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204 Viticulture Farm Advisor – Madera, Merced and Mariposa Counties

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Status

This proposal has been formally submitted for the 2012 cycle.

Comments

22 Comments

1
60% of the winegrapes grown in the state are in the San Joaquin Valley
100% of the raisin grapes are in the same area
WE NEED A FARM ADVISOR to work on our problems
Posted May 22, 2012 7:57 AM by Dave Loquaci
2
Madera County viticulture and, more specifically, wine growing viticulture is in great need of a seriously professional advisor.

As you know, in my 47 years in this business, I have not been directly experienced in the noble professions of table or raisin production but their evolved protocol seems to be nearly perfected science.

I do however, know the stark differences between grape farming and wine growing and the proof is in our bottles of Madera grown wines.

Madera County absolutely needs someone with the knowledge and practical experience in proper land prep, sustainable farming, rootstock and scion selection, irrigation management, canopy management, nutrition, trellis configurations, pruning timing and technique, delayed ripening opportunities, economics and market trends and, perhaps most important, authentic wine making requirements.

Someone who will raise the bar and challenge all of us to successfully compete in a worldwide market.

Someone passionate about their work and our area.

Someone who knows more than the people he/she is trying to advise.

Please let me know should I be able to assist in the selection process for that someone.

They are sorely needed and have a great future here in Madera County.
Posted May 22, 2012 8:47 AM by Ray Krause
3
There is a large concentration of grape growers and wineries in this three county area. It is very diverse, with wine, concentrate, table and raisin grapes being produced. There has not been a Farm Advisor in Madera County for a few years and the Merced/Mariposa Farm Advisor is doing mostly administrative duties at the moment; he also will be retiring in about three years.
Posted May 30, 2012 10:47 AM by Maxwell Norton
4
The grape growers in Madera County have not had a farm advisor for some time now. The challenges of growing grapes is constantly changing along with the weather patterns and the influx of new and different pests. We desperately need a local farm advisor to help us with these issues to enable us grow quality grapes and compete in the global economy.
Posted Jun 9, 2012 10:22 AM by STEVEN FICKLIN, FICKLIN VINEYARDS WINERY, MADERA, CA.
5
A farm adviser is an unnecessary government expense. Does the state provide supermarket advisers? Or gas station advisers? Or railroad advisers? No. Farmers need to finally stand on their own feet and run their businesses professionally without help from the government. They all claim to be conservative but then want every subsidy, assistance and advice known to man. It's not right. CALIFORNIA CANNOT AFFORD IT! Man up and run your own businesses.
Posted Jun 15, 2012 3:16 PM by Eric Stuben
5.1
Thank you for your interest in Cooperative Extension. University research is valuable to and the driver of many economies: local, state and national. Everything that you do or are involved in today has been improved by University research, whether it is University of California or Michigan State conducting the research. Agriculture and computer technology have equally benefited from University research and in turn you have benefited too.
Posted Aug 7, 2012 6:44 PM by Stephen Vasquez
6
UC farm advisors are important for the agriculture they represent in their counties. UC Research is finding many areas where growers can improve on ---such as Nitrogen Use. Farm advisors, among other things, serve as conduits for that information to flow to growers in their areas.
Posted Jun 23, 2012 11:25 PM by Patrick Cavanaugh
7
One of the foundations of California's agricultural successes is the UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor system. The outstanding team of UC Viticulture Farm Advisors has played a major role in the California wine industry becoming a leader in the world. To continue this success I feel it is critical that UC maintains this outstanding team. Apppointing a Viticulture Farm Advisor in the Madera region will solidify the team of advisors located in the Central Valley region which produces more than half the winegrapes in California, as pointed out by the other comments. This Advisor will also provide crucial help to table and raisin grape growers. While there are very talented viticultural consultants in the private sector, UC Viticulture Farm advisors play a unique role in the California wine community. It is important that the position in Madera is filled.
Posted Jun 24, 2012 1:21 PM by Cliff Ohmart
8
Farm Advisors help make Ag. profitable. Winegrapes and viticulture bring tremendous influx of dollars into our economy. A few years ago and for many years previous Madera County led the state in wine grape acreage. We lost our Viticulture Coop. Ext agent to retirement a few years ago and he has not been replaced.

