The Central Coast Vineyard Team is a nonprofit grower group whose mission is to promote sustainable practices on the Central Coast of California. In 1995, the team developed the Positive Points System, a 1,000 point self-assessment tool for evaluating sustainability on a vineyard. The PPS began as an assessment tool but has evolved into an education tool. It recognizes that health, balanced soils are key for healthy, balanced systems that are less susceptible to pest and disease pressure and that irrigation management affects canopy management, which eventually affects disease and pest management.
This SARE-funded project built on the PPS foundation, allowing the Central Coast Vineyard Team to implement education programs using a grower-to-grower approach and highlight farming practices that reduce risks commonly associated with production agriculture. The team has developed a program of tailgate meetings to focus on practices highlighted in PPS. The meetings are based on interactions of growers and demonstration of sustainable practices in the vineyard. Growers share personal experiences with successful sustainable vineyard practices and encourage grower questions and discussions.
· Demonstrate sustainable practices through quarterly tailgate meetings in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties
· Develop and distribute educational materials regarding sustainable practices to a local and statewide audience
From April 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004, CCVT conducted 29 tailgate meetings and Positive Points System workshops throughout the Central Coast. Topics included Clean Water Project demonstration sites, weed and pest identification, beneficial insect identification and their use in biological pest management, best management practices for sulfur use and mechanization. During the period of the grant, grower participation increased as a result of the grower-to-grower tailgate meetings and workshops. Indeed, the Positive Points System continues to gain momentum in the industry as more growers complete the self-assessment and make changes in vineyard management based on the results. The number of PPS self-assessments increased to 81 in 2003 from 64 in 2003, up 26.5%.
CCVT gave eight industry presentations to a variety of audiences, reaching more than 1,000 people and addressing clean water, stream bank erosion, pest monitoring and pesticide reduction. CCVT also attend 12 industry events, engaging event participants and handing out copies of PPS. It is estimated that more than 4,000 people were reached.
CCVT plans to continue increasing grower participation through workshops and development of an annual Grower PPS Results Reports targeting the scores of individual growers to promote and recognize sustainable vineyard practices. PPS is also being used as a Farm Plan for vineyard managers and owners to meet one phase of the Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Irrigated Land.
Further, the pesticide analysis from CCVT’s Biologically Integrated Farming System Project indicates that growers who adopt practices also reduce FQPA 1 materials. And many growers are incorporating more intense pest monitoring, use of cover cropping to reduce soil erosion and educating field workers on the safe use of pesticides.
BENEFITS OR IMPACT ON AGRICULTURE
This project has allowed CCVT to reach audiences beyond its immediate membership. Future work involves continued circulation of the recently translated Spanish version of PPS, continued Spanish education and more columns in statewide and local newspapers.
Through this education, CCVT estimates that the PPS practices have resulted in considerable reductions in soil loss and erosion. One Clean Water Project estimated that soil loss decreased to two-tenths of a ton per year from 38 tons a year after PPS practices were implemented.
As PPS evaluations, events and membership continue to gain momentum, so does the interest in incorporating the whole-farm approach on the Central Coast, which improves living and farming conditions for all parties.
Overall, CCVT found that growers rate the value of information presented at tailgate meetings high – a score of 4 out of 5 in many cases – and circle excellent or good on the evaluation sheets. Among grower comments were these:
“We are in the process of planting a new vineyard. We will place a new importance on erosion and use of cover crops.”
“Well organized, not too long, very pertinent information.”
“Good coverage of many aspects of sustainable farming.”
“Good hands-on information to move toward organic farming.”
CCVT found that the best way to reach growers with information is to provide a “take home” message – a short, meaningful piece of information that a grower can easily incorporate – at the end of the presentation, meeting or article. CCVT recommends creating concise, meaningful handouts with the take home message. The group has found value joining with others doing similar projects or with complementary messages when planning meetings so growers don’t have to choose among two or more meetings to attend.
In addition to the conducting tailgate meetings and workshops and attending industry events, the Central Coast Vineyard Team developed and distributed five newsletters to a mailing list of 1,500. See www.vineyardteam.org/press_newsletters.html. The team also contributed materials for statewide and national industry publications.