaced during the coming year.
CA GROWN: What is your favorite part about your job?
Bill: Because I do a lot of paperwork and budgeting, the best part of my job is when I can get out and get my hands on the vines. I do a lot of walking through the ranches to try to figure out how we can make things better and how we can schedule the work that has to be done to keep things as good as they are.
CA GROWN: How do you give back to the community?
Bill: We’re in an unusual position here in Napa Valley because grape farming is still reasonably profitable. If you have a thriving agricultural community, there’s just simply more money around and there’s more jobs. In terms of social programs, we do our best to deal honorably with our clients and employees and try to achieve a balance between the client’s needs to farm at a reasonable cost and the employee’s needs to make a living.
CA GROWN: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a farmer?
Bill: I think the best thing to do is to go out and get a job in the lowest paid, least glamorous part of the industry. If you find meaning in doing that, then I think you’re well on your way. Maybe you won’t get rich, but you’ll have a productive and meaningful life. Do some farm labor and if you love it, then go to school and get the academic preparation for what you really want to do. And I would strongly advocate for people who aren’t raised in an agricultural setting to try to get an entry level job in the field. The bottom line is farming is incredibly necessary. Between the issues of water and food, we’re facing two of the biggest worldwide crisis that are coming up in the next few years. So if you want to grow things, in the end you’re well-positioned to make a really positive change for humanity. And I think that’s a pretty good way to spend your time.
CA GROWN: What drew you into the farming profession?
Bill: My grandfather was a landscape gardener and an immigrant from Wales who started a small business in Oregon. When I was a young kid, he used to take me out on jobs with him and from that point on, I always liked playing around in weeds and mud. Then after I got out of the service, I started out in the cellar, working in wine making and then quickly realized wine making is mostly about the quality of the fruit that comes to you. And the rest is history.
CA GROWN: Since the vineyard is still relatively new, what are some things you’re doing to ensure continued success in the future?
Bill: We’re spending a lot of time dealing with a real serious problem that’s endemic, which is Pierce’s Disease (a deadly disease of grapevines), so we’ve developed some approaches to gradually improve the environment so we don’t have this issue. In conjunction with the Fish and Game Resource Conservation District, we’ve developed a plan where we’ve actually gone into neighboring woods and removed host plants and non-native plants to replace them with native plants that are not host plants. That’s been a very complicated, expensive and time-consuming process, but it’s been a real learning experience because we had to rethink about the ways we plant things. If we can gain control of the environment while respecting the native plant biosphere, we’ll eventually be using a lot less pesticides and having a lot less problems in the vineyard and when you lower the chemical inputs, I think it’s for the best.
CA GROWN: What are some things you’re looking forward to for the business?
Bill: We started working on the vineyards in 2007 and they needed some work. Materra hired us and we took over and started replanting the vineyard to meet the goals they had in terms of making wine. That process is just coming to an end. We’ve replanted the last few acres this spring and now we’re starting to see the fruits of our labor. My interest is avocational – I like to work, I like the people I work with and I like the people that work for me. And this work gives me a sense of being a great part of society.
CA GROWN: What are your hobbies or pastimes when you’re not farming?
Bill: They don’t fall very far from the tree. I’m a home tomato and pepper grower, so gardening is a big hobby for me. I like to do bird watching and I love to ride bikes.