In 1862 congress passed the Morrill Act, establishing a series of state universities across the US, in 1887 the Hatch Act brought along the Agricultural Experiment Stations then Smith-Lever of 1914 brought on Cooperative Extension. All of these Federal Acts/Laws were meant to move this country and agriculture into modern times and science based decision making to help feed cloth and bring self-sufficiency into our society. This has been done admirably and today we are leaders to most of the world with our agriculture.

However, I see this lead slipping and innovation lacking when we need to be moving forward in wine quality and new ways to grow higher quality and quantity of fruit. We grow the same varieties of grapes that totally different climatic regions grow and lament that the quality isn’t there. We need to experiment on different varieties, training, trellising and rootstocks.

We need to be in the forefront of the world and the rest of California acting as innovators, otherwise we grow stagnant. Viticulture is a science, somewhat obviously, the science of growing grapes. Regardless of end use wine, raisin or table Madera is in dire need of a Viticultural Cooperative Extension Agent to help this region to further this science.

I would like to volunteer to be part of the selection process. Thanks.
Posted Jun 29, 2012 2:55 PM by Jon Holmquist
9
I have been in the agricultural consulting business in California for the past 30 years specializing in crop irrigation and mineral nutrition. I have worked with most of the commercially grown crops in the state with a specialization in permanent crops and more specifically grapes.

During these 30 years, I have been fortunate to have had access to and the support of the UCCE Farm Advisors. The Farm Advisors serving the San Joaquin Valley have been invaluable resources to me and my company by providing knowledge and expertise for a wide range of specialties. We, in turn, as a consulting company have disseminated the knowledge that we gained from Farm Advisors to our clients.

Unfortunately, during the past 20 years I have observed erosion in the support provided by the UC ANR to the agricultural industry. This erosion has been particularly acute in the area of viticulture in the SJV. Fifteen years ago there were eight (8) viticulture Farm Advisors in the SJV; five (5) of these were full time viticulture, single county advisors and three (3) advisors were advisors with half of their responsibilities focused on viticulture (with the balance of their responsibilities focused on other crops). Today, there is one (1) full time, single county viticulture advisor that also has administrative duties; one (1) full time, two county advisor that also has administrative duties; and two (2) advisors that have viticulture as half of their responsibility. In addition, most of these persons have had their duties and service areas expanded, which has further eroded their ability to provide support to the grape industry in the SJV.

The San Joaquin Valley is a region of California that represents nearly all of the raisin production in the state, the majority of table grape production and 60 to 70% of the wine grape production. Fifteen years ago, the SJV had 6.5 fulltime equivalent viticulture farm advisors; today we are down to less the 2.0 full time equivalent advisors. Today we talk in terms of “footprints” and it doesn’t take a genius to see that the UC Cooperative Extension viticulture footprint has shrunk by more than two-thirds in 15 years.

So what has been the result of this decreased support to the grape industry in the SJV?
1) Grower Meetings – There has been a significant decrease in local grower meetings, which used to be a primary vehicle of communication;
2) On-Farm Calls – Formerly a measure of a Farm Advisor’s performance, this direct communication has been significantly reduced;
3) Applied Research – A marked decrease in the number of research projects conducted by local Farm Advisors. These projects are the “take-home” messages that translate university based research findings to the local growers. Without these projects it is like running the 100 yard dash and stopping at 99 yards – coming close does not count in the end.

The need for full time viticulture Farm Advisors has not changed and has actually increased. While significant strides have been made in viticulture research, the primary vehicle to communicate the results of this research to growers (the local Farm Advisors) has decreased. The tri-county area of Madera, Merced & Mariposa counties has been without a full time viticulture Farm Advisor for over 3 years. Approximately 92,000 acres of grapes are grown within this tri-county area, which represents over 10% of the grape acreage in California. The grape industry has been and will continue to be supportive of a viticulture Farm Advisor for this tri-county area. This support includes providing land areas to conduct research, financial support, and providing venues for communication with growers and the grape industry.

As an active, engaged person in the grape industry I would encourage and support the creation of a position for a full time viticulture Advisor for Madera, Merced & Mariposa counties.

