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May 03, 2007


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Right on! I just had a conversation about this yesterday at my food co-op. When folks see the USDA organic label they often think they've done the good thing but big business organic is not necessarily sustainable. That's part of the Cornucopia Institute's big beef with milk--some (most?) of Horizon's organic milk isn't sustainable. Michael Pollan raised this issue (organic versus sustainable) over six years ago in a NYTimes magazine piece.

When it comes to wine many of our Finger Lakes wineries think sustainably but my guess is most do not (I may research this this summer). This why I love Silver Thread wines so much--they are sustainable, biodynamic and very, very good.

If more people were to think of wine as agriculture we could have a great and positive impact on the environment.

Ironically, sustainability is not a new concept. Before the 20th-Century, almost all farms were family owned and the sustainability of the health of that farm was essential for the well-being of the family that owned it. Many products and by-products of the farm were either consumed or recycled directly back into the farm. Efficiency was key, as well as the rotation of crops and the balance of consumption versus waste. Fertilization of fields was done by hand, limiting some of the excess nitrate-rich runoff that plagues streams today and chokes out the fish.

Of course, people made stuipd decisions in the past, and no one can say that they were environmentally conscious in a perfect fashion. However, those who truly live off of the land tend to appreciate its value.

I have never been sold on organic as a complete concept, but sustainability harkens back to the Puritan sense of efficiency--waste not, want not. I'm interested to see how this movement manifests itself and how it can be reconciled with commercial agriculture.

Cheers to that!

I think wineries and vineyards have been quick to adopt sustainable techniques into their practices as sustainability is a logical extension of "the good life" that attracts so many of us to wine in the first place.

Apparently I can't use html tags in my comments here, otherwise I'd provide some links to the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, the California Association of Winegrape Growers (which has online examples from their California Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices), and to Oregon's LIVE (Low Impact Viticulture & Enology). All of these groups are really pushing the broader picture of "sustainability" in the wine industry, as opposed to more specific biodynamic practices advocated by Demeter USA or of the somewhat bogus "USDA Approved Organic" practices.

I'm excited to see the wine industry moving in this direction. Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" deals with the issue of sustainable agriculture, and many of these same general concepts could be applied to our favorite agricultural product, wine. For although we call them "vineyards", we're really talking grape farming here, and treating a vineyard more like a "farm ecosystem" and balancing inputs and outputs could result in healthier, more resilient vines and an overall better final product.

Thanks for bringing up this important issue, and I'm glad to see Long Island is moving in the right direction!

Bravo, one of the finest explanations of sustainable agriculture I have read. There is such depth to the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability that we need simple and understandable explanation. So thank you very much for this.

I LOVE it. I live in Arizona and I am removing my AZ back yard (rock) replacing it with compost and mulch and plants and items I have been collecting for years that would othewise have ended up in the landfill. Rain and greywater collection will augment out miminal rainfall. I can barely wait for the transformation. What I love about the concept of sustainability is that it's more holistic than organic. I am always asking -- have I thought of everything?

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