Fish Friendly Farming

As you drive around Green Valley, you may notice some cool new signs at the Dutton Ranch vineyards you pass. After a three-year process, Dutton Ranch became 100% certified at all their vineyards and apple orchards for Fish Friendly Farming. The Fish Friendly Farming Environmental Certification Program is run by the California Land Stewardship Institute, a non-profit organization located in Napa County, and works to encourage growing practices that protect the endangered Coho salmon and steelhead trout that populate our waters.

In fall and winter, adult salmon and steelhead migrate into their home river and creek to spawn. Eggs are laid directly into the river or creekbed where they will need cold, high-quality water flows for 4 to 6 weeks to develop into small fish. These tiny fish, called "fry", emerge from the gravel into a pool where they will need shady, cool water (65° F or less) with large logs or root wads for shelter and a steady supply of aquatic insect larvae or floating adult insects. Juvenile Coho salmon and steelhead remain in freshwater for one to four years before migrating downstream to the ocean where they develop into large adults. Chinook salmon spend only a few months in the river or creek channel prior to migrating downstream to the ocean.

The fish's habitat requirements are met when farmers use the Fish Friendly Farming program's Beneficial Management Practices for:

  • soil and water conservation
  • restoration and revegetation of riparian corridors along rivers and major creeks as well as small hillside creeks
  • repair and careful management of roads to reduce sediment
  • limited chemical use
  • removal/retrofit of migration barriers

By focusing on improving conditions for salmon and trout, the Fish Friendly Farming program takes a comprehensive approach to environmentally friendly land management. The program also recognizes the efforts of farmers to create or maintain habitat for wildlife such as songbirds, raptors, frogs, coyotes, and others. These species all share the same intricate food web as the salmon and play an important role in the biodiversity of the ecosystem.

With the certification complete, they’ll continue to photo monitor all activities at their vineyards and orchards, and then be inspected and re-certified in 5 years.

This certification is an important first step in the next phase for Dutton Ranch, which is completing their sustainability certification as part of Sonoma County’s goal to become the first 100% sustainable wine region by 2019.