I had an enlightening visit with the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office yesterday related to European Grapevine Moth Compliance Agreements, harvesting, hauling, and the shipping of winegrapes inside and outside of the quarantine zone. To call it a fireside chat wouldn’t do the exchange justice, while describing it as an all out knock ’em down drag ’em out fist fight just wouldn’t be lady like.
Neither was slurping the last of my Sonic root beer float shake at the Commissioner’s counter while I waited to hear the fate of Thomson Vineyards and the plan to ship out 15 tons of Chardonnay to the East Coast next Monday, but having worked harvest for the past three weeks my manners have been tarnished, just a bit…
It wouldn’t be Thomson Vineyards if we didn’t kick up a bit of dust in government offices, now would it? So when I got the phone call that said, “Jennifer, got your European Grapevine Moth Compliance Agreement, but you need to get on down to the County Offices and sign an intra state compliance agreement.” I happily showed up to 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite #3 with an ink pen in hand and some choice thoughts about how difficult it is to sell winegrapes in this market and economy and how the extra barriers, hoops, speed bumps, and road closures put in place by “The Man” were really cramping the Thomson Vineyards Business Development & Growth Plan. In reality, it’s really the Get Us Out of the Red & Into the Break Even Plan. There you go.
In order to break even this year I’ve had to put together some interesting deals, one of which involves shipping 15 tons of Napa, Carneros Chardonnay to the East Coast, first by temperature controlled truck, then by air freight, and probably back again into a truck in 39 cardboard macrobins with 4 mm poly bag liners. It’s what’s known in the industry as a “Roadside” deal. In non-industry speak that means as the grower our responsibility is to harvest the tonnage and get it to the front of the property by the roadside for pick up. End of story, bye bye Chardonnay. Well, that’s not exactly what the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office has in mind.
Yesterday, the Commissioner’s Office informed me that I need more EGVM traps placed in the blocks we will harvest from Monday, in addition to the ones already at our site and keeping in mind that the nearest to our vineyard that a moth has been caught in a trap is over 800 meters away. Then, they will need to take a sample of 300 Chardonnay clusters to do analysis on. At which point they will determine if EGVM is evident the shipment will be mandated for fumigation and then sent on its way East. If EGVM is not evident – me, my 39 cardboard boxes and 15T of Chardonnay can be on our way sans fumigation – East Bound and Down.
After determining just what this “inspection” they referenced was all about, the Ag Commish’s office staff let me know Tuesday, mid-day, that they were all booked up on Friday with a vineyard site up Soda Canyon Road where they will take an estimated 1,800 cluster samples from multi-varietals being shipped out-of-state and that the first day they could perform the cluster sampling at Thomson Vineyards was DAY OF HARVEST.
Now, any of you actually IN the industry know what its like on DAY OF HARVEST. Equipment malfunctions, labor shortages and crews not showing up on time or at all, things are picking out light in 2010 so the added stress of not making weight for the winery is of constant concern, not to mention Starbucks has yet to stay open 24 hours a day so no coffee until someone takes pity on you and shows up to the site with some, or you beg the hauler to swing through the drive through on the way to the winery. Now add some County inspectors to the mix and you begin to get a accurate snapshot of just what was going through my head.
It’s with those thoughts in mind that I gave a resounding “NO” – a polite “NO”, but a “NO” nonetheless to the County Ag Commish’s office staff and insisted they make it out prior to harvest.
Thomson Vineyards and our 300 Chardonnay clusters are now scheduled to be scoped out by the County of Napa tomorrow at 2 p.m. and that was after I noted to the staff that if their office wasn’t already talking to the County of Napa’s Economic Development Office, it may be wise for them to do so. Because the cost of doing business in the winegrape industry is just about killing any glimmer of economic recovery for this family business and what must it be doing to the longstanding “agricultural community” of Napa and their business plan?!?
I gave a polite nod to the County’s white truck this morning, from the tractor seat, as we harvested a bit of Chardonnay for a San Francisco winery. He seemed a little lost, but I didn’t have time to give him a hand-held tour and make suggestions as to where he might put his little orange tent. I thought it would be nice to group the tents together, like tent city, so that when they finally do catch something all the little EGVMs could have a quarantine party together. But I kept that thought to myself and instead kept my eye on the crew of 10 laborers who had showed up 45 minutes late after picking through the night at another Carneros vineyard.
As the guy in the little white Ford truck pulled out of the driveway and we unloaded the last of the macrobins to be forklifted onto our truck, he turned right on Los Carneros Avenue, not left. Which is funny because I also suggested to the County Ag Commish staff yesterday that they could either call up their boss and get an okay to place a trap, check the trap, analyze the fruit, and get me a stamp of approval this week before we harvest next week OR they could call up Saintsbury and suggest that THEY take our fruit. Afterall, they’re only 25 yards away from our vineyard and maybe then I wouldn’t have to be doing deals with wineries over 3,500 miles away endangering the lives of innocent East Coast citizens with potential relocation of the juice sucking European Grapevine Moth from a quaint little vineyard in the Napa Valley all in the name of the Break Even in 2010 Family Business Plan. Instead, I’d be more than happy to just deliver the 15 tons the 25 yards to our neighbors and we could all save ourselves some ink, red tape and cardboard boxes.
I’d like to give a Stephen Colbert Tip of the Hat to Ms. Toosdi Malito of the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office for getting the crew together to take 300 samples tomorrow at 2 p.m. and analyze them (It should be noted that her office politely let me know we could take the samples ourselves and have them ready to go for her office prior to tomorrow and you can again imagine how far up on my priority list THAT is considering all the harvesting and hauling going on at the moment at this family business).
And a Stephen Colbert Wag of the Finger to “The Man” who just informed me that I will also need a Certificate of Quarantine Compliance (CQC) and Federal Shield before this shipment can go out – making it another two steps more difficult on the farmers in this region to get a break in 2010.