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Monday, November 10, 2014

Sustainable Agriculture in Sonoma County

The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission has decided all Sonoma County grapes will be grown sustainably within five years. With over 60,000 acres of grapevines this is an ambitious project. The majority of the vineyards are under 100 acres with nearly half less than 40 acres so there is lots of coordination and info sharing to be done.

First though, what is sustainable farming? The broad definition of sustainability is "to be able to continue a defined behavior indefinitely." Sustainable farming is not just taking care of the land, as most people see it, but there are also social and economic aspects. Economic because the farming has to be economically sustainable. The social piece involves the quality of life of the people who actually do the farming and even people living nearby.

In January 2014 Sonoma County announced they would be the first 100% sustainable wine growing region in the country. Many vineyards are sustainable, organic or biodynamic now. Sustainable is not the same as organic or "spiritual organic" (biodynamic). Organic doesn't mean water friendly or energy efficient, for instance, but sustainable does. Perhaps the biggest difference is in the scope, as sustainable means also caring about the farm workers, their families, and the nearby communities.

Why is Sonoma County doing this? The marketing types have said earth-friendly will be a hot trend in the coming years when consumers make purchasing decisions. The thought is that you will be looking at each item you pick up in the store and will often choose based on whether the product's manufacturing and packaging are sustainable. If this turns out to be true will others follow in Sonoma's footsteps? You bet, and they will be able to learn from what Sonoma County has done from being in the forefront. 

First, congratulations for taking this on. Second, good luck in achieving this by 2019. Ladies and gentlemen, you have work to do!

Sustainability fact sheet
Sustainability FAQ