Many hands make light work in Riverbench Vineyard in Santa Maria, California, about an hour north of Santa Barbara. Throughout the year, the vineyard crew tirelessly farms 240 acres of vines. From pruning to harvesting, these workers put in long hours keeping the vineyard productive and healthy.
But keeping the crew healthy is important, too. A few years ago, Riverbench decided to plant a small garden on the property; everything that came out of it was shared among staff. The idea was so popular with the vineyard workers that the garden has since quadrupled in size. Clearly, farming is a true passion for them, professionally and personally.
When time allows, enthusiastic members of the crew spend their downtime nurturing huge watermelons and squash, a plethora of different tomatoes and tomatillos, and much more. Towards the end of the summer, everyone in the winery and vineyard is supplied with more vegetables than they can eat. Given Santa Barbara County’s picture perfect climate, the garden is active almost year round.
For vineyard worker Lucas Mejia, farming is life. He has cultivated the grape vines at Riverbench for decades, so his blood, sweat, and tears are in the soil. Planting the garden was not a chore for him, but a way of living. Ending the day around the table with homemade salsa and sometimes a beer (funnily, he’s not much for wine) has been a part of his routine since he was a young man.
When fall comes around and the chaotic grape harvest begins, anyone can run out to the garden and grab what they need on the way home, which is convenient when the crew has to be back in the vineyard after just a few hours. To celebrate a long and arduous season, a vineyard barbecue, featuring dishes made from Riverbench produce, is a just little reward from the land.