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Sonoma vineyard

On Friday (11/10), I attended the Harvest Summit, an exclusive event at the La Crema wine estate in the Russian River Valley of California. The organizers described the gathering as a day during which “250 leaders outstanding in their fields will be thinking, talking, tasting, and transforming.” The conference was a celebration of the art and science and social impact of innovation. The winery was a unique location, I met some very impressive people, the dialogues were engaging, and I learned a lot. Everyone enjoyed meeting the winemakers and oenophiles, and the culinary experience was great.

The conference was not planned this way originally, but the event had a philanthropic fund raising aspect to it. The Sonoma and Napa and two other counties faced the worst wildfires in California’s history. It was gripping to see some of the scorched areas on the way from the hotel, and it was very emotional to hear about the 7,000 homes lost across the four counties. The extraordinary winds drove the fire one mile every minute, making it extraordinarily difficult for first responders. Imagine getting a phone call at two in the morning and being told to evacuate immediately. The property loss exceeded the impact of any hurricane in the U.S., ever. When Jessica Kilcullen, founder and chief harvester, introduced her brother, who is a local firefighter, he stood in his uniform. The audience choked up during the standing ovation. The stories of first responder bravery were amazing.

The Sonoma county supervisor and a state senator described the response. The teamwork at all levels, federal, state, and local was quite impressive. It is hard to imagine inhabitants of 7,000 homes suddenly having nothing and no place to sleep. Thousands of cots and food were brought in quickly. Millions of dollars have been raised philanthropically. The big challenge is to rebuild, literally from the ground up. Everyone seems confident, but the effort will be monumental.

Two speakers, who are experts on the subject, discussed crisis planning. It was an intense discussion, especially when considering disaster which could strike a wide geographic area. We should all be thinking of how we would communicate with our families in the event of a disaster. What would we do? Where could we all meet? We can’t just hope a disaster doesn’t happen. We have to have a plan just in case.

In subsequent posts, I will share what I learned about the future of work, AI, the future of food, the future of transportation, some amazing pinot noirs, and other topics. Stay tuned.