While we all like to think we are good stewards of the earth, but reality is thatwe regularly fail in our stewardship through procrastinations and rationalizations. To help keep us honest at Sei Querce, we submit our work as stewards to the scrutiny of various certifying agents. Becoming and staying certified is a pain in the bottom. It takes a lot of time, money and focus. But in the end, there are no short cuts, so we do it.
California Certified Sustainable Winegrower (CCSW)
In 2003, the main trade associations for wineries (the Wine Institute) and winegrape vineyards (the California Association of Winegrape Growers), formed a non-profit alliance (the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance) to advance the cause of sustainability in winery and vineyard operations and practices. Using the 14 chapter Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices handbook, participants examine and rate their practices for environmental soundness, economic feasibility and social equity. The handbook was derived from prior work in the Lodi Rules. To become certified as a CCSW, the participant's ratings and operations are reviewed in an on-site audit by a third party certifier. The sustainability assessment targets the entire operation. In the case of winegrowers, the entire property is examined, even if not relating directly to the vineyard operations. Of the 535,000 winegrape acres planted in California, only 12.3% are certified as CCSW. Immediately following our purchase, we began establishing sustainable practices. At the end of our first year of operations, we became the first certified vineyard that uses a third party vineyard manager. To achieve this we had to encourage our independent vineyard manager to also become certified, so that together our entire operation could be certfied as sustainable. The CCSW certification requires that each year we update our evaluation and continue to improve our operations. Operating sustainably imposes a broader mantle of responsibility than just growing organic grapes. A CCSW vineyard can be farmed conventionally, organically or biodynamically. Sei Querce completed its first CCSW certification in early 2012.
Fish Friendly Farming Environmental Certification (FFF)
The Fish Friendly Farming program began in 1999 in Sonoma County under the sponsorship of the Sotoyome Resource Conservation District in Santa Rosa to help farmers in the Russian River watershed understand and improve their farming practices that were negatively impacting the river habitat for endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout. Today the program is based in Napa, sponsored by the California Land Stewardship Institute and has grown to cover a broad range of water management and erosion issues. FFF now provides programs tailored to Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Solano and El Dorado counties. To become certified, the property manager attends four workshops, prepares a Farm Conservation Plan, hosts an on-site review with CLSI staff and then undergoes an on-site audit by a members of an agency audit team consisting of National Marine Fisheries Service, California State Regional Water Control Board, and the County Agricultural Commissioner. Sei Querce completed its first FFF certification in late 2012.
Bee-Friendly Farming (BFF)
The Partnership for Sustainable Polination operates the self-certification Bee Friendly Farming program, nationwide. The program has applicants examine a number of their pest-treatment and hedgerow planting activities to encourage decreased use of neurotoxin pesticides and increased incorporation of flowering plants into covercrops and hedgerows for the benefit of both honey bees and native polinators. Sei Querce completed its self-certification in 2012.
CAlifornia Certified organic Farm (CCOF)
Following the minimum regulatory 3-yr transition period, in 2014 Sei Querce Vineyards became a certified organic farm under CCOF. We learned a great deal in this process including the frequent conflict between organic and sustainable practices. This throws the farm owner back directly into the real world of constraints and trade-offs. The shock was palpable when we observed propane torch burning of weeds as an organic but not sustainable practice. Quick calculations about the Green House Gas production from burning the weeds led us to other more expensive practices that still complied with organic farming requirements.