Kelly Mulville - Paicines Ranch

Paicines Ranch creates a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem where creatures large and small can thrive.

Kelly Mulville stands next to the system he created to allow sheep to graze in the vineyard

When you think about a bottle of wine and everything involved in its creation, you probably don’t think about sheep. But according to Kelly Mulville, you should! Kelly is the Vineyard Director at Paicines Ranch in San Benito County, where they are restoring ecosystem health using livestock and native plants.  

Paicines Ranch is 7,600 acres, but the vineyard itself is only 25 acres. They have 600 acres of irrigated crop land, and all the rest is rangeland. So most of the land is in natural condition with a diversity of native plant species. 

Sheep are beneficial to the health of the vineyard and the raised vines provide shade and a cooler climate for animals and workers.

Kelly studied with Allan Savory, an ecologist from Zimbabwe who mimics the patterns of large African grazing herds in an agricultural setting. At Paicines Ranch, Kelly implemented a system in which they raise their vines to allow sheep to graze in the vineyard. Sheep are beneficial to the health of the vineyard and the raised vines provide shade and a cooler climate for animals and workers.  

Introducing sheep to a vineyard reduces costs by eliminating the need for fertilizers or compost. During the growing season of the vines, urine provides important nutrients with high concentrations of nitrogen and minerals. These are readily available to the plant in a liquid form. The moisture and the cooler climate inside the vineyard also help increase diversity above and below the ground. Kelly believes it’s important to support organisms large and small, with soil microbial communities and beneficial insects being critical biodiversity components.  

To manage pest insects, Paicines Ranch relies on natural enemy insects. The native habitat in and surrounding the vineyard supports those natural enemies. They have about 60 native plant species, including those that Wild Farm Alliance helped to plant in areas where grape vines died. Kelly explains that they have some leafhoppers in the vineyard, and he’s even seen a little bit of damage. But they never get excessive. When they see a few leafhoppers, “it's not something to be too alarmed about. In order to have predators, you have to have prey.” 

 “Having a great diversity of insects is really important to us,” says Kelly. “Some of the things we do to encourage them is keeping the soil covered with living vegetation and creating conditions that are conducive to insects throughout that vegetation.” 

Learn more about biodiversity at Paicines Ranch and hear from researcher Houston Wilson about how native habitat in the landscape supports pest control in the video below: