Local Growers Gather to Celebrate Ten Years of Sustainable Winegrowing
SANTA ROSA, Calif. (January 31, 2024) – Each year, when many of Sonoma County’s 1,800 certified sustainable winegrape growers gather for the Sonoma County Winegrowers’ (SCW) annual meeting, they want to know what is next for one of the world’s most sustainable winegrowing regions. Today, they learned the answer to their question: Sonoma County Winegrowers will embark on a major collaboration with one of the world’s most iconic brands, John Deere Company.
The collaboration with John Deere will be an addition to SCW’s innovative Farm of the Future, a living lab for the future of agriculture and an innovation accelerator. Through this living lab, Sonoma County winegrowers and innovative companies can pilot concepts that may eventually result in game-changing solutions that can be shared with farmers across the country and around the world. John Deere is the latest company to join SCW’s Farm of the Future, joining such renowned companies as Ford Pro and Wilbur Ellis, as well as emerging companies like Agrology and Pellenc.
“I am so excited to announce that we have begun working with John Deere given that our farmers love their tractors. This new collaboration will be one of the most significant developments for winegrapes and other high value crops,” said Karissa Kruse, president and CEO of the Sonoma County Winegrowers. She added, “Companies are drawn to Sonoma County because we are one of the world’s most sustainable winegrowing regions, and our living lab provides amazing real-world applications focused on achieving game-changing solutions. We want to be the model for the future of agriculture everywhere. With John Deere, we will be learning together how our farmers can do more with less resources while moving towards more mechanization to increase the longevity of their vineyards.”
The John Deere collaboration was announced as the local winegrapes growers celebrated ten years as the world’s most sustainable winegrowing region. In 2014, at the Sonoma County Winegrowers annual meeting, Kruse addressed the group and made a bold declaration to the wine world that its more than 1,800 winegrowers were committed to becoming the nation’s first 100% certified sustainable wine region by 2019. They met that 2019 target and today, Sonoma County has a record-breaking 99% of its local vineyards certified sustainable.
It has since continued to build on its sustainability leadership as an exclusive participant in the California Land Stewardship Institute’s Climate Adaptation Certification Program which was the first program of its kind available in the world for agriculture. SCW has also developed a one-hundred-year business plan, established a leadership academy for vineyard employees and more.
Through its efforts, Sonoma County continues to draw the attention from visionary scientists, engineers, financers, designers, manufacturers, and more who see great potential to work together and leverage SCW’s sustainability leadership and a network of climate stewards and forward-thinking change agents.
“Last summer, John Deere participated in Sonoma County Winegrowers’ inaugural Farm of the Future Strategic Summit, and it became immediately clear that we needed to be here in Sonoma County participating in SCW’s Farm of the Future initiative,” said Sean Sundberg, Business Integration Manager at John Deere. He added, “Our focus is working with a real purpose on real technology to bring about a real impact. We look forward to addressing some of the biggest challenges facing winegrowers and farmers of other high value crops by developing solutions that address our customers’ needs. We are excited to work in Sonoma County with these innovative, forward-thinking winegrape growers.”
This year’s annual meeting marked the tenth anniversary of SCW’s commitment to become the first 100% sustainable wine region by 2019. They not only achieved their goal but today, SCW has become one of the most recognized global leaders in sustainability and regenerative agriculture. Their environmental leadership has continued over the years and includes the development of the industry’s first 100-year business plan; the establishment of the Center for Ag Sustainability; and a sustainable wine label that appears on more than 3 million cases and 600 different wine SKUs of Sonoma County wine. Another major milestone of SCW’s sustainable approach — today more than 70% of Sonoma County’s vineyard acres are now glyphosate free.
In 2024, SCW will continue its sports marketing efforts including its partnership with the San Francisco Giants and the Houston Rockets where Sonoma County wines will be featured at more than 120 events at the Toyota Arena including the Rockets’ basketball games, concerts, and more.
“Our sports marketing efforts are proving to be the best intersection to raise awareness and increase accessibility for Sonoma County wines among a critically important younger and more diverse demographic. It is no surprise that we are talking with more and more sports franchises about taking the Sonoma County wine experience to their arenas and stadiums,” said Kruse.
Kruse also highlighted the efforts of the Sonoma County Winegrowers’ foundation, the Fundación de la Voz de los Viñedos, whose mission is to support local vineyard employees and their families. This year, the Fundación will continue its employee recognition program which has celebrated the efforts and success of 274 employees of the month and 5 employees of the year. Earlier this month, the Leadership Academy has begun its third year of teaching a variety of skills and trainings to help participating vineyard employees become better leaders in their community and workplace.
Sonoma County vineyard employees have seen their wages increase by 43% since 2017. Also, Sonoma County winegrowers provide the largest supply of workforce housing in the region. And there has been a significant shift to full-time employment for 90% of vineyard employees. Just 10% of today’s vineyard workforce are seasonal employees.
Sonoma County Winegrowers
Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), was established in 2006, evolving from the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association, which was first launched in 1983 by local grape growers inspired to work together to elevate the region. SCW is a marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. With more than 1,800 growers, SCW’s goal is to increase awareness and recognition of the quality, sustainability and diversity of Sonoma County’s grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers and influencers around the world. In 2014, Sonoma County’s winegrowing community embarked on a major initiative to have all Sonoma County vineyards certified sustainable. Today, 99% of the vineyard acreage in Sonoma County has completed certification by a third-party auditor making Sonoma County the most sustainable winegrowing region in the world. In addition, in 2020, SCW became the exclusive pilot partner for the California Land Stewardship’s Climate Adaptation Certification. In 2022, SCW began envisioning a Farm of the Future which it officially introduced in 2023. SCW’s sustainability efforts have been recognized with California’s highest environmental honor, the 2016 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA). Learn more at www.sonomawinegrape.org.
John Segale | 916.600.1081