A Contemplation of Earth Day

Dear Damiani Fan,

Some people meditate sitting on a cushion. My dad, Phil, takes his hours of contemplation out in the vineyards and fields. As I’ve worked with Damiani this year and asked the question, “Who is Damiani Wine Cellars?” the answers I get invariably tie a reverence for land to a love of our community. We’ve used “Land is Wine” as a tagline, which fits, but where are the people? This thing we are doing together is such a human endeavor. These people and this place in relationship to one another are the tethers of value that endure.

As Earth Day approaches, I think about our relationship to the land. How deep, how consistent, how reverent, how reciprocal?

Growing up, my father made his living logging. Now my brother does the same. In this work, as in so many livelihoods there is the human act of extracting from the Earth and the balance of restoration. And indeed they cut forests in a way that thinned mature trees, allowed the flourishing of younger growth and caused the phone to ring fifteen years later when another harvest was due. There are many ways to measure that word so overtaxed these days it’s nearly destitute, “Sustainability.”

The origins of the word and its use are telling. In a German Forestry handbook from 1713, the word “Nachhaltigkeit” translates to “sustained yield” and:

“referred to the practice of harvesting just enough trees each year to ensure the forest would naturally regenerate in future years.” (from an article in “Restoration and Remediation Trade Site).

Sustainability found its way into English usage a hundred years later. It was quickly attached not just to forests but to the protection of animals, water, soil, and all other ingredients of the natural world. The U.N took credit for introducing Sustainability (cheeky blokes!) in a 1987 report that defined the concept as:

“meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Collage of photos of vineyard and planting vineyard
  1. Edie Rider who worked for the Davis family farms from the 1970’s until her retirement
  2. Cian and Nancy planting 2023
  3. Davis Vineyards

What does this mean for the DWC vineyards and the Finger Lakes region as a whole?

We notice that many of the “new” organic materials available to protect against disease in the vineyards are old essential mineral mixtures used traditionally before the chemical revolution. Just as all food used to be Organic, there is now a market that demands organic sprays commercially available at scale, allowing us to treat for pesky mildew, for example, in the mode of pre-industrial farmers.

Cover crops between and within the rows prevent erosion on our ideal steep terrain and encourage low-vigor competition in our cool-climate region. We do not use herbicides, which means that the subsoils in our vineyards are alive. The complex ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms supports the overall health of each vineyard site.

Each growing year presents different challenges. It’s a dance of continuing education, experimentation, and long-term memory that keeps us in an active relationship with the strategies required each year to extract such an incredible resource as our grape harvests from the Earth while tending to the land to increase its vitality.

Photos of Damiani team protesting.
  1. FLX Community members making their voices heard
  2. Phil Davis, speaking in Albany as part of a citizens lobby against fracking in NYS
  3. FLX Wine Industry Advocates protesting LPG storage underneath Seneca Lake

It’s never been enough for Damiani to strive for more environmentally reciprocal practices each year. Our leadership has been on the front lines of movements to protect The Finger Lakes and our region’s long-term viability as an agricultural and tourism hub.

My dad, my mom, Paula Fitzsimmons, and I all played critical roles in the fight against fracking in New York State long before I officially joined the DWC Team. The trips to Albany, the letter writing, the backing of renowned researchers, and citizen lobbying were all sweat equity in the fight to preserve the health of The Finger Lakes.

From LPG storage under Seneca Lake to Bitcoin mining to the current proposals for landfills to house NYC’s millions of lbs. of daily waste, DWC leadership has made their voices heard as grassroots industry leaders in saying no to harmful environmental decisions.

The health of our community is so deeply tied to the health of the land. Here are those tethering values again, this ecosystem of industry, Earth, families, and civic engagement. Many of our relationships to the Earth are more romantic than a clipboard and a petition may seem, but it’s these brass tacks actions over the last twenty years that have allowed us to keep thriving, contemplating and mutually benefitting from the Earth we call home.

As Earth Day approaches, this and so much more are at the top of my mind. Please share your thoughts with us via our accompanying social posts. Let’s keep this essential conversation alive.

Hilary Kellner-Davis
DWC Programming and Events Manager