The Definition of Agriculture in Napa County

Monday, August 24, 2015, was the last meeting of APAC, the Agricultural Protection Adversary Committee, a committee composed of 17 citizens from various environmental, government, wine industry, and citizen groups, appointed by the Napa County Board of Supervisors. The object was to make recommendations on proposed changes to the Winery Definition Ordinance (WDO) about  visitation and events centers and the inclusion in the WDO of these activities as being agricultural activities in the definition of agriculture, the abundant usage of variances by the Planning Department, and the permitting of more wineries.

Many were disappointed with the results. The committee was diverse and heavily weighted on the side of winery and business interests. In fact my comment (below) about the definition of agriculture needing to first mention “stewardship of the earth” was dismissed as “cute” by a winery owner in his own public comment a few minutes later. Let’s just say, the larger issues of the sovereignty of Nature are not guiding stars for some of these people!

The good news is that the issues of Nature, and the consequences to community when we put her last, were at least raised by a number of us over and over and over. We are relentless and we are not through! Napa Vision 2050 has formed from various citizen and environmental groups who want to see balance that considers the Earth, the oak woodlands, the watersheds, and the community and related issues, like traffic, people being able to live where they work. We aren’t against wineries and vineyards; many of us own them. We just want to see the balance of business, tourism being only one aspect of that business. Please consider making even a small donation to our cause to help cover legal and expert expense for our continued work for the balanced health of Napa County. This link will take you to the site:

Below is a rendition of my comments. I talk about stewardship, but I really mean sovereignty of Nature. Stewardship is an old idea that I grew up with in the Midwest that still implies dominion over nature. Each year in June we had a Stewardship Sunday which blessed the work of the farmers and reminded them of their place in the scheme of things. In those days the farmers had a humble and grateful feeling toward the land in their care. We so desperately need to remember our place, or Nature will do so!

 I am Patricia Damery from Dry Creek Road. My husband and I grow grapes and other things as well. The definition of agriculture is not the topic today and that’s appropriate given there’s so little time left in the agenda.

But I want to say that I find it alarming that there is no mention of stewardship in our definition of agriculture. We hit all of the extractive notes, making sure of profit. Yes, that is a part of farming!

Having grown up in a small farm in the Midwest at another time before agribusiness subsumed small farms with Ag chemicals and mono-cropping, I am particularly aware this is missing. Stewardship was an understood. It was top of the list. When profit trumped stewardship, people got sick.  Communities deteriorated. The topsoils of the old prairie are so deep they can be abused for a long time, and they are. But even abuse of rich soils has a limit.

In many ways the issue of stewardship is implied in many of the arguments that we are discussing here, but it needs to be the very first thing in the definition of agriculture and agriculture activities: that our purpose is to protect this land, much of the Ag Watershed (AW) lands characterized as “brittle” due to water and thin soils. This is so different from just viewing these  AW soils as “a great place for a great Cab”.

In the end, may our great great grandchildren look back to the decisions that will be suggested by you today, grateful for your foresight into the future.