There have been four parts to the Lodi Winegrape Commission’s Sustainable Viticulture Program – Grower Outreach, Filed Implementation, Area-Wide Implementation, and Certification. Many of these programs began back in 1992, shortly after the Commission was established, and are still in use today. Grower outreach involves providing information to Lodi growers and pest control advisors (PCAs) about sustainable farming practices that are appropriate for use in their vineyards. The field implementation component involved working with a core group of 40 Lodi growers and about 15 PCAs in 60 different vineyards. Various sustainable farming practices were implemented in these vineyards so that growers can see the effects of these practices. Area-wide implementation involves encouraging all Lodi members to become more active in implementing sustainable viticultural practices in their vineyards. The first and second edition of the Lodi Winegrower’s Workbook was written to help achieve this area-wide implementation. The final step was the development of the Lodi Rules for Sustainble Winegrowing – California’s first third-party sustainable winegrape certification.
Breakfast Meetings – informal, monthly meetings with a presenter speaking about a field-proven sustainable viticulture practice that Lodi growers may or may not be familiar with.
Workshops/Field Days - outdoor events in the vineyard where growers and PCAs get a more in depth exposure to specific sustainable viticulture practices using a ‘hands-on’ approach. For example, a technique or piece of equipment might be demonstrated.
Half-day Research Seminars – a formal meeting that provides an opportunity for growers and PCAs to hear about basic and applied research projects that may result in the development of future sustainable viticulture practices. Presenters are generally University researchers.
Neighborhood Grower Meeting (NGM)-a Lodi grower or PCA invites their neighbors to come to their house to discuss specific sustainable viticulture topics or to take part in a Lodi Winegrower’s Workbook workshop.
Newsletter - LWC produces a bimonthly newsletter that is mailed out to all Lodi growers and other interested people. It consists of a feature article on either the results of LWC-funded research projects or guest articles on sustainable viticulture topics; a profile of an Lodi grower who is implementing sustainable farming practices; timely viticultural advice from Paul Verdegaal, the University of California viticulture farm advisor; IPM tips for vineyard pest management; and a calendar of upcoming events.
The field implementation component consisted of Lodi growers designating one or more of their vineyards as a BIFS (Biologically Integrated Farming System) vineyard where they would implement sustainable practices to demonstrate to themselves and others their efficacy. There were 60 vineyards, totaling 2370 acres, involved in the field implementation program that lasted for over 10 years. All the activities in these vineyards including pest monitoring and vineyard inputs such as water, fertilizer and pesticides were recorded in a computer database so that the effects of these sustainable practices could be tracked. The goal was to optimize the use of these inputs, and share that experience with other growers. These demonstration vineyards also made great locations for field days.
The goal of this part of Lodi’s sustainable viticulture program is to have every district grower actively implementing sustainable farming practices in their vineyards. The Lodi Winegrower’s Workbook: A self-assessment of integrated farming practices was written to accomplish this goal. The workbook helps a grower to do the following: Identify the sustainable practices they are using in their vineyards; Identify areas of concern on their farms pertaining to sustainability and/or quality winegrape growing; Develop an action plan and a timetable to carry out this action plan to deal with the identified areas of concern; Provides the grower with hands-on winegrape growing information.
The workbook program is being implemented by having workbook workshops at growers’ houses throughout the district. A grower invites 5 to 10 of their neighbors over to their house where LWC staff joins them and provide each of them with a copy of the workbook. They are instructed how to use the workbook and then they do a self-assessment on one of their vineyards. The first edition was published in 2000, and the second edition of the Lodi Winegrower’s Workbook was published in 2008.
The fourth and final component of Lodi’s sustainable program was the development and implementation of the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing, California’s first third-party region-wide sustainable viticultural standards that have been peer reviewed by scientists, academics and environmentalists. To be certified, a grower must pass an independent third party audit of their viticultural practices. In 2005 the first seven growers certified nearly 1,500 acres, and by 2010 nearly 40 growers had certified over 20,000 acres under the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing.