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Town Hall Coalition in the News
Vineyard reality anti-grape rhetoric doesn't reflect current farming practices
Press Democrat, 2/2/01

For trivia fans, here's the question of the day: What percentage of Sonoma County's 1 million acres is planted in grapes? Ten percent, 20 percent, 2 percent or less than 1 percent?

Only 54,000 Sonoma County acres are planted in wine grapes -- a little over one-half of 1 percent of total acreage and only 1 percent of the county's 550,000 total agricultural acreage.
Surprised? While the Town Hall Coalition has done a masterful job over the past 18 months of painting a picture of an industry intent on taking over the county, the facts presented in an article by Staff Writer Tim Tesconi show a different reality.

Not only are grapes a minuscule percent of the county's agricultural acreage, new planting has remained relatively steady over the past five years.

And, while Town Hall Coalition leader Lynn Hamilton argues that the conversion of forest to grapes is ``a serious threat to public health as well as the environment,'' in 2000 the California Department of Forestry received applications to convert only 173 acres of forest- land to vineyards.

The Town Hall Coalition has articulated important policy goals including eliminating watershed erosion, preserving more oak lands and forests, reducing the use of pesticides and protecting ground-water supplies, but it's unlikely that these goals will be furthered by inflammatory statements.

Real changes come about through hard work -- like that of negotiators who spent two years hammering out the Sonoma County Vineyard Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance. This month marks the ordinance's first birthday, and county planner Gail Davis claims ``the ordinance has increased awareness of environmental issues.'' She points to a half-dozen vineyard projects that were stopped when owners realized that they were unlikely to meet regulatory standards.

Changes are also made when industry leaders set an example -- such as the 80 growers who have signed a value statement for environmental and community stewardship and Kendall-Jackson's pledge not to replace oaks with vineyards.

The Town Hall Coalition has spent 18 months decrying the wine industry even as growers have committed to better practices. Now it is time for the coalition to soften the rhetoric, articulate specific plans and work with farmers toward continued improvements.

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Town Hall Coalition
6741 Sebastopol Ave. Ste. 140 Sebastopol California 95472
T: 707-824-4371 / F: 707-824-4372