Sonoma County Winegrowers Expand Sustainability Certification Options to Include Fish Friendly Farming

SONOMA Calif. (April 14, 2016) As Earth Day nears, Sonoma County Winegrowers is proud to announce today that the Fish Friendly Farming (FFF) Environmental Certification Program is now an accepted option under the region’s globally recognized Sonoma County Sustainable Program.

Since putting a stake in the ground and boldly committing to become the nation’s first 100% certified sustainable wine region by 2019, the Sonoma County Winegrowers have created a groundbreaking sustainability program to help ensure its grape growers continue to farm for generations to come.

“I am very excited that Fish Friendly Farming will now be accepted under our Sonoma County Sustainable initiative,” said Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers. “This is another example of our ongoing commitment to build the strongest sustainability program possible, while also giving our growers another certification option that still maintains the strict standards we require to become Sonoma County Sustainable,” she added.

The addition of Fish Friendly Farming is the result of a year and half of collaboration between the two organizations to enrich the FFF sustainability program to meet the requirements of Sonoma County’s sustainability program. Sonoma County Winegrowers’ comprehensive approach to sustainability was recently recognized with California’s highest environmental honor, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA).

Sonoma County’s sustainability program takes a triple bottom-line approach that focuses on people, planet, profit, as well as an annual audit and third party certification. To meet this criteria, Fish Friendly Farming has expanded its strong environmental focus with new best practices addressing the social equity and business aspects of sustainability. In addition, they now mandate an annual audit. Fish Friendly Farming will now require all their members, including those outside of Sonoma County to comply with these new additions in order to remain certified Fish Friendly Farming.

With the addition of Fish Friendly Farming, Sonoma County’s grape growers now have four sustainability programs to select from that have been reviewed and vetted by environmental policy advocates, wine industry leaders and other stakeholders. They include California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, Fish Friendly Farming, Lodi Rules and SIP (Sustainability in Practice).

“It was critically important to Fish Friendly Farming that we be a key component in the Sonoma County Winegrowers’ sustainable offerings,” said Laurel Marcus, Fish Friendly Farming’s Executive Director. She added, “We have enhanced an already excellent program which will continue to benefit the environment and help salmon and steelhead populations recover in Sonoma County and throughout the west.”

The Fish Friendly Farming Certification Program began in 1997 to assist Sonoma and Mendocino winegrape growers to comply with federal and state environmental laws and regulations. The highly-respected program incorporates the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and California laws governing water rights, fish and wildlife habitat and pesticides. The program was not designed as a sustainability program and, until now, it did not provide certification for socially-responsible or economically-viable improvement. Currently there are roughly 13,505 vineyard acres enrolled and 10,133 vineyard acres certified under Fish Friendly Farming in Sonoma County.

Since launching its sustainability efforts in 2014, Sonoma County Winegrowers have made significant progress and gained global recognition for their leadership. Karissa Kruse has traveled across the globe promoting Sonoma County’s sustainability efforts, while garnering several prestigious awards, including California’s highest environmental honor, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA) and being named a “Game Changer” by Northbay BIZ Magazine. Currently, the Sonoma County Winegrowers are well ahead of their projections towards achieving 100% sustainability as a wine region:

  • 37,392 vineyard acres (64%) of Sonoma County’s 58,280 vineyard acres have been sustainably self-assessed;
  • 27,761 vineyard acres (48%) have been certified sustainable by a third party audit;
  • Close to 500 Sonoma County Sustainable signs have been distributed and are displayed in vineyards across the region;
  • More than 1,280 Sonoma County grape growers participated in sustainability workshops, meetings and related events in 2015; and
  • More than 162,340 pounds of vineyard material was recycled by growers in 2015.

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About Sonoma County Winegrowers:

The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, also known as Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), is a marketing and education organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. SCW has oversight by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and seeks to increase awareness and recognition of the quality and diversity of Sonoma County’s grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers around the world. In January 2014, SCW committed to becoming the nation’s first 100% sustainable winegrowing region by 2019. Currently, 64% of the vineyard acreage in Sonoma County has gone through the sustainability self-assessment and 48% of vineyards are certified by a third party auditor.

For more information about SCW and its programs, visit www.sonomawinegrape.org.