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Hall Coalition in the News
leaders have new agenda, grape growers association campaigns
to build, maintain values
(Press Democrat, 2/4/01)
to the growing backlash against vineyard expansion, the Sonoma
County Grape Growers Association is launching a campaign to
improve farming practices and environmental stewardship among
the county's 1,100 growers.
industry leaders say it's a direct response to a change in the
way vineyards are viewed in Wine Country, a change which began
taking shape in 1997 with the first serious calls for a vineyard
ordinance to protect hillsides.
unrest continued as the rapid march of grapes consumed trees
and fruit orchards, resulting in the organization of the Town
Hall Coalition in the summer of 1999. And most recently, a group
called the No Spray Action Network has formed to fight forced
spraying if there is an infestation of the glassy-winged sharpshooter,
a vineyard pest that could wipe out vineyards if not controlled.
focus of this campaign is raising the consciousness of the grower
community. It's getting our own house in order so that we can
continue to grow grapes in Sonoma County for generations to
come,'' said John Clendenen, a Healdsburg grower who is president
of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association.
Grape Growers Association has developed a seven-point list of
values to sustain land and build a sense of community with neighbors.
So far 80 growers have signed the values statement, a kind of
grape grower pledge for environmental and community stewardship.
agree to warn neighbors when sulfur spraying occurs and to use
pesticides only when pests pose economic risks. They pledge
to support their work force with ongoing training, competitive
compensation and housing.
rapid growth of the premium wine grape industry during the past
five years has caused some county residents to question whether
wine grapes are too much of a good thing. Wine is a $2 billion
industry in Sonoma County, dominating the economy and defining
there is growing tension in Wine Country as the booming industry
expands to overtake forests and oak woodlands in a county proud
and protective of its scenic beauty. The county's strong environmental
community views the increased vineyard acreage as a threat to
the ecological balance.
county now has 54,000 acres of vineyards, with about 2,000 acres
of new vineyards added annually in recent years to meet the
soaring demand for Sonoma County wine. Vineyard acreage represents
about 10 percent of the 550,000 acres devoted to agricultural
production in Sonoma County. The county encompasses a million
said the informational pamphlets being mailed to Sonoma County's
1,100 vineyard owners are an attempt to raise the standards
so all grape growers are good neighbors and respected stewards
of the land.
want to eliminate the things that show up on the front page
of the paper when there are problems,'' said Clendenen. "We
are telling growers to do the best possible job they can.''
growers dispute the notion that this is simply a public relations
campaign, noting that the pamphlets are for growers only and
have not been publicly disseminated.
a county where farmers account for less than 1 percent of the
population, grape growers fear they could be regulated out of
business by voters who disapprove of their farming practices.
at stake when our neighbors don't understand our business? What's
at stake is our business,'' the brochure warns growers.
Grape Growers Association's brochure encourages growers to conserve
water, to find ways to reduce the use of toxic pesticides and
to respond to neighbors' questions or concerns.
like Joe Votek of Loma del Sol Vineyards in the Sonoma Valley
are held up as examples of good grape growing.
philosophy is simple: I pay attention. I farm responsibly. I
walk softly on the land. And I try to be a good neighbor,''
effort to make grape growing more compatible with the environment
and rural communities is applauded by those who have been critical
of "industrial vineyards'' and the ``monocultural expansion''
in favor of anything that leads to dialogue between grape growers
and people in the community,'' said Dave Henson, director of
the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, which promotes sustainable
said the wine industry must listen to residents concerned about
chemicals, loss of wildlife habitat and the lack of agricultural
diversity as grapes command more and more land.
said growers are under more scrutiny from neighbors and watchdog
groups as the county's population and vineyard acreage expands.
Sonoma County Grape Growers Association, which has 350 grower
members, believes it must set the agenda so growers not only
obey environmental laws but practice common courtesy in the
communities where they farm.
Bliss, an anti-pesticide activist from Sebastopol and a leader
of the No Spray Action Network, said he will be watching to
see if the pamphlet results in meaningful change or is just
a slick public relations campaign.
value of this document is that the Grape Growers Association
and the wine industry have set forth industry guidelines,''
said Bliss. "Growers can now hold each other accountable.''
Commissioner John Westoby said it's good to see grape growers
defining their position and explaining their passion for growing
brochure could really ameliorate some of the negative things
being said about grape growing,'' Westoby said.
Sonoma County Grape Growers Association has developed a seven
point list of values to sustain land and build a sense of community
far 80 growers have signed the values statement, a kind of grape
grower pledge for environmental and community stewardship. The
Grape Growers Values statement follows:
Being considerate and courteous, reaching out to neighbors to
keep them informed of vineyard practices and goals.
Supporting our workers with ongoing training, competitive compensation
Notifying residents adjoining our vineyards who want to know
when we will be dusting sulfur or spraying and being aware of
our possible impact on others.
Using integrated pest management practices so that pesticides
are only applied when pests pose economic risks. We choose materials
that are effective, yet have low environmental impacts.
Recognizing water as a precious resource and striving to conserve
it, keep it clean and use it efficiently.
Sharing our experience with our grower colleagues to ensure
that all growers -- new and experienced -- are familiar with
regulations and utilize best farming practices.
Responding conscientiously if our neighbors have questions or
concerns. Hillside Vineyard Ordinance / One Year Later
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