We've been having a lot of conversations about this lately at home and think about this a lot out in the vineyard pruning, where you get a lot of meditative time in February. We've not been particularly engaged with social media to date, and more and more we've been hearing from "everybody" that we have to be on Facebook (and "have to" post daily) as a business to survive.
Who knows if this is true or not.
What I do know is that when we started farming grapes on the Saanich peninsula five years ago, "everybody" told us we'd fail if we tried to farm regeneratively. The first year we owned the farm, we panicked in July (those voices of self-doubt are strong, says the writer in me) and sprayed fungicides. We put on Tyvek suits and respirators. We told the kids they had to stay out of the vineyard for the day. We kept the dog in. And then we thought to ourselves, you know what, this is not who we are. We don't believe in this, and we don't want to live like this. If you have to keep small things inside to put something on food, you probably shouldn't be doing that. So we decided that we were going to farm regeneratively, come hell or high water, and, if that was how our little farm went down, so be it. And four years later, guess what?
You absolutely CAN farm grapes regeneratively on the Saanich peninsula. You can not only do it, but you can watch the world around you come alive and things take root (kids, dogs, plants, bees, birds, your heart) in ways that we've found immensely sustaining. One of the people I do follow on Twitter is Isabella Tree, whose writing on this experience of "rewilding" we've found inspiring. (The British are doing amazing things with regenerative practices, and if Brexit somehow fosters that I can maybe even make my peace with it.) We also love that film about the Biggest Little Farm, because we know how hard it is to keep the faith that what you're doing has a larger purpose.
What I also know is that when we started making natural wine on Vancouver Island three years ago, "everybody" told us we'd fail if we tried to make natural wines. Our wines would turn to vinegar. They would stink like barnyards and taste (literally) like shit. They would be hopelessly flawed unless we bought lab yeasts and filtered out of them anything alive and added preservatives, and no one would ever buy them.
Three years later, guess what? You absolutely CAN make natural wine on Vancouver Island that is not flawed, and it is wine we're proud to make. We think it's good wine. We have a lot of wonderful customers who tell us they think so too. (We joke that our motto at the winery is "Good wine for fine people.") And what we like best about being small and family run is that a lot of those customers have become friends. They come and help us with harvest. They stop by to pick grape leaves for their pickles come canning time. They buy cases from Vancouver, and we get to meet them at the ferry for refills joking about it all being very 007.
So who knows. Maybe "everybody" is right and if we don't do social media, if we don't post on Facebook, we will fail as a family business. We're not so sure about that to be honest, but it's possible.
We're not going to do it. We wanted to let all our friends out there (old, new, and as yet undiscovered) know is why we've decided that we're not going to be on Facebook especially. For us, it's a matter of those same values that led us to farm regeneratively and to make natural wines. We don't want to be a part of things we think do damage in the world. And our perspective is that Facebook is engaged in practices that are damaging to democracy and social cohesion. We think it's connected to the increased vocality of people who believe things we think are racist and wrong. We see Facebook as a company that manipulates the people who put their trust in it and we see it as a company to seeks to profit from surveillance and stealth. To participate, we have give up privacy we don't feel comfortable giving up, especially not to a business we think is a bad actor. And we have to ask that you do so too to follow us there, all so we can run a business and you can come to our next event on the farm.
Surely, there's another way.
We'd like to think running a small business making an artisanal product is about more than exploiting each other. We'd like to think that families doing work they believe in and that reflect their core values is part of what sustains small towns like ours, and we're proud to have neighbours all around us who are good people. Maybe that makes us hopeless luddites and naive. We don't think so. And anyhow, when I go to bed at night, I want to believe I spent my day doing things I don't believe did damage in the world.
Our core values are about (to steal a line from the immortal Cohen) being lightly here. We believe in minimal intervention (in wine, on the planet, as consumers), natural, honest wine without flaws, supporting our local community first (grow where you're planted), engaging in small acts that we think lead to important change (so refill your re-useable wine bottle people!), no compromises on our environmental commitments to zero-waste and regenerative practice, and full transparency in our farming, wine, and business practices. We want to run our family business the way we live our inner lives, because to us that feels authentic and valuable.
Facebook is not consistent with those values for us at a deep personal level. So we're not doing Facebook. We don't have personal accounts, and we've disabled our defunct business account as well. We'll carry on for the moment with Twitter and Instagram, because though we understand the Facebook connection with Instagram we don't see that Instagram at the moment is actively undermining democracy. (And if there's a case for that and we're wrong, let us know. We'd be interested.) If that changes, we would rethink those media as well.
All that said, we DO need your support to keep in business as a family winery, so we hope that instead you'll check our blog here (and come for that event), which is where we'll be posting our social-media information. We invite you to throw that VPN so Google can't track you. (It's no accident our email accounts are on protonmail). We will never sell anyone's data and don't try to harvest it.
We invite you to send us an email (parsellvineyard [at] protonmail [dot] com), and we'll put you on our email newsletter list. Hell, we invite you to send us your postal address, and we'll send you a hard copy of our announcements just like in the crazy old days of letters. Really.
Or come visit us at Moss St. Market on Saturdays year-round or at the tasting room in Saanichton. We're open there as well year-round by appointment, and we're reopening soon for the spring and summer as well shortly. (Announcement coming.)
Or better yet, come pitch in at harvest. Many hands make light work, and we do put on a pretty special vineyard luncheon. Come press some grapes or let us know if you want to come out to the vineyard any other season to learn a bit about what we're doing. We believe firmly in an open-farm policy.
Thanks to everyone who has supported us this far without Facebook. You're what makes us believe "everyone" can't be right really. And we hope if you're finding us for the first time you'll keep in touch one way or the other.