Amelia Ceja speaks to Earthjustice about her sustainable vineyard and winery.
(Dave Getzschman for Earthjustice)
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September 22, 2015
We do a lot of talking about what’s wrong with agriculture in this country—rampant use of dangerous pesticides, unfair labor practices that disrespect and disconnect farmworkers from our food chain and government agencies that have listened to Big Ag for far too long when it comes to the science of protecting our food system and, ultimately, the food we consume.
However, there are plenty of fine people working to fix what’s wrong and return to farming that respects the land and the people who work it. To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting a perfect example of how to farm and run a business sustainably.
Meet Amelia Morán Ceja and her family, who own and run Ceja Vineyards, an ultra-premium Latino-owned winery in Napa, California. Her unique story of coming to the U.S. from Mexico as a 12-year-old grape picker who has since garnered some of the wine industry’s most prestigious awards has been featured on the Today Show, in Cosmopolitan magazine, and in countless wine publications.
Ceja was once told by a patriarch of the wine industry not to market to the Hispanic community because “they don’t buy that much wine.” She told him, “You concentrate on your market, I’ll concentrate on mine.” Ceja has grown a successful business while introducing wine to new audiences for more than a decade.
But you can read all about that in the glossy trade magazines. What I find most compelling about Ceja’s story and her family’s approach to running the business is the genuine love and respect they show for all their workers, from farmhands to managers. Because the Cejas provide a pesticide-free work environment, pay good wages and treat workers to “fiestas” and family gatherings, most of the field workers at Ceja Vineyards have been with the company for many years—a rarity in farm work.
As the Obama administration finalizes a new Worker Protection Standard—the woefully outdated regulation protecting farmworkers from pesticide exposure—Ceja serves as a shining example of how doing right by the environment (and your work force) can be good for business. Please watch our short film about Ceja Vineyards, which will be featured at the Americas Latino Eco Festival this month. ¡Salud!
This post is part of a series celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Earthjustice is serving as a co-presenter at the 2015 Americas Latino Eco Festival, a multicultural event that aims to unite Latino leaders in the environmental movement. The festival will take place October 15 through 17 in Denver, Colorado.
Kari Birdseye worked at Earthjustice from 2011–2016, as a national press secretary and on advocacy campaigns protecting our health and the environment from the impacts of pesticides and toxic chemicals.
“Our work to rectify 150 years of injustice is far from over.”
Managing attorney of Earthjustice’s Mid-Pacific Office, on the fight to restore water to Maui streams