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Sustainable Nation

The Sustainable Nation Podcast delivers interviews with global leaders in sustainability and regenerative development three times a week. Our goal is to provide sustainability professionals, business leaders, academics and anyone interested in joining the sustainability revolution, with information and insights from the world's most inspiring change-makers.

Feb 11, 2019

Karissa Kruse is President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers. Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), was established in 2006 as a marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. SCW has oversight by California Department of Food and Agriculture which supports producer regions.

With more than 1,800 growers, SCW’s goal is to increase awareness and recognition of the quality and diversity of Sonoma County’s grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers around the world.

In January 2014, SCW committed to becoming the nation’s first 100% sustainable winegrowing region by 2019. As of December 2015, 64% of the vineyard acreage in Sonoma County has gone through the sustainability self-assessment and 48% of vineyards are certified by a third party auditor. These sustainability efforts were recently recognized with California’s highest environmental honor, the 2016 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA).

Karissa Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:

  • Working towards 100% sustainable certified vineyards in Sonoma County
  • Growing the sustainability movement in the wine and beverage industries
  • Engaging small farms in sustainable practices
  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders

Karissa's Final Five Responses:

What is one piece of advice you would give sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?

I think it's really important to you work with programs that have that audit piece. Knowing that there is a certification piece to what we're doing, that we're not just saying we're sustainable or saying we have good practices, but there's actually that audit. Validation is important. Then you have to maintain enthusiasm and you have to really believe that what you do matters. And for me, the sustainable farming and keeping our local farmers in business, that is critical. So, I think if you can connect with what you're doing and you believe in the mission, that goes a long way.

What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability?

I love that sustainability is really connecting our grape growers to the climate change agents. They only have to put on a climate hat. It's just helping them look at their entire business, looking at their carbon footprint, looking at the resources they use, looking at the water efficiency and really protecting our natural resources and protecting our land. So, I think that there is a connection that is happening, and it's not even starting something new. It's just continuing what we're doing. It's all really important and that's exciting.

What is one book you would recommend sustainability leaders read?

That's a great question. We just read a great case study, and this is relevant for the wine grape industry, but Michigan Business School put out a case study on a specific winery and climate change. Farming is a unique business. We're not a big corporation. You're talking small family businesses that have been passed down for generations. Their land-based. They're Mother Nature-based. They're responsive. And so, this was a great case study. It was put out by the Michigan Business School and I think you can download from them directly but Harvard business school does a great job of being that repository of business cases.

What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in the work that you do?

I'm going to go opposite of what would be really tools or resources. I think you have to get out and talk to the people. I learned the most when I'm actually out walking the vineyard with the farmer, I'm letting them show me what they're doing, how they're thinking about farming and what they have implemented. Especially when you go and you say, "Okay, every year you have to have continuous improvement. What are you doing? Where did that investment go? How did you make that decision to spend a dollar on this part of improvement versus a dollar on this other part of improvement?" And so, that's where I learn. I think that is the best. I'm able then to go out and share those stories so when I meet another grower who's struggling with something or trying to figure out what's next I can help out. So, I think there's no better way to learn and be equipped then to get out and actually be on the farm and talk to the farmer.

Where can our listeners go to learn more about you and the work that you're leading at Sonoma Winegrape Growers?

Probably the best place is our website, Or they can email me directly if they have questions. I welcome that. Collaboration is key to all of our sustainability efforts, not just in Sonoma County but with all the efforts going on. So it's Send me an email, keep in touch with me. I'd love to hear what everyone else is working on.

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