The energy behind the sustainability movement in the grape and wine industry continues to build across the United States. Last week, NYWGF partnered with the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance to virtually host the second U.S. Sustainable Winegrowing Summit. Over two hundred people joined the summit to hear remarks from journalists Ray Isle and Julia Coney, viticulturists, winemakers, and marketing leaders. NYWGF’s participation in planning these summits began in 2017, which instigated our own efforts to revitalize VineBalance and establish a statewide sustainability certification program. Sustainability presents our nation’s grape growers the opportunity to seize a leadership position and demonstrate how agriculture can be part of the solution to climate change.
I am excited to share that Whitney Beaman will be joining the NYWGF team in May as our first Sustainability Program Manager. Whitney holds a B.S. of Viticulture and Enology from Cornell University and a M.S. of Sustainability Management from Columbia University. She previously served as Director of Brand Strategy at Bedell Cellars where she gained experience in winemaking and vineyard management working five harvests under Winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich. Whitney’s position is made possible through grants from USDA NCRS Conservation Innovation Grant program and the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority (GVRMA); and hours contributed by NYWGF’s Sustainability Advisory Committee members who reviewed grant narratives and advised on business planning. Special thanks to committee members: Paul Brock, Eric Frarey, Cameron Hosmer, Suzanne Hunt, John Ingle, Ian Smith, and Will Ouweleen.
I also want to recognize John Ingle of Ingle Vineyards and Heron Hill Winery. John presented NYWGF with a $50,000 1:1 challenge grant last Fall to support the launch of the sustainability program. John’s commitment enabled NYWGF to secure a $13,300 grant from Yates County and additional funding from GVRMA this winter. And it motivated the Board of the NYS Wine Grape Growers to match John’s commitment with a $5,000 contribution. One of my favorite African proverb’s is “It takes a village to raise a child,” and the success of sustainability certification in New York will take our collective efforts to ensure that our grape growers obtain the credit and recognition they deserve for protecting our environment.
Stay tuned for more updates later this Spring on opportunities to get involved with the sustainability program. There will be a lot of activity related to this program to get ready for a pilot launch in 2022.