Salmon Safe First for B.C. Wineries

British Columbia wine industry comes on stream with Salmon Safe certification

by Peter Mitham
Alternative text
This logo demonstrates a winery is
certified by the Salmon Safe organization.
Abbotsford, B.C.– British Columbia vineyards are among the most recent additions to Oregon’s expanding Salmon Safe program. “Protecting the salmon, for us, is as important as protecting all other components in the system,” said David Avery, principal of 2,000-case Lotusland Vineyards in Abbotsford.

Lotusland sources grapes from 35 acres of vineyard at seven sites in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley in the shadow of Washington state’s Mount Baker. Sockeye salmon returned to the Fraser River by the millions last year, but stocks have been declining in a region built as much on fishing as farming.

Certification of Lotusland’s operations by Salmon Safe will help Avery demonstrate to consumers that the winery and its vineyards take stewardship of the environment seriously. “Having some signage that demonstrates that will appeal to our clients,” Avery told Wines & Vines this week. “Their logo is a very valuable logo.”

Lotusland has embraced Biodynamic growing practices, but the Salmon Safe certification attests to a specific difference the winery is making through Biodynamics. The only significant change required to its practices was erecting a fence to prevent horses at one site from fouling a pond and potential run-off.

“With that one exception … when I took the staff around and we examined each of the properties, it was basically, ‘You’ve done it,’” he said.

Two other operations with associated wineries—Covert Farms in Oliver, which has a partnership with 2,000-case Dunham & Froese Estate Winery; and Harkers Organics, which operates 1,200-case Rustic Roots Winery in Cawston—are among the first farms to receive Salmon Safe certification in B.C.

Michelle Tung of the Pacific Salmon Foundation in Vancouver, British Columbia, says the initial round of certifications is designed to boost awareness of the program prior to its rollout across the province. The foundation, working in partnership with the Fraser Basin Council, is delivering the program in B.C., on license from Salmon Safe Inc., of Portland, Ore.

“This is fundamentally a communications program; it’s one first step in what will be a longer roll-out,” said Tung, manager of the Fraser Salmon and Watersheds Program for the Pacific Salmon Foundation. Preliminary discussions regarding introduction of the program to B.C. began in 2008. In 2010, a deal was linked to launch the pilot in the province. Key considerations included whether or not the program would complement existing stewardship initiatives, such as B.C.’s Environmental Farm Plan Program.

Tung stressed that it’s meant to complement rather than displace other programs, with the Salmon Safe brand as a key asset. Remaking the program for B.C. didn’t seem as wise.

“We came to realize that it was much more powerful to simply extend the Salmon Safe brand,” Dan Kent, managing director at Salmon Safe’s headquarters in Portland told Wines & Vines.

Only the beginning

While it’s still early for the program, Kent sees grapegrowers in B.C. as an important component of a program that also includes lamb, rabbit and poultry producers, not to mention orchardists, vegetable growers and Christmas tree producers.

“We see winegrowers in B.C. as a very important audience,” Kent said. “Winegrowers in Oregon and Washington have really been our flagship, and they’ve led the way to more Salmon Safe agriculture across a lot of different sectors—everything from hops to vegetables to orchards.”

The launch of the program in B.C. mirrors the approach taken in western Washington state, where organic farms selling into communities around Puget Sound have been key to raising the program’s profile with consumers and bolstering support for what growers are doing.

“This pilot round of assessments in B.C. was really focused on building some farmers market and restaurant presence to support the launch,” Kent explained.

With approximately 400 Salmon Safe-certified farms along the West Coast—about half are vineyards—Kent believes B.C. has good growth potential. Tung noted there’s been “tremendous” interest in the program. Another dozen farms have expressed interest, without any sector-specific marketing push.

Kent, for his part, believes this heralds good growth in the years to come.
Salmon restoration projects, including in the Okanagan River that flows past hundreds of acres of vineyard in the southern Okanagan Valley (part of the Columbia Basin), make B.C. fertile ground for expansion.

“I could see Salmon Safe B.C. within a few years being as big as our Oregon and Washington programs, just given the focus on salmon restoration there and how receptive the landowners we’ve worked with initially are,” Kent said.

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