- March 9, 2017
As I begin the annual process of self-assessment to renew our Sustainable Certification, it is a time to reflect on all we do to reduce our impact on the environment and to solicit ideas from others as to how we can improve. Although we have been following sustainable practices for years, last year was the first year that we became certified with the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA). Thanks to the CSWA, sustainable practices are now more codified, scored and maintained. Want to learn more about the CSWA certification? Watch their video here.
For me, the definition of sustainability is captured here at Hafner Vineyard by one tree. At the top of our vineyard stands a beautiful 150+ year-old California Valley Oak. We call it “Mary’s tree” because my mom, Mary, saved it from the bulldozer. Back in 1967, she insisted that a few more rows of vines were not as necessary as that beautiful tree. From a purely business standpoint, a few more rows of vines would definitely generate more income, but from our viewpoint, the tree is far more valuable than the income.
I think of sustainable as having three distinct components. First and foremost, we farm effectively to minimize our impact on the environment to ensure that our land will be productive for generations to come. On the practical side, we utilize sustainable practices in both the winery and vineyard to reduce, recycle and reuse. Finally and most importantly, sustainability defines how we treat our employees, our patrons and the community around us.
Key to my definition of sustainable at Hafner Vineyard is our approach to our employees. Quite simply, we treat our employees the way we would like to be treated, with respect and consideration for both them and their families. Many local vineyard operations have transitioned to using farm labor contractors. Not only do labor contractors allow businesses to have employees only when they need them, but they also reduce liability and eliminate the need to provide benefits. Long ago, we made a philosophical business decision to minimize to use of seasonal help in favor of a full-time crew to whom we would guarantee 12 months a year work. From a business perspective, it was a difficult decision; from a human perspective, it was an easy one.
We utilize this philosophy in the winery as well. Our work in both the vineyard and winery is very cyclical, but we try to manage the work effectively, so that everyone from the vineyard to the shipping department is employed year round. We provide health insurance, retirement benefits, paid vacation and holidays to all of our employees. As a result, there is almost no turn over as evidenced by the tenure of our vineyard/winery team (most of whom have worked with us for 15+ years). And we have five second-generation employees and three third! We consider everyone as an integral part of our team. Together our goal is to grow great grapes, produce excellent wines and sell fairly priced wines with outstanding customer service. And I like to think that we all are having fun doing just that.