Ronald J. Brase,
President, California AgQuest Consulting
Secretary, SJV Winegrowers Association
Chairman, Research & Outreach Committee, SJV Winegrowers
Member & Past Chairman, American Vineyard Foundation Cultural Practice Committee
Past president, SJV Viticulture Technical Viticulture Group
Posted Jul 5, 2012 8:39 AM by Ron Brase
10
The positive impacts of the grape industry to the entire San Joaquin Valley are of such importance that a local Farm Advisor for Madera, Merced and Mariposa is certainly justifiable, even with the current fiscal problems in California.

Grape growers are faced with new issues and decisions that have arisen from "new" pests and production systems, including rootstocks and variety combinations that were not common only a few years ago. In the wine segment of the grape industry increased production along with improved grape quality is essential in today's market. A local farm advisor is key to pass on to growers existing research that has been conducted that can help growers address their problems or needs.

One more important funtion of a local farm advisor is that there is an ongoing need for local input to help guide research in a direction that is meaningful for growers and the industry. By having a farm advisor "on the ground" to see the issues that are of local and industry value would be a great asset to future viticultural research projects.

Carson Smith
Madera County grower
Chairman, San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Assn.
Posted Jul 17, 2012 9:38 AM by Carson Smith
11
Each viticultural area of California has its own challenges and issues pertaining to the myriad of variables found in production agriculture. Given the scope and size of Madera/Merced/Mariposa grape growing, it's truly appalling that these areas have been without direct, responsible extension advise for the last several years, and that the need to replace the position would even have to be justified. No one would argue that Napa County needs an advisor. Napa County has nowhere near the acres nor variety of grape uses as these three counties.

Having these counties serviced by other extension specialists from outside areas takes away services from other, highly valuable grape growing counties at a time when the grape business is just starting to once again pull its weight in the local economy of the San Joaquin Valley.

Restoring this farm advisor position lessens the strain on other regional advisors, puts UC in more direct contact with valuable grape grower stakeholders, and reaffirms the mission of applied research and business development required of the University given its land grant status.

Peterangelo Vallis
Executive Director, San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association
Grape Farmer, UC Alumnus
Posted Jul 20, 2012 11:13 AM by Peterangelo Vallis
12
I started farming in Madera County in 1973 and our family's farms date back long before that. Some of our White Malaga vines were planted in the early 1990's. Madera County has grown significantly since the early 1970's to were today it is a major hub of wine grape,raisin grape and table grape production.

To maintain the success that growers have had over the years it is vastly important that they have access to the best practices available to produce quality, produce it economically and while they continue to protect the natural resources for future farmers.

Many growers have been able to tap the knowledge that has been provided by research provided by the University of California and UC Fresno. There is extreme need for UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor system. I have utilized the services provide by these experts from Kern County to Napa. They are a vital part of providing research that keeps the California grape growers on the cutting edge of technology.

Furthermore it is the diligent work of the UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisers that provide that research in a practical deliverable product to the growers so they can implement them.

I began my career working with George Levitt in Madera as well as the other Farm Advisers in Fresno, Tulare and Kern Counties. Each Farm Adviser had their specific specialties as well as a rounded knowledge that they share among themselves and the grower community. Since George Levitt retired it created a vacuum within the Farm Advisers, caused Steve Vasquez to broaden his territory while not providing him or his growers he served sufficient time to be as effective as he can an should be. Steve is doing a great job. Because George Levitt's position as well as other SJV Farm advisers have never truly been replaced there is a need for additional technical expertise for growers.

I agree with an earlier comment that "Given the scope and size of Madera/Merced/Mariposa grape growing, it's truly appalling that these areas have been without direct, responsible extension advise for the last several years, and that the need to replace the position would even have to be justified."

As President of Allied Grape Growers representing nearly 600 growers statewide of which a vast amount of those growers are in the I strongly suggest and request that the University of California's School of Agriculture and Natural Resources not only consider but hire a full time Viticulture Farm Adviser for the Madera/Merced/Mariposa. Help keep this part of the state successful, productive and good stewards of the land & environment they farm.
Posted Jul 22, 2012 6:13 PM by Nat DiBuduo
13
The majority of winegrapes are grown in the San Joaquin Valley. Since the retirement of George Levitt as Madera's Farm Advisor, Stephen Vasquez has been asked to do the job of two Advisors. He has done an admirable job to those he is able to serve, however there is not enough time for him to see everyone in need. Add to that the fact that the Valley is in a growth period in which grape acreage is expanding and his time will be limited further still. There are may important issues facing our region including evasive pests, farm theft and food safety which require time and attention. Please do not wear down the good Farm advisor we have by not providing the resources the area needs.
Posted Jul 23, 2012 3:42 PM by emilio miranda
14
There has not been a viticulture or agronomy advisor in Madera County since 2006 when George Leavitt and Ron Vargas retired. Steve Vasquez has Fresno County which required 2 advisors in the past and probably still does to cover all the acreage as well as table, wine and raisin grapes. Regardless, Steve has done his best with limited resources to cover the needs of both Madera and Fresno County. It will be a challenge for a new advisor to take on Madera, Merced and Mariposa counties but I am sure there is someone out there that is up to it. This position needs to be a number 1 priority. Second largest grape growing area in the state without a Vit advisor does NOT make sense.
Posted Jul 27, 2012 12:30 PM by Tome Martin-Duvall
15
It is a appalling sad state of affairs that this position has been vacant for over 6 years and that, until now, no attempt has been made by administration to re-fill it.

The viticulture industry in Madera alone justifies a full time advisor in terms of acreage, crop value and grower numbers and adding Mariposa and Merced counties to this position makes it even more important and a stronger justification.

With the resignation and retirement of three viticulture advisors the only vit advisor resides in Fresno county and he now has a 1/2 FTE administration resposibility. 1/2 FTE in viticulture for 4 large grape acreage counties (Madera, Fre;sno, Tulare, Kern) is not sufficient help and support of technical expertise to this great industry.

The land grant system was established to aid growers to maintain the food and fiber supply of the nation and right now the University of California is not fulfilling its responsibility in this regard.

Anyone who says this position is not needed does not understand agriculture, its problems, or the purpose of the Extension system in helping by way of research and extension of information to growers to maintain the high quality production of commodities which we all enjoy.



Posted Jul 30, 2012 1:55 PM by George Leavitt
16
It is terrible that we have not had a Farm Advisor in the Madera, Merced, and Marposa areas for the past 6 years. As growers, we mutually understand the importance of a farm advisor and the wealth of knowledge that they bring to the table. They are extremely useful to all of us in the ag. industry, and greatly assist us in the challanges we're faced with in growing our crops to the maximum yields, and quality. As California growers we always strive to set ourselves apart from our foreign competion. Our farm advisors play an important role in assisting us with the research they continually conduct to improve our farming methods.
Posted Jul 31, 2012 3:49 PM by Robert Sahatjian
17
I am a third generation grape farmer. I have always utilized the help of a viticulture farm adviser when possible. From time to time problems arise during the growing season with both desease and pests. Sometimes, a new weed appears in the vineyard I have seen before. Without the advice of an advisor it can result in economic ruin and huge loss of crops and revenues. The contribution of ag to feed the world and economic benefit to the U.S. is most important. The help from a farm adviser is greatly missed in our area.

Victor Sahatdjian
President - Victor Packing Inc.
Posted Jul 31, 2012 3:59 PM by Victor Sahatdjian
18
I would like to ask that serious considration be given for this Advisor position in Madera, while the area has been served by people taking on more work in this area, we all know that it has suffered for sometime without a dedicated Advisor to Madera area it just cannot be represented well. I am the Grower Representative for the Raisin Bargaining Association and we have many growers in the area that deserve a full time Farm Advisor in Madera to help the growers with viticulture problems that may come up, and to work on applied research projects that would help them in the future. Thank you for cosideration of this very important issue.
Steven Spate
Grower Rep- Raisin Bargaining Association
Chairman Research Subcommitte- Ca. Raisin Marketing Board
Posted Aug 2, 2012 2:58 PM by Steven Spate
19
The value of a Viticulture Farm Advisor to our USDA ARS research programs is very high. Farm Advisors have the practical observations and experience to see what problems are significant, to know and explain to us in the research community where our efforts are needed (and where they are not). They are our eyes, our teachers, and our collaborators. Their participation increases the quality and credibility of our work, and the grower education capability of UC offers an excellent mechanism for our work to be known. They have links to the industry to help us find vineyards for experiments, comment on the practicality of the tests we do, and facilitate the transfer of new practices into commercial use. Please give this position a high priority for filling in this cycle.
Posted Aug 2, 2012 4:27 PM by Joe Smilanick
20
Dear Sir:
The value and the importance of a Farm Advisor is simply... they help the farmer do his job better. The benefits are numerous, but more imporantly the farmer and the farm advisor work together to benefit everyone.

Agriculture is an enormous part of the economy in the Central Valley. When farms do well, so do many other Ag-related businesses. Employment goes up and food prices remain stable or drop when production is up.
The job of the Farm Advisor is vital to the success of the Agricultural economy. This person is well trained and knowledgeable. They bring new ideas, the latest developments, and other resources to the table. Although finances are tough, priorities should be considered. The business of Agriculture in the richest Valley in the world should be considered...top priority!

I urge you to fill this position and enable the Farmer to help everyone else by doing their job better.

Sincerely,
Robert Markarian
Posted Aug 4, 2012 9:32 AM by Robert Markarian, Owner, Markarian Family Limited Parternership, Madera, CA
21
In the Central Valley of California, raisin, table and wine grape growers and processors have come to depend on the UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisors for the latest viticulture information. The people that have held the title of farm advisor have earned the trust and loyalty of growers as well as processors. The knowledge, insight and dedication they have demonstrated has served our industries well. In recent years however, the system has all but disappeared through retirement and budget cuts. The university has an opportunity to reestablish this vital link with the growers and processors of our area by adding a new Farm Advisor for Merced, Madera and Mariposa Counties. With 92,000 acres of grapes, this area represents nearly double the amount of grapes in Washington State, the second largest grape producing state in the United States. We support the addition of this position and thank you for your consideration.

Rick Stark
Grower Relations Manager, Sun-Maid Growers of California
Vice Chairman, National Grape and Wine Initiative
Posted Aug 6, 2012 9:09 AM by Rick Stark
22
As the only viticulture advisor south of Madera County, I can honestly say that the loss of colleagues has had a serious impact on my ability to work closely with growers: answering questions, solving problems and conducting research. When I started in Fresno County there were 3,500 grape growers farming 240,000 acres. In 2006, I was asked to take on Madera County (550 grape growers farming 82,000 acres) with the retirement of George Leavitt. I am currently responsible for 34% of California’s grape acreage (262,112 A in both counties) represented by approximately 3,500 raisin, table and wine grape growers in addition to PCA’s, allied industry (packers, shippers and wineries) and personnel. At one time there were two viticulture farm advisors in Fresno County with plenty of viticulture research or issues to work on annually.

Besides my viticulture farm advisor duties, I am Co-County Director for Fresno and Madera Counties responsible for interacting with County Government, external partners and covering UC responsibilities when my colleague is away from the office.

In 2008, Bill Peacock retired and in 2011, Jennifer Hashim resigned leaving advisor gaps in Tulare and Kern, respectively. Since there departure I have worked with growers from both counties by taking calls and making limited farm visits when I can combine them with other trips south of Fresno.

The tri-county position being proposed represents approximately 100,000 acres and 500+ growers. By filling the Madera, Merced and Mariposa Counties position, the new viticulture advisor would benefit greatly by having experienced viticulture farm advisors in neighboring counties. Having mentors that are successful UC ANR viticulture advisors will improve the person’s chance of being a successful advisor too. The new advisor will also be able to add to their skill set by learning from senior advisors and specialist that make up the statewide viticulture workgroup. With the impending retirement of Maxwell Norton in the next few years, it will be important for him to share his time and knowledge with the new viticulture advisor as they begin to establish themselves. This will allow the new advisors to gain valuable insights on the different grape production systems, their industries and research. The value of mentorship should not be overlooked when new (and current) advisors are being asked to cover larger areas within commodities. Being exposed to different scenarios (ie; production, disease or pest, etc.) by experienced advisors can save time and money for both the advisor and the clientele they serve.

Serving multiple counties, although not the perfect model, is not an impossible job as long as the advisor is well trained, has support from colleagues and is working within a single or similar commodity (raisin, table, wine grapes).

I request that the viticulture farm advisor position for Madera, Merced and Mariposa be strongly considered for hire. It has strong support from the areas grape industries and UC ANR’s viticulture researchers, which look forward to working with a new viticulture advisor.
Posted Aug 7, 2012 6:34 PM by Stephen Vasquez

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