In Northern California’s wine country a line has been drawn in the thin, rocky soil that wine grapes love. To one side - a multi-million dollar industry; on the other - fruit and vegetable farmers, cattle ranchers, milk producers, journalists and maybe, us.
With about 60,000 acres planted in grapes, less than 10% of its agricultural land, Sonoma County has surpassed Napa County in wine grape production. Sonoma County’s wine grape crop was worth $390 million in 2010, while the area’s wine culture is a big factor in Sonoma County’s billion dollar annual tourist trade.
Whether we know it or not; our county and Northern California’s welfare is balanced on the rim of a wine glass.
This project will examine this contentious issue and industry from the ground up, on both sides of the line, in a series of eight reports and oral histories:
Readers will be given advance notice of upcoming interviews so they can “ride along“ by contributing questions and concerns to be addressed.
We need to understand our rural heritage in order to secure it, and respect what it takes to maintain diversity and a decent life for our farmers. I want to follow this complicated issue from the board rooms and the warehouses and tasting rooms to the point of view of the people who are working the land.
Growing Wine in Northern California will harvest verifiable data and separate it from the critics’ vitriol and insiders’ self-interest. Is there a monoculture myth in Sonoma County or are we sacrificing the health of our diminishing rural areas to the huge profits of viticulture?
Peer review by Bruce Robinson, Director of News, and Jake Bayless
In addition to Spot.us & the public, organizational support by NorthBayVoice.org & Northern California Public Media/KRCB Ruth Bird has come late to Sonoma County, having spent over 20 years as an editor in Southern California working in film and television. She has published in Sunset Magazine, The American Horticulture Magazine, American Cottage Gardener Magazine as well as local alternative news papers, writing mostly about growing things. Her major qualification for this particular project is her relative ignorance of the wine industry. She is an average consumer with a passionate desire to learn more, a love for this county and for all things agrarian, plus a real desire for balance and truth.
Eight articles published over a twelve week period preceded each week by a synopsis of the subject as well as a list of people set for upcoming interviews. This will allow readers who have their own questions to propose them and participate in the investigative process.
Articles will range between 400 - 2000 words, as research and topics allow.
Articles will be primarily text, but may also include stills, audio and/or video gathered by the author during the investigative process. If there is sufficient interest, this project will be developed into a radio and/or television
series on Viticulture in Northern California.