Committed to Community, Balletto Vineyards Joins as Premium Farm Bureau Member
By Rachel LaFranchi
"Our philosophy is growing a business that benefits our employees and the community,” said John Balletto, owner of the award winning Balletto Vineyards.
Motivated by his commitment to community, Balletto recently signed on as a Premium Farm Bureau Member. Balletto feels that the $1,000 membership level is an insignificant cost relative to the benefits the agriculture community receives from the work the Farm Bureau does.
“Honestly, it’s such a small price to pay at this point compared to what these new laws and regulations could do to our industry – not only affecting the business side, but the land side for future generations,” said Balletto.
“The Farm Bureau has been able to build up these great memberships and support in order to have political clout and lobbyists to help our industry – otherwise we would probably be regulated out of business,” said Balletto who believes that the Farm Bureau holds a significant importance for the agriculture industry. “The Farm Bureau fights all the battles that growers and farmers don’t have time to fight. We need the representation to help keep our industry viable.”
Balletto remembers the Farm Bureau’s efforts in 2000 where they strongly opposed the Rural Heritage Initiative, a Sonoma County measure that would have compromised the value of farmland. More recently, Balletto was impressed with the Farm Bureau’s support in James Gore’s election to office.
In the future, Balletto sees the Farm Bureau working on important issues including local endangered species. “This is not a million dollar problem, this is a billion dollar problem,” Balletto said regarding the problems the Farm Bureau works on to protect the future of agriculture.
A family company that started with nearly nothing, Balletto has grown his vineyards into a nationally known name. With his own business to run, Balletto knows that being actively involved with all the new laws and regulations isn’t practical. This is why he leaves it to the Farm Bureau to represent him on large issues.
Balletto Vineyards has been certified sustainable for more than five years. Balletto says this has made him more aware of his farming practices and at times it’s like doing a monthly self-audit. To be sustainable, Balletto Vineyards has to follow regulations including monitoring water usage and following cultivation techniques to avoid erosion.
Balletto feels the Farm Bureau at both the state and local levels makes sure there aren’t so many regulations they would all be impossible to follow. “One responsibility that the Sonoma County Farm Bureau has is to go to the county and plead our case for the grower community and try to make sure all the regulations don’t get so cumbersome that it’ll put us out of business,” said Balletto.
Balletto is proud of what he’s accomplished including how he has built his family’s business from the ground up, and he understands the importance the Farm Bureau plays in the agriculture industry. “The Farm Bureau is such a great support to the industry. We can’t do enough for the Farm Bureau,” Balletto said.
Balletto believes in the Farm Bureau’s mission and encourages his fellow vineyard and winery owners to become Farm Bureau members. “Any members of the wine and grape industry should definitely be a member of the Farm Bureau,” said Balletto.
Balletto has been a Farm Bureau member for more than 35 years, spending 10 of those years on the board of directors. With a very small percentage of the county involved directly in agriculture, Balletto knows that farmers’ voices and votes are small, but he believes that if agriculturalists band together and support the Farm Bureau, the voice becomes a big voice.
Balletto said, “We have to have a voice for agriculture. The Farm Bureau is our voice.”