No one should accuse the Sonoma County Winegrowers of not being ambitious.
A year after setting a pledge to have every grape in the county grown in a sustainable manner by 2019, the trade group is establishing another lofty benchmark.
On Thursday, it will unveil a 100-year business plan to preserve Sonoma County agriculture into the 22nd century. The group will formally announce the plan Thursday morning at its annual Dollars and $ense trade show at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa.
The plan sets annual and five-year benchmarks to reach its goal, similar in nature to the sustainability effort set by the 1,800-member group.
The 100-year period is intended to be a “living document” that can change with the times and addresses such issues as the regulatory environment, the protection of natural resources, innovation and research. The group will also build coalitions throughout the county to help support the goal.
“We want agriculture to be around the next 100 years. Concentrating on today’s problems is not going to get us there,” said Karissa Kruse, president of the winegrowers.
The plan doesn’t set specific metrics, but instead lists goals that can that can lead to more engagement with the community and ultimately lead to solutions. For example, water has been a constant source of concern during California’s drought, most recently with limits placed on growers in the Russian River watershed as a result of a long-running court battle.
“We need to have relationships with conservation and environmental groups,” said Brad Petersen, chairman of the group’s board of directors. “We can farm and help protect the environment.”
The plan will allow growers to take a long-term perspective as opposed to just getting through the next harvest or jumping from crisis to crisis. Kruse noted that her group may want to start conversations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others about changing the release levels for Lake Mendocino as a option to provide for greater water availability.
Land use is another big issue, especially as California loses about 30,000 acres of farm land to non-agricultural use annually. Kruse noted that the San Jose region was noted for its agricultural roots well before the technology sector took over and transformed it into Silicon Valley. As the Bay Area continues to add residents and expand its economy, pressure will be put on Sonoma County to preserve its agricultural land as more families move in and other local economic sectors, such as medical devices and tech, increase their employment.
The group will also examine technological innovations that can help ease the strain of a continuing problem of a tight labor workforce, especially as the GOP-controlled Congress has shown no appetite for embracing any immigration overhaul to increase workers.
The growers are not solely fixated on grapes, especially as the county 50 years ago boasted a much more diverse selection of crops. Petersen noted his grandfather primarily farmed prunes. “We are farmers today and we grow grapes,” Kruse said. “Today it may be grapes, but it may not always be grapes.”
The announcement comes as the group noted it has reached a third of its goals for its sustainability targets in the first year. Those include such areas as water quality, energy efficiency, carbon emissions and even employment practices.