There is no easy way to start a letter like this.
For years you have been on this journey with me. We have traversed the hard-won successes and the setbacks of trying to reimagine agriculture at the family farm scale. When I left Bethel Heights, this farm, this place, was where I lived. It was the extension of work started at Bethel Heights, and taken to new levels, and then became its own project.
As you know, the wine project was always going to be small, to allow the focus to be on the farming and the learning. The wine has been the voice of the work, and I am incredibly proud of the way it has told that story.
But the vineyard was built for a different purpose. When the vineyard was built, the size of the vineyard was informed by the needs of my family’s business, Bethel Heights. When I left Bethel Heights, the production at Hope Well was far more than I wanted for the Hope Well wine project. But the grapes were in the ground, and I found amazing partners who were interested in the work and who supported it by making beautiful wines from our fruit.
Working with other winemakers I respect, as a grower, has been a very rewarding and challenging part of my job. First and foremost, I am committed to the health of the land. I am also, for better or worse, a person who wants every client in the vineyard to get 110% from me.
Selling grapes is a more than a full time job. I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to do this for as long as I have, because it has been a critical education and a step I could not have skipped. Over the years I hoped to grow enough capacity through hard work to focus more on the work that I feel is most important, but because the grape income was a critical engine for the farm, I have been limited in what I have been able to give to the larger picture of healing working lands beyond this farm, and, most importantly, I have been limited in what I have been able to give my family. 2020 laid it all on the line. If I double down again, I will have missed the gift of 2020, which was perspective. My children are young. They deserve more from me and it shouldn’t mean a sacrifice is necessary.
I have made the difficult decision to move Hope Well, the wine, the philosophy, the entire ethos, to a smaller, integrated farm that is only the size that makes the wine, and allows for the personal capacity that I feel is most critical now as my children grow and humanity navigates the very difficult choices we face. There is VERY important work I intend to do beyond wine.
I have found the next stewards of the place I have called home since 2014. I have confidence in their intentions and their commitment to the community and to the health of the land. It is more than I hoped I could find for the next watch, and it makes this much easier on my heart.
I am farming this vintage to the end, and I will make one last vintage from this site. After the harvest we will be packing up the animals, and will be somewhat nomadic as we search for the place where Hope Well will continue. I know this will be shocking to many. I am a private person, and this was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, and it has taken me years. Our time here is short, and I am not clairvoyant. I only want to work on the things that for me, matter most right now.
I hope you will stay along for the ride.