Enjoy the third story from Sadie Drury, General Manager at North Slope Management in the Walla Walla Valley.
I am writing this story from home with Covid, and therefore it seems like the perfect time to touch on the not-so-glamourous parts of farming, especially from my perspective as a working mother. When the average person sees a vineyard, they see beauty and grapes, but us ambassadors writing stories see so much more.
Winegrower, Viticulturist, Vineyard Worker, Vineyard Manager or Viticulture Technician are just fancy words for Farmer. We farm grapes. No matter what you call it, I am a farmer. Everyone knows farmers work hard, but I don’t think they always know why. There’s an old quote that says “farmers work in acres, not hours,” and I can’t think of a truer way to describe what we do. It’s long days, sweat, and exhaustion in the vineyard.
For the last few months, I have been getting to work around 5:30 AM and I leave at 5:30 PM. I spend my days checking vines, making work-flow decisions, hiring crews, moving the crews, guiding the team, writing recs, recs, and more recs, paying the bills, paying the employees, and working closely with winemakers. This is the normal day from April through October. November through March is similar but instead of working 12 hours a day I only work 8.
Almost every decision I make is dictated by the weather. Is it too hot or windy to spray? Is it too hot or cold to work outdoors? Will we need to run wind machines? Is it time to get the irrigation running? In addition to having mother nature in charge, the farm doesn’t take a day off. Things don’t quit growing, the weather is never completely predictable, the work doesn’t stop, and the grapes keep getting ripe no matter what. Because of this, us farmers are always essential workers. Even with Covid today my work goes on and I keep chugging away.
As I said in the beginning, it takes a village. My kids always come first, but the work goes on. When they’re sick, I still work because the work doesn’t stop. When I go on vacation, I am still watching the weather and making decisions from afar. I miss my kids most mornings because 6 days a week I go to work before they’re awake. People who know me think I do a magical balancing act making it all happen, but the truth is I only get by because my village. I believe any farmer will tell you the same thing. Behind the scenes I have a husband who is incredibly involved, bosses who believe in me and give me grace when the home demands are big, a daycare provider who watches my kids all day in the summer when they’re not at school, three local grandparents to my kids who more than pick up the slack, and a handful or young ladies who jump in and babysit when we need extra help. Without this village, the work doesn’t get done.
I find that I am in a truly unique position to be able to be a mother and do what I do. At the end of the day, I can say most of my success in the vineyard is because of my village.
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