Well, I am 2 months into my 3 1/2 month trip. So, here are the nutshells for those not following my adventure on FB. Here is a brief summary of the first 2 weeks as I attempt to catch you up on 2 months.
Italy is in my blood. My father grew up there and my grandmother was feudal royalty. As my grandmother passed away when my father was 16, I did not grow up with a lot of exposure to the Italian life as my father had been based in the middle of the country, in South Dakota, via the US Air Force (his father was American) and far away from the rest of the family. (Located in Florida and the Northwest) But, my heritage has always intrigued me. Finally, when I was able to visit in 1998, I fell in love with the country, the people, and most importantly, the way they valued their life. Life, in Italy, is meant to be lived. You work to be able to live, to enjoy life. You most certainly do not live to work. In fact, there is a mandatory vacation statue of at least 30 days paid time off for everyone in Italy. By the time I left, although I had been invited to stay and have regretted leaving ever since, I have always dreamt of building a Bed and Breakfast or a small villa style hotel in the country with the intent of teaching people from around the world to appreciate and incorporate the Italian lifestyle. How to slow down and appreciate life. To savor your experiences and look for all there is to enjoy and love in life.
My project is named: Assessing Sustainable Use of Agrichemicals in SOSTain’s Tasca D’Almerita/Planeta Vineyards and Olive Groves, International Conference on Wine Sustainability, and SIMEI Congress
During the summer of 2014, as a graduate student of the University Of South Florida Patel College Of Global Sustainability, I was unable to find an appropriate paid internship in the effort to gain relevant sustainability experience. As an alternative, Christina Arenas and I created an independent study in partnership with the Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery and advised by Professor George Phillipidis and Professor Joseph Dorsey of the Patel College of Global Sustainability. On an outing with some friends, we went on a wine tasting tour at the Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery (BHVW). BHVW is a local vineyard and winery that utilized 98% local crops, including their own grapes, lemons, oranges, and bananas; the exception being the import of organic pineapples. BHVW is very earth and environmentally conscious and seek to make their mark in the local winery world by promoting sustainable winery practices as well as promoting sustainability as a lifestyle to their guests and consumers. During our tour and tasting, the owners and proprietors, Larry and Lenora Woodham, spoke of their desire to improve their sustainability and eliminate the use of chemicals to sterilize their returned and reclaimed bottles, I approached them with the idea of working together. So, during the summer semester, Christina and I worked for 10 weeks to investigate, assess, research the results, and provide a sustainability assessment including recommendations and solutions for their specific needs. The executive summary is as follows:
Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery
This study was intended to research, assess, and recommend steps towards improving the sustainability of Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery (BHVW) by implementing renewable energy options and water conservation to ultimately boost economic performance and entrepreneurship. During the 10-week Directed Study summer session, the course study was divided into three phases; company evaluation, researching different renewable energy options for solar sterilization of BHVW’s bottling operation, and constructing recommendations. The primary focus was to assess and propose the best option for sterilizing recycled wine bottles through renewable energy options utilizing the energy of the sun.
During the evaluation phase, an assessment was made of the current systems used at the BHVW facility, generated a current energy and water consumption baseline, and sought possible procedures to streamline production.
The company evaluation consisted of gathering energy and water data to create a consumption baseline to measure usage before, during, and after the implementation of the sustainable renewable energy project.
The research phase of the project consisted of extensive information gathering from several resources, such as professionals in the field, research studies, and our own market data.
The final phase of the project includes our best recommendation from the research and data collected throughout the study. The two methods of Broad Spectrum Pulsed Light (BSPL) and UV sterilization were deemed currently unfeasible due to safety issues, cost effectiveness and the need for further research development. Solar Oven technology is unstable and inaccurate, at best, and thus not a reliable solution for bottle sterilization process.
The final recommendation includes a modified Sustainable Solar Steam Sterilization System (S4) that integrates Solar Steam and Solar Oven technology with innovative technology to create a safe and consistent source of steam energy that will significantly increase BHVW’s bottle production rate. Additional sustainability process enhancements also include rainwater catchment, operating systems metering and documentation, and possible installation of full solar array to offset BHVW’s energy carbon footprint.
As a result of this experience, my passion for the environment, and in the hopes of pursuing my dream of living and working in my father’s native Italy, I researched the possibility of extending my experience in the wine industry to the sustainability of wineries and their practices in Italy.
