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INSIDE THE FLX: NY Wine and Grape Foundation Sustainable Vineyard program (podcast)

In this episode, Ted Baker talks with Whitney Beaman from the New York Wine and Grape Foundation (NYWGF) about the next step in their VineBalance sustainability program.

In 2022, about 25 grape in New York will take part in a pilot program in sustainable viticulture. VineBalance is a joint effort by the wine and juice grape industry, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the New York Department of Agriculture and Market’s Soil and Water Conservation Committee to define and promote the use of sustainable growing practices on the 33,000 acres of vineyards in New York.

The program’s major goals are to promote and document grape production practices that:

  • Protect the environment (specifically water quality and soil health)
  • Protect the health of workers, neighbors, and consumers
  • Increase or maintain the profitability of grape production.

The foundation of the program is our grower self-assessment workbook. Designed to both document sustainable grape growing practices already in place and promote sustainable practices throughout the industry, the workbook is primarily an educational tool to bring awareness to the economic, environmental and social implications of specific viticultural practices. The self-assessment provides a baseline for potential modifications detailed in an action plan drawn up after completing the workbook.

The potential benefits to participating growers include:

  • Eligibility for cost-sharing opportunities for farm improvements through state and federal conservation agencies
  • Increased product marketability for the grapes and grape products produced through sustainable means
  • Economic and environmental savings through efficient use of fertilizers and agrichemicals
  • Improved neighbor relations and industry reputation.

Grape production is a high-profile agricultural enterprise. By making it an industry-wide goal to produce grapes, juice, and wine using sustainable practices, participating growers will help themselves and the state by reducing environmental risks and ensuring a healthy future for New York’s grape growing industry.

NYWGF is looking to hire a Sustainable Vineyard Inspector to oversee the growers’ efforts and self-assessments. Growers who meet the standards will be able to use their sustainability efforts in their marketing, through a partnership with Born Collective.