Monday, 04 March 2024

AgVenture 2023 class wraps up

The AgVenture Class of 2023. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — The AgVenture Class of 2023 met for its fourth and final session on Nov. 17 at The Ripe Choice Farm in Lakeport.

The day was highlighted by a visit to the Chacewater Olive Mill with its new Italian olive press running full bore, followed by an educational wine tasting curated by Marlana Gould of Brassfield Estate.

The wines, crafted by Shannon Family Wines, Chacewater Winery, Brassfield Estate Winery, and award-winning home winemaker and class member Merry Jo Velasquez, were made from grapes from four of Lake County’s AVAs.

Expert speakers who led the informational program included Sam Upton, Lake County Deputy Agricultural Commissioner; Paul Manuel, owner of Chacewater Winery and Olive Mill; and Eric Aasen, retired biotechnologist.

An ag labor panel featuring Matthew Viohl, California Farm Bureau