With the participation of 2 of the leading Sicilian Wine producers, Tasca D’Almerita (the initiator of the SOStain project), and Planeta, the current leader in Italian Wine Quality awards, I am investigating soil samples for the potential of non-target point source pollution impact of fungicides and pesticides via their road connectivity and transference and drift via the use, maintenance, and storage of their agricultural equipment and their potential impact on the surrounding environment and local waterways, impacting their sustainability. The question involves whether the current best management practices are enough to offset the frequently overlooked areas of equipment and practices in on-point source target pollution.
In October (the entire month), I will be assisting with the International Conference on Wine Sustainability at the EXPO 2015.
During the final 3 days of the EXPO 2015 conference, I will be assisting in the teaching of sustainability to food industry professionals as well as the general public interested.
For the past 6 months or so, I have been actively involved as an officer planning the 2nd SIMEI conference on wine Sustainable Supply Chain Management. It is from November 3-5, during which time I will be an active member as a stakeholder helping to lead table discussions. I have also invited a current USF professor of Italian and Food Studies, Patrizia LaTrecchia, who has studied in Italy and currently practices in Italy in many food categories, to be stakeholder and assist in the connection between Enology. the taste of wines and their qualities, and the balance of true sustainability in vineyard and Winery management.
The SIMEI conference involves round-table discussions, presenters, and stakeholder assessments and results presentations. In the process of the Congress, the intention to create a universal language for Enology and Sustainability practices will be pursued by the international leaders in the Enology industry, Sustainability experts, and other educational professionals.
Abstract as follows:
Vineyards and fruit-bearing groves present the most significant runoff/drift/transfer rates of pesticide application of all agricultural practices. In support of the EU precautionary principle, and in the interest of business longevity as well as long term community health, the SOStain organization was created to improve the sustainability of vineyards and Olive groves in Sicily, Italy. Having achieved great strides, the next level of assessment is needed to continue to reduce the potential impacts of non-target diffuse drift/runoff/transfer rate of pesticide application practices on the leading sustainability vineyards, Planeta and Tasca, D’Almerita. Are the current BMP practices sufficient to protect against non-target connectivity and drift/runoff/transfer? How do the current practices effect nearby water resources? Elimination of all forms of pollution of water bodies is critical for the continued environmental good health and irrigation needs of food producers, the worker’s health, and the community well-being, both fiscally and physically. Additionally, is sustainability awareness a common practice in the international vineyard and winery industry? How can practices be improved? What kind of impact will en masse sustainability instruction over the course of 3 days in addition to a month long conference on the sustainability of Wine influence the agrichemical and operating practices of enology?
Results in response to the effectiveness of current BMP practices at these leading vineyards are expected to range from highly successful to non-target exposure areas being a significant impact via connectivity during harvest and maintenance practices. Non-target impact findings are anticipated to indicate a 2nd or 3rd level of BMP to offset non-target diffuse point solutions in the interest of advancing the sustainability of the organizations, improve local water resources, as well as promote the economic and social parameters of the local community. Expo 2015 and SIMEI Congress 2015 are both expected to create an advanced level of open dialog in both the industry as a practice as well as educate the consumer on the importance of sustainability in all crop production. Sustainability, environmental sensitivity, and protection will only support or enhance a bottom line of a business, improve the lives of the community supporting and utilizing the end-product, as well as promote cultural exposure, education on food sustainability, and food production practices of other regions of the globe.
After sudden changes to the schedule 4 days before my departure, due to the various locations involved in my internship, I chose to arrive and depart in Rome, as it is central to Italy. Upon my arrival, I had to immediately start the residency permit application within the first 8 days in the country as required due to my trip being over 90 days. Well, it is certainly not as simple, nor as cheap as they tell you. Not only do you pay $127 and then for overnight shipping in the US, but contrary to the information they give you, it is another $276 one you get here. And, it is not a simple submission, either. There is an additional appointment randomly assigned to you in between 2-3 weeks during which time you return with pictures. Then, you have to wait another 6-8 weeks for the paperwork to be finalized and a permisso di sogourno to be generated. (a residency permit card) So, in a way, the schedule delays and minimization of my time in Sicily came in handy. About 8 trips later, I am now in the 2 month waiting period. Ultimately, I will receive it just before I leave. Had I know about my schedule reductions earlier, and the additional cost (the embassy said $34), I would have just changed my trip. In the meantime, I began the arduous journey of learning Italian immersion style!