SANTA ROSA — Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, also known as Sonoma County Winegrowers, on Thursday said it has created a 100-year business plan to preserve agriculture in Sonoma County.
The 100-year plan is said to be the first of its kind in agriculture and the global wine industry. It is also the next step in the evolution of Sonoma County’s efforts to become the first wine region in the United States to have all of their wines grown and made in a sustainable manner.
“Last year when we announced our intent to be 100-percent sustainable by 2019, it was always viewed as the starting point, not the end goal,” said Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers. “It is our job as farmers to be caretakers of the land in Sonoma County and preserve our agricultural legacy and way of life for future generations. Just as we inherited the land from previous generations, we have a fundamental responsibility to make the land better for those who inherit it from us.”
The existence of the 100-year plan was announced nearly one year to the day when Sonoma County Winegrowers generated worldwide attention for its bold commitment to become the nation’s first 100 percent sustainable wine growing region by 2019. Sonoma County winegrape growers are currently following a rigorous sustainability self-assessment and third party certification program focused on 138 farming and business practices, such as land use, canopy management, energy efficiency, water quality assessments, carbon emissions, health care and training for employees and being a good neighbor and community member.
In the 12 months since announcing its sustainable intentions, the local wine industry reached one-third of its targeted goal of becoming 100-percent sustainable. Growers representing more than 43 percent of the county’s 59,772 vineyard acres, or 25,987 vineyard acres, have completed a sustainability assessment. In addition, 33 percent, or 21,491 vine acres, have been taken to the next step and are now certified under a third-party auditor program.
The 59,772 vineyard acres in Sonoma County only accounts for 6 percent of the county’s 1 million acres. The rest of the land is pasture (36 percent), forests (49 percent) and urban area (9 percent).
More than 950 winegrape growers have attended sustainability workshops, meetings or other sustainability-related events. There were 26 sustainability workshops and meetings hosted by the Sonoma County Winegrowers in 2014. Eight of the county’s 16 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs, a.k.a. appellations) held sustainability workshops in the past year.
Over the past year, industry leaders met and wrote the 100-year plan. It is designed as a living document and will be executed through both annual and five-year benchmarks that will identify transformational opportunities for collaboration and seek partnerships with a variety of groups including agricultural, business, community and education as well as government leaders to find tangible solutions and provide flexibility for the unexpected.
The time period of 100 years was chosen as a natural period that touches everyone in a tangible way — it represents two generations before and the next two future generations in essence spanning from grandparents to grandchildren. The plan addresses such issues as innovation and research, natural resources, the regulatory environment, community engagement and marketing while building coalitions throughout the community in support of sustaining agriculture in Sonoma County forever.
“This effort is charting a path to preserve agriculture in Sonoma County for the next 100 years,” said Brad Petersen, a 3rd generation grape grower who manages vineyards at Silver Oak Cellars and chairman of the Sonoma County Winegrowers board of directors. He added, “It provides us and those who follow with a set of guiding principles to ensure agriculture is successfully preserved and that Sonoma County will remain the best wine region in the world for the next 100 years and beyond.”