“We have practices listed and points associated with them so growers can see which practices are most valuable,” Caroe says. “In developing these practices, we take all the research that’s out there and distill it down into a reasonable approach for growers to use in how they farm.”
In addition to being environmentally friendly, the practices also have to be economically viable.
“If a practice is shown in research to be good for the environment but includes equipment that is more expensive than the farmer can purchase, we typically put those practices in the standards as a bonus,” she says. “It’s not reasonable for growers to achieve that practice right away, but it can be a goal worth working toward.”
Since the early 1990s, winegrape growers in the Lodi-Woodbridge region of California have worked to distinguish themselves with environmentally friendly farming practices. The next step was to develop sustainable practices, says Cliff Ohmart, research and integrated pest management director for the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission.
A group of growers, winery representatives, pest control advisers and Extension experts spent 14 months in 2003 and 2004 drafting Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing.
The recommendations include education, training and team building, soil management, water management, vineyard establishment, pest management and six sections dealing with vineyard ecosystems.
Unlike some programs that focus on practices that should be avoided, the Lodi Rules program promotes those that result in continual improvements in all aspects of a farming operation, Caroe says.
Protected Harvest then sent the rules to an academic peer-review committee for input.
Ohmart says sustainable farming has become a recognized lexicon for many Lodi-area growers and the certification program will allow them to receive credit for their efforts.
“The winegrape commission was formed by growers to help raise winegrape prices for Lodi growers, and one way to do that is to help them differentiate themselves from other regions,” Ohmart says. “That is one reason for doing the Lodi Rules certification.”