Napa Leading the Industry in Sustain-
able Farming
Long before green and sus-
tainable became buzzwords, vintners and
grape growers realized Napa Valley’s future
as a premier wine region lay in their hands.
Seeing other rural parts of the Bay Area
swallowed up by cities and suburbs, commu-
nity and industry leaders fought—and suc-
ceeded—to protect Napa Valley’s agricultural
heritage by having it declared the first Agri-
cultural Preserve in the US in 1968.
With the Ag Preserve as a foundation, com-
munity and industry leaders voted to enact
further restrictions to prevent development
in ag lands and open space, and meanwhile
preserved tens of thousands of acres with
permanent conservation easements.
The Napa Valley Winery Definition Or-
As the wine industry grew in the
county, in 1990 came the creation of the most
rigorous regulations in the world for vineyard
farming and winery operations, including the
groundbreaking Winery Definition Ordinance
(WDO). The WDO maintains that wineries in
county-governed land have winemaking as
their sole purpose for being constructed in
the ag preserve. Additional business uses at
wineries including operating hotels, restau-
rants, spas and over-developed retail or ca-
tering operations were deemed not only in
competition with the various communities’
main street businesses, but these non-wine-
making endeavors were inconsistent with the
ag preserve.
Controversial at the time and even today,
the WDO in conjunction with the local Hill-
side Farming Ordinance, Stream Setback Or-
dinance, and others puts Napa Valley at the
top of its class in best practices in land use
and protection for agriculture.
Going Beyond in Excellence
Taking envi-
ronmental leadership to an even higher level,
in 2000, vintners worked with industry part-
ners, environmental groups, and government
agencies—local, state and federal—to launch
the extraordinary Napa Green Certified Land
Largely based on Fish Friendly Farming,
Napa Green Land looks to ensure the health
of the vast Napa River Watershed with site-
specific farm plans unique to each land own-
er’s property. Management of not only vine-
yard land, but the property’s roads, riparian
stream environments, wildlife access and na-
tive, non-farmed lands is all encompassing in
the enrollment plan. The plan, for example,
will look to drastically reduce or eliminate
chemicals and herbicides and employ cover
crops for soil stabilization and surface-level
water management.
After the criteria is established for correct-
ing or enhancing any deficiencies, the land
owner along with the certifying third-party
agent creates a work plan with timelines for
corrective action that leads to the land being
certified for five years.
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