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Response to Ernie Carpenter

Today, at the Sonoma County Viticultural Technical Group meeting we spoke a bit about the importance of not killing off microbial activity in your vineyard. That would surprise Ernie Carpenter, an oblivious politician from Sebastopol, who recently wrote in the Press Democrat that, "grape farming is predicated on killing all organisms and keeping them that way — dead. Poison nematodes, poison weeds, poison birds, poison critters."

The Press Democrat willingly ran a 700-word, vicious attack on Sonoma County's grape farmers that was completely disconnected from reality and actually openly dismissed the use of facts to evaluate grape farming. OK, freedom of speech. But, within an hour of reading that article I had written and sent off a response and called the editor at the PD to try to get them to publish. They won't run the piece, they won't answer my calls, they won't return my messages. So, I am going to publish the article here.

Two key things for all my readers to know about this article. First is that I want it to spur you guys to write letters to the editors and not to be afraid to communicate the truth about our business. Second, it is not any nicer to Ernie than he was to us. I thought about writing a letter that would nicely explain what we're doing to be sustainable, how we're doing better than the rest of ag, etc. The thing is, Ernie would just say that we are "greenwashing." With people like this, there is no winning. At least not by staying on the defensive. So, with no further ado, here is what I tried to get published in the PD. Please forward, re-tweet, print out and distribute, anything you can do to spread the word.


I was shocked by Ernie Carpenter’s rancorous, baseless and willingly ignorant attack on our county’s wine community. Mr. Carpenter cited zero science and zero data to back up his splenetic opinions. In fact, he shows his disregard for truth by openly dismissing “facts and figures.” By comparing the wine industry to the oil industry he demonstrates how disconnected from reality his views are.

Mr. Carpenter accuses the wine industry of greenwashing and buying off supervisors. The wine industry is the backbone of our economy, yet a politician like himself can freely slam the industry to score political points. Not exactly the sign of a bought-off political system.

Mr. Carpenter claims that the industry is intent on poisoning all living creatures in our county and washing away our topsoil. He completely ignores the organic, dry farmed, low-spray, biodynamic, bio-crowding-based and other ecological growers. Instead, he transposes on the whole industry his vision of big agribusiness-like practices.

Every grower I know does his best to use biological, physical and other non-chemical processes to manage pests, soil and water resources. Yes, they spray chemicals, too, but Mr. Carpenter should compare our growers’ spray programs to those of the produce at the Sebastopol Whole Foods, instead of assessing them in a vacuum. He can, in fact, look up every single spray pass made in Sonoma County at the Agricultural Commissioner’s office.

Mr. Carpenter attacks our farmers for mismanaging water resources. He bases his accusation on one data point: some plantings somewhere near Atascadero Creek. Sonoma County has over 60,000 acres under vine. It is unfair to cast blanket aspersions against our farmers for one instance that runs contrary to his vision for viticulture. In fact, vineyards use very little water per acre, sales dollar, calorie or job when compared to other agriculture.

Worst of all, Mr. Carpenter seems to present no path forward for the wine industry to meet his expectations. Our growers should be lauded for their push toward verified sustainability. Instead, Mr. Carpenter claims the “wine industry has not ever wanted to solve environmental problems it causes. It wants exemptions…” Though I am still unsure what problems Mr. Carpenter thinks our farmers have caused, I would think that voluntarily developing and implementing, at great financial cost, a framework toward certified, eco-friendly land stewardship would qualify not as an exemption but as an attempt to solve such environmental problems.

Of course, Mr. Carpenter cannot be satisfied. He admits but dismisses the fact that “the wine industry will cut water use, cut chemicals…” Is that not the goal? Not Mr. Carpenter’s. As best I can tell, Mr. Carpenter will not be satisfied until he has seen every “event venter (sic)” razed; chased “Kendell Jackson (sic)” out of this county; and rallied the NIMBY vote to put him in Efren Carillo’s seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Gabriel Froymovich Vineyard Financial Associates Healdsburg, CA

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