Working Together for Better
By Doug Fabbioli
Working Together for Better
When my family and I moved to Virginia in 1997, there were about 60 wineries in the state and only four in Loudoun County. I was hired to be the new winemaker and vineyard manager at Tarara Winery, just a few miles up the road from where we eventually bought our own farm. My new boss encouraged me to get to know the other winery folk and get involved with the industry associations that were around at the time: the Virginia Wineries Association and the Virginia Vineyards Association. These groups were focused (and still are) on growing and strengthening our industry through sharing knowledge of best practices, the marketing of our products, and getting the voice of the industry to our business representatives’ ears.
As our industry has grown, more associations and organizations have started up to address specific groups or regions. Here in Loudoun, the Loudoun Winegrowers Association began with a focus on vineyard operations. Not long afterward the Loudoun Wineries Association came along to focus on tasting rooms and wine sales, along with many other related issues. Recently these two groups have merged, making a stronger, more cohesive, and efficient organization that hopes to achieve even more than in the past. The Loudoun Bed and Breakfast Guild, an offshoot of our industry, has many wineries signed on as associate members in order to collaborate in our efforts for our guests and visitors.
On a local government level we have the Rural Economic Development Council. Although I no longer serve on this council, I spent over a decade helping this organization give the county guidance and feedback on issues regarding the future of all of the agriculture and rural-based business sectors of our county, including the wine industry. Another organization, Visit Loudoun, supports and enhances tourism in the county and they have a large board of local business leaders helping with input and collaboration. On a federal level Wine America is the association that represents our industry. This board focuses on lobbying the lawmakers in Washington about our needs, challenges, and the value we provide our businesses and communities.
With each of these organizations, the time and effort put in by volunteers is crucial and invaluable. However, any volunteer needs to have listening and leadership skills in order to play their role effectively. Anyone can state their opinion, but that is not how we grow better together. Hearing others, finding middle ground, and focusing on the goals of the organization are the key points to success for these groups.
These skills are critical to succeeding in other roles as well. We have been separated from each other over the past few years. We have small pods of folks that we may work with and spend time with, but thinking and acting beyond oneself can take us to the next level in any setting. I have been fortunate to work with some great folks over the years in my roles in a number of the groups listed above. (Besides, we’ve got to focus on wine rather than other, possibly more uncomfortable subjects!) But the skill sets are the same in wine as in life: empathy, leadership, teamwork and end-goals. Utilize these skills in the New Year ahead, enjoy a glass of wine as you overcome challenges as a group, and you will probably find that you come out even better than before!
About the Author: Farmer, winemaker, entrepreneur, educator, and leader, Doug Fabbioli has been accelerating the growth and quality of Virginia’s wine industry since 1997. With his wife Colleen, Doug is the owner/operator of Fabbioli Cellars in Leesburg, VA. He is the founder and director of The New Ag School, which focuses on teaching the next generation of farmers and agriculture-related leaders. No wonder they call Doug Fabbioli the Godfather of DC’s Wine Country.