Wines & Vines Home
Welcome Guest

Editor's Letter


Will the UC Extension Rebound?

August 2013
by Jim Gordon
If you care about the future of cooperative extension services for wine grape growers, don’t miss Cliff Ohmart’s “Vineyard View” column in this issue. Ohmart has produced a careful explanation of how severely California’s extension system has shrunk in recent years.

It’s alarming to read his accounting of abandoned positions—86 farm advisors and specialists over a four-year period covering all crops, or a 22% loss. Currently, wine grape extension experts in California are spread thin. Each covers an average of 70,000 acres, Ohmart calculates, which is like having one advisor for all the vineyards in Washington and Oregon combined.

The extension shortage has also been on the mind of Dr. Jim Wolpert, who recently retired as a viticulture professor for the University of California, Davis, and who at one time was the state’s lead extension viticulture expert. He lamented the sad state of staffing in the UC Cooperative Extension system while accepting the annual Merit Award from the American Society for Enology and Viticulture (see “Professor Decrees Shortage of Farm Advisors”).

Wolpert held out no hope that the system would restore its robust vitality of 25 years ago, but he did find a light pointing in a promising direction. He mentioned that the California Table Grape Commission recently stepped up to help renew extension services for its growers by pledging money to the university.

Dollars for advisors
I spoke to both the executive director of the table grape commission, Kathleen Nave, and to the man in charge of the UCCE extension positions, Bill Frost, to find out how this will work. The California Table Grape Commission is a grower-approved, state-mandated commodity group that collects an assessment on every box of table grapes sold. Its board decides how to spend those dollars.

Nave said that her board watched extension positions evaporate in Kern County and Tulare County, and only one position remained filled in Fresno County—held by a person with multiple other responsibilities. “When we realized that over time we had lost the farm advisors that would have been involved with 80% of the table grapes in California, and that table grapes were not on the priority list of the university, our commission decided to have a conversation with UC about this.”

The commission was fortunate to have reserves in its budget, and it offered to fund one viticulture extension position for six years in one of the key counties if UC would fund another permanent position with public money in the other. Discussions began in August 2012, and as of July 2013 interviews were about to begin. The table grape growers’ support of $840,000 will provide $140,000 annually for salary and benefits, enough to attract very knowledgeable candidates.

The university should have done this itself, the commission members thought, but in the end they decided that the university was very unlikely to, so they pledged the money. “It’s unfortunate,” Nave said, “but it did seem to be necessary.” Could this approach work for other crops? Rice growers and pistachio growers have done it. Wine grape growers are at a disadvantage, however, because they have no statewide commission behind them.

Brighter than many realize
Still, UC welcomes the discussion of partnerships from a variety of public or private entities, according to Bill Frost, associate director of Cooperative Extension under the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources division. He said that despite the undeniably diminished extension staff, the situation is brighter than many in the wine industry realize.

“The ANR leadership is firmly committed to putting resources into new positions,” Frost said. Thirty-one candidates have accepted offers for extension jobs in all crops since January 2012, and 73 positions are in recruitment or will be by the end of 2014, according to Frost.

Things are happening fast, Frost said, with a little industry help and more importantly with a stabilized state budget. “Under vice president of ANR Barbara Allen-Diaz, it is by far the most aggressive hiring I’ve seen in 20 years.”

If the dawn is about to break, professionals including Wolpert and Ohmart remain doubting in the dark. Will there be enough funding to support not just extension services but the research they are supposed to extend? Will the best people be wary of taking positions funded for only six years? Will the state budget remain stable?

One thing is clear, though. Specific crops, counties or regions with extension needs now have a precedent to follow if they want to ensure extra extension help. If—and it’s a big “if” for wine grape growers—they can foot a big part of the bill.

Currently no comments posted for this article.

Wines & Vines Home
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
Wine Industry Metrics
Off-Premise Sales
IRI Channels »
Month   12 Months  
October 2015 $604 million
$8,267 million
October 2014 $572 million $7,790 million
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
October 2015 $288 million
$1,919 million
October 2014 $284 million $1,751 million
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
October 2015 179
October 2014 139 226
MORE » Released on 11.13.2015


Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
Download full report »


Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
Search the PWV archive »

  • December 2
    2015 UC Davis Grape Day
  • December 3
    North Coast Wine Industry Expo
  • December 5-6
    Holidays in the Vineyards
  • January 13-14
    DtC Wine Symposium
  • MORE »

Article: Kronenberg Leaves Legacy of DtC Opportunities »
This is amusing. While I do not quarrel with Paul's many contributions over the years,...
Reader: Guest
Article: Kronenberg Leaves Legacy of DtC Opportunities »
Wow! This this a re-writing of history! As a founder and namer of Family Winemakers...
Reader: Guest
Article: Can Wine Grapes Be Grown Without Chemicals? »
It sounds like your problem is with semantics, not with the application of products to...
Reader: Carol Collier
Article: Cuvaison Upgrades to Second Generation of Pellenc Sorter »
I'd like to know what they are doing with the sorted stuff, especially the first...
Reader: Matthew Delicata
Article: Growers Suffer Low Yields in Paso Robles »
This year's Paso Robles/San Miguel "mature" Cabernet Sauvignon yields were down to 30% of normal while...
Reader: Guest

2016 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
Wines & Vines Magazine
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
Latest Job Listings
 Bottling Line Technici...
 Clarksburg, CA
Cellar, Lab and Production
 Regional Sales Directo...
 Northeast Us, NA
Sales and Marketing
 Direct To Consumer Man...
 Stonewall, TX
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Senior Hospitality Man...
 Sonoma, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Compliance Specialist
 Santa Rosa, CA
General Administration and
 Wine Club Manager
 St. Helena, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Hospitality Lead
 Yountville, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Director Of Sales
 Southern California, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Vice President-Sales A...
 Napa, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Key Account Manager-Of...
 Midwest- Multiple Positions In Selected Cities, FL
Sales and Marketing
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:

Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
Copyright © 2001-2015 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.