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In 2014, the grape growers in Sonoma County made a commitment to ensure every vineyard was certified sustainable by 2019.
In 2014, the grape growers in Sonoma County made a commitment to ensure every vineyard was certified sustainable by 2019. GASP is a step towards making that a reality in Graton. Image: gratongasps.com

Graton Against Synthetic Pollution

Dec 30, 2019

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By Margie Nelte-Johnson

Happy New Year Gratonians! Jennifer Butler is on family vacation and has asked me to write in her place this month. Many of you know me, or my name, as I have lived in town for 27 years. 

I am extremely interested in environmental sustainability and also work in a winery. No, that is not an oxymoron. Wineries and vineyards surround us in West County, and they are actually one of the most conscientious, neighborly and ecological farm industries these days.  I have seen the posts on the Nextdoor app and read them with one eye open and a grimace on my face, like driving by a car accident. Listening to the angry mob shaking their rakes and shovels. “They are hiring illegal immigrants!” “They are spraying glyphosates!” “They are ripping out the apples to plant greed grapes!” “Stupidvisors are in the pockets of trillion-dollar wine racket!” On and on and on…

So, in 2020, let’s dispel a few of those old thoughts. First, grapes are a crop. They are grown by farmers who are businesspeople. Businesspeople who need to make money to put food on their tables and support their families. Grapes have not forced the apples out of town. Starting as early as the 1960’s the competition from the Sacramento Valley began because they could produce more apples at a lower cost. Urbanization drove land prices higher and higher, and then in 1990 there was the Alar (chemical) scare that nearly shut down the apple industry overnight. It has been a natural progression. No one is crying about the poor prunes that were run out of town by the apples…

In 2014, the grape growers in Sonoma County made a commitment to ensure every vineyard was certified sustainable by 2019. Today, over 99% of vineyards have been certified from a third-party auditor. Putting us on the global map as leaders in sustainability. In order to be considered a “Sonoma County Sustainable Vineyard” they must have their vineyard first assessed and then certified sustainable by one of four California sustainability programs. This means the program must measure the grape-growers commitment to being socially responsible – in how they work with their employees, neighbors and community, environmentally conscientious with their farming and winery practices and economically viable as a business. They must also create an annual farming plan for each vineyard that includes a focus on continuous improvement to ensure sustainable practices continue to evolve each year. Not all bad, right? At least it is a step in the right direction…

This writer is nostalgic and not one who loves change, but she is very realistic. So, she walked downtown to do a little “Girl on the Street” reporting and talked to a couple of family owned wineries’ tasting rooms. Bowman cellars, and Paul Mathew Vineyard to see what their environmental practices are. Kate and Alex Bowman practice sustainability, as it seems to be in their west county core belief. Alex was proud to tell me about his keg system that they pour all of their tasting flights from, eliminating the need for extra packaging. Kate told me about their locally sourced grapes from organic farms and their “growler system” that allows club member to have their bottles of Rosé refilled. They use compostable bamboo serve ware when they have events with food trucks, and non-disposables for dining on site. Down the street at Paul Mathew, Barb Gustafson briefly told me about their all native and natural wines. She said that they solely use SO2 (Sodium Dioxide) in their wine making process and use minimal packaging. I asked them both if they knew about G.A.S.P., and neither of them knew what it was. I told them that it was Graton Against Synthetic Pollution  and there were signs on the street. GASP held an informative meeting in December and information can be found online at   https://www.gratongasps.com.

I believe that we should all work hard to be informed before spouting off inflammatory statements on the interwebs. Be informed about the food and beverages that you are buying. Support our local farmers and buy locally and organic. Support our apple growers (the Walkers) and cideries; Ace, Horse and Plow, and Golden State. Vote with your dollar. 

Love where you live and be gentle with your neighbors. 

Happy New Year! 

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