Tom Gamble, founder of Gamble Family Vineyards in Napa, can’t help but talk about ancient history when the topic of sustainability comes up in conversation.
Gamble’s winery is helping restore the Napa River to what it looked like before it was at the center of a name-brand wine region. To explain why, he starts with the beginning of Western civilization.
Agriculture built civilizations like the Greeks and Romans, Gamble says, but it also played a role in their destruction. “A lot of their farming practices led to soil erosion,” Gamble says over a Zoom tasting. “You can trace overproduction and cutting down trees to this point.”
No trees led to weaker soils, and weaker soils led to less productive agriculture, which eventually led to empire-building to secure more land. The same farming practices then hurt the land in those locations, and the cycle continued.
It’s a slippery slope, and once it’s taken, it takes hard work and lots of investment to get back to a pre-industrial state. Yet if nothing is done to reinvigorate the land, the places we love are lost or altered to a point past recognition. The list of examples over the course of human history