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Small Family Farmers the true legacy of Napa Valley

Sisters and second generation grapegrowers/winemakers, Hayley and Lucia Hossfeld in the vineyard

Small family farms are the true legacy of Napa because they keep our founding traditions alive. Napa Valley is originally a community of families from all different nationalities and backgrounds that came to this special area to farm grapes, make wine and enjoy it with their family and friends. Many of the first small farms grew to be very successful and are the iconic wineries we see scattered along Highway 29 today.

Small family farms are essential to Napa's local economy as much as the large operations because of the simple fact: variety is the spice of life. We need a mix of the beautiful, large production wineries we find dotted along Highway 29 and the small, family owned and operated labels and vineyards. To keep Napa Valley a unique destination we need to offer wine tasting experiences for all the types of connoisseurs.

My parents came to Napa is 1981 with the dream of planting a vineyard. They did not have a farming background but with determination (and a little dynamite), they created our extreme hillside vineyard and our family tradition of growing grapes was born. Napa Valley is a generally young grape growing community when compared to the wine regions in Europe, we don’t have centuries of traditions passed on through each generation. The benefit of being a young area is that WE are the ones creating the traditions. Small Family Farms create the traditions that make Napa so unique and authentic.

In order for Small Farm Farms to thrive, we need the opportunity to host guests on our property so we can share our story and sell wine direct to consumer. Currently it is illegal to do these things on your property without a winery permit. But, it isn’t financially feasible for most small family farms to build a commercial winery without investors. Taking on investors ceases the whole idea of it being a family owned and operated business and that is not something small family farms should have to consider to sustain themselves.

I am a second generation farmer and I want to pass my vineyard on to the next generation and then the next and the next. We have the amazing opportunity to have Napa Valley be like Bordeaux with generations of family farming the same land, which is truly amazing. There’s a huge changing of guard coming up in Napa and I’m confident many of the families would love to pass on their vineyard to the next generation. But, if we don't level the playing field and give the next generation an opportunity to thrive then many will be sold to the highest bidder and small family farms will cease to exist.

Author: Hayley Hossfeld is a second-generation grape grower and a first generation winemaker at Hossfeld Vineyards in Soda Canyon, Napa Valley. She was born and raised in the backwaters of Soda Canyon and obtained her Masters in Viticulture and Enology from the University of Pais Vasco, Spain. She plans on continuing her family's tradition of grape growing and winemaking for multiple generations to come.

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