Between the Vines Sustainability work sustained
Federalmoney will help consulting firmcontinue developing tools for grape growers and winemakers. By Judie Steeves
he B.C. Wine Grape Council has received funding through the Canadian Agricultural
Adaptation Program to complete the wineries and winery hospitality component of the B.C. Sustainable Winegrowing Program.
This funding will also allow the consultants, Insight Environmental Consulting Ltd., to develop an online self-assessment tool and database for both growers and winemakers. Kellie Garcia of Insight introduced growers to the new program at last summer’s Enology and Viticulture conference and offered growers the first copies of the guidebooks and self- assessment.
Ultimately, she explained, the idea is for this to become a certification program that formally recognizes those who adhere to sustainable practices in the industry.
Draft self-assessments and guidebooks for wine production and winery hospitality services have been developed and are currently in use as part of a pilot project by members of the industry.
Input received from pilot participants will be used to strengthen the program and help ensure it is user-friendly, comprehensive, and accurate. Online self-assessment and reporting tools are also being piloted by a group of growers. These program components will be launched this July at the B.C. Wine Grape Council annual conference in Penticton.
It’s not just green-washing, although some will see it that way; it’s both a philosophy and it’s about vineyard management.
It will have a positive impact not only on the environment but on growers’ pocketbooks too, added Hans Buchler, chairman of the wine grape council.
It will also help growers think outside the vineyard and help to protect natural areas in the vineyard that won’t be planted, to encourage biodiversity. Awareness of connections with adjacent lands and of wildlife corridors can help in pest and wildlife management.
For instance, protection of habitat for raptors ultimately helps control vineyard pests such as starlings. “Rather than being prescriptive, we try to supply a range of practices that can be used,” she explains.
Use of integrated pest management practices, for example, reduces expensive inputs to the vineyards. In fact, a number of techniques can save both money and the environment, she notes.
Kellie Garcia, of Insight Environmental Consulting.
Insight was retained by the council in 2008 to put together the document, in consultation with industry, with funding from the federal agriculture ministry’s transition program. Garcia explains that sustainable growing practices meet the needs of the present without endangering future generations. It’s a socially-responsible, economically-viable way of managing the vineyard, that improves quality of life.
Many growers are already following sustainable practices in their vineyards, but this program is specific to B.C., she notes.
Following such practices will not only benefit the environment, but also increase consumer acceptance of products and improve relationships with both neighbours and employees, while increasing product quality and cutting the cost of production, she explains.
For instance, she said it will help growers to maximize their water use; to be more efficient.
British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2011
Good soil management is key to nutrient management and that can help save money for growers and is better for the environment. There are already similar programs in practice by the California and New Zealand grape and wine industries. The new guidebook includes an introductory section on building your sustainability foundation, followed by chapters on ecosystem, viticultural, soil and nutrition, water and pest management and employees, neighbours and community. Garcia emphasized that the program is not about all growers using the same methods of grape growing, but provides alternates that are all sustainable, depending on the vineyard and their application.
Although only the guidebook for growers is currently available, the one for wineries and for winery hospitality services as well as online tools for both growers and winemakers, should be available by July.
Workshops will be held to help participants get started on their assessments and to talk about how various operations have adopted sustainable practices.
Participation in the program is voluntary at this point.
To get your copy of the guidebook, order one from the B.C. Wine Grape Council for $10 or download it from free from the website:
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