Sonoma County Winegrowers’ Center for Ag Sustainability Completes Two Years of Critical Thinking Around Ag

Strategic Think Tank Has Range of Backgrounds and Perspectives Focused on Key Challenges Facing Sonoma County

SANTA ROSA, Calif. – The Sonoma County Winegrowers launched its Center for Ag Sustainability in 2018 with an impressive group of national experts committed to bi-annual meetings aimed at identifying and discussing topics that affect agriculture and Sonoma County as a wine region with the goal of developing out-of-the-box, innovative solutions to critical challenges.

The participants, representing different industries and backgrounds, have met three times over two years for facilitated discussions on how to solve challenges facing Sonoma County’s wine and agriculture communities over the next 5-7 years.  These sessions have been facilitated by Professor George Day of the Wharton School of Business.

“One of the most important jobs we have as farmers is to preserve and protect our agricultural legacy and way of life for future generations.  The reality is that ag is on the brink of a crisis. Not only are thousands of acres of farmland being lost to development in California every year, farmers also face numerous threats to the financial viability of our businesses making it tougher for young people to become farmers,” said Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers.  She added, “Clearly, the status quo is not an effective strategy moving forward.  We must look to lead on addressing these pressing issues and new ones that will emerge to sustain our success and preserve agriculture in Sonoma County and beyond.”

The “Ag Center” is a strategic think tank to help develop innovative ideas and strategies to strengthen and build upon the region’s sustainability efforts and its 100-Year Business Plan to Preserve Agriculture.  Understanding that it takes creative, thought provoking, and out-of-the-box thinking to solve some of the critical challenges facing Sonoma County’s agricultural community, the Sonoma County Winegrowers has created this groundbreaking program bringing together a small, diverse group of thought leaders and experts from across various business industries, subject matters, academia, job functions and skill sets, and other unique backgrounds, to problem solve and develop new, fresh ideas that will advance farming not only in Sonoma County, but may also revolutionize grape growing and the larger wine industry across the globe.

2019 marked the third meeting of this think tank. The group spent two days in Sonoma focused on the changing industry economics for Sonoma County’s winegrowing families. Regulation and safety permitting, the Ag Center will meet for it’s fourth and final strategic planning session in 2020. At it’s conclusion, the group will determine insights, innovations and recommendations on moving the grape growers forward, which will culminate in a White Paper which will be published providing the insights and learnings to a global audience. These findings and ideas will also be incorporated into the Sonoma County Winegrowers strategic plan, marketing and branding efforts, and other areas of the organization that will guide their focus on the preservation of agriculture. Learning, best practices and potential solutions will be shared more broadly to other Ag communities and wine regions.

Ag Center members were identified and selected from different industries to bring fresh thinking and experiences to one of the oldest professions in the world. The members are:

Adam Brumberg – Deputy Director, Food and Brand Lab, Cornell University
Allen Hershkowitz – Founding Director, Sport and Sustainability International
Anisya Fritz – Proprietor, Lynmar Estate
Carolyn Wasem – Senior VP, Jackson Family Wines
Cory Beck – President & Director of Winemaking, Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Geof Rochester – Managing Director, The Nature Conservancy
Jeremiah Puget – Planning Stewardship & Compliance, North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
Jessica Gilmartin – General Manager and Chief Marketing Officer, Lighthouse AI
Joanne Spigonardo – Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL), The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
Kevin Pedrotti – Partner, Clear Advocacy
Mary Ann King – Stewardship Manager, California Water Project, Trout Unlimited
Michael Byun – CEO, Asian Services in Action (ASIA)
Monica Mehta – Managing Principal, Seventh Capital
Ray Isle – Executive Wine Editor, Food & Wine Magazine
Rob McMillan – EVP and Founder, Silicon Valley Bank
Sebastian Schwark – Director, Portland Communications
Steve Dutton – Partner and President, Dutton Ranch
Steve Sangiacomo – Partner, Sangiacomo Family Vineyards
Ty Jagerson – Village Power Finance
Dan Wilson – Fisheries Biologist, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, West Coast Region