Sonoma County, Calif. may soon be the first region in the U.S. to become 100 percent sustainable if the county’s Winegrape Commission can convince all of its vintners to make some shifts to their growing and production methods within the next five years.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the commission’s president, Karissa Kruse, acknowledges that “sustainable” has become “‘a buzzword in the market. But to growers the tenet of sustainability is fairly simple: good farming practices and living as light on the land as possible,’ said Kruse. ‘It’s being a good steward, a good employer and a good neighbor.’”
The Sonoma County region is home to 1,800 vineyards, 85 percent of which are family-owned operations, which the commission hopes is a good sign for the initiative. Kruse says sustainability plays a role in the health and longevity of vineyards so that they can be passed down to future generations. And she notes, there is also a financial incentive, reports the Chronicle, “Consumers—whether they know what it means or not—are demanding products produced sustainably. Big-box stores such as Walmart have even begun to ask wholesalers for information on their sustainability programs.”
Third party certification for sustainability verifications can cost as much as $2,000 per program—a cost some of the region’s vineyards have been reluctant to shell out. But most of the region’s winemakers have already paid for certification on their sustainability efforts.
“What’s unique about Sonoma is the goal of 100 percent participation within a set time,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “It’s pretty bold to have that level of commitment on a county-wide base system.”
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