Summer weather appeared during the week of this year’s Santa Barbara County Fair. I hope you had a chance to visit the fair this year. Dennis Pearson, chief executive officer, his staff and the countless volunteers put on another great event.

I am still going ask Dennis to think about moving the agricultural exhibits back to the front of the fairgrounds.

The beautiful exhibits showcasing the bounty of the agricultural community, along with the vintage tractors restored to original glory, help remind folks that agriculture is the area’s No. 1 economic driver.

A vibrant agricultural community is essential in keeping Santa Barbara County such a special place to live.



The warm weather has helped our grapes move closer to harvest, as veraison has started in our pinot noir.

A few grape clusters here and there are beginning to change from green to pink, reminding us that harvest is not far off.

I was walking through a pinot noir block the other day when I noticed a huge flock of starlings pass overhead. Those birds are a true indicator that veraison is starting.

Even though I had a hard time finding any berries that were turning color, those birds knew those tasty little pinot noir berries would soon make a sweet treat.

We will probably apply our last mildew spray next week, then begin applying the bird netting over the vines to keep the starlings at bay.

Pest control in our grapes includes controlling mildew, gophers, squirrels, birds around harvest time and a few insects.

This year seems to be a banner year for squirrels and gophers. There are more squirrels darting around than I have seen in a long time. We have an employee on the vineyard who does nothing but trap gophers, day in and day out.

The birds can be a problem, and there are several different ways to deal with them. There is the netting, but that can be expensive.

There are also noise makers. Especially popular are the Zon guns that use compressed gas to make a loud booming noise, similar to a shotgun.

Zon guns scare the birds for a while, and then they lose their effectiveness as the birds get used to hearing them. They need to be moved during the day to keep the birds off guard.

The other consideration with Zon guns is that they can be annoying to both people and animals living near the vineyards where they are used.

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As new vineyards come into production in the hills along the Central Coast, vineyard owners and operators need to remember to talk with their neighbors about the cultural practices that might be going on.

Tractors may be working at night, and Zon guns may be used in an area traditionally used to graze livestock.

Many of the ranches near the vineyards in our county, and the families that own them, have been in the area for generations. They understand agriculture.

Growers should get to know them and address any concerns that might come along, before they become a problem.

I remember when winegrapes first came into the area, and I was growing dry-land grain. All of a sudden, we could no longer spray 2-4D to control weeds after the grapes budded out in the spring. Now I’m the grape grower.

There are fewer and fewer of us in agriculture today, and whether you’re a grape grower, cattleman or vegetable grower, working together, we can preserve it for future generations.

Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is president of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and a board member for the Central Coast Wine Growers’ Association Foundation. He can be reached at