Sometimes a little money can go a long way. That’s what happened when Farm Viability invested just under $15,000 in the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowers organization to offer an online application and increase their membership.
This article was developed for the 2017 NYFVI annual report.
Long Island Sustainable Winegrowers (LISW) program was established in 2012, by a group of growers banding together to provide leadership for sustainable growing practices on Long Island. The group believed that a certification standard would create a win-win opportunity for the industry. Eco-conscious consumers would be able to support participating vineyards and the industry would abide by consistent environmentally sound practices.
Richard Olsen-Harbich, of Bedell Cellars was part of the early group of growers that saw the potential of working together. He had seen similar efforts on the west coast and knew that consumers were seeking out sustainably grown wines.
In 2014, when Olsen-Harbich applied for funding, there were 2,800 acres of wine grapes being grown by 50 businesses. 12 of these businesses were LISW members representing 700 acres. With Farm Viability support the organization was able to improve its online tools and conduct more membership outreach. Today the organization has grown to 19 members and 1,200 acres.
“We believe that sustainability as a science-based philosophy is the future – not just for grape growing but for all of agriculture. It’s extremely important to codify and define sustainable practices as well as having an inspection component to validate these techniques – both to other growers as well as consumers. NYFVI helped us in getting the message out and to attracting new growers into the program.”Richard Olsen Harbich, Winemaker, Bedell Cellars
LISW believes that sustainability as a science-based philosophy is the future – not just for grape growing but for all of agriculture. It’s extremely important to codify and define sustainable practices as well as having an inspection component to validate these techniques – both to other growers as well as consumers.
Acres certified by LISW follow 18 core criteria that prohibit or restrict certain pesticides, limit nitrogen fertilization, herbicides and encourage practices that reduce inputs that may threaten Long Island’s sole-source aquifer. The criteria were adapted from a statewide Vine Balance program developed by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell with funding provided by NYFVI.
New members are supported through educational outreach programs as well as mentorship. The project sponsored four educational meetings, with speakers from across the country. Critical to the ongoing success of the program is the support of the area’s largest vineyard management business that works with many of the area’s growers.
In the final report on the project, Olsen-Harbich provided a conservative estimate that these LISW certified wines were commanding 18 cents more per bottle. Based on enrollment numbers, that means that these certified growers are bringing in nearly $500,000 more each year. And with 1,200 acres following sustainable management practices, that’s a win for the aquifer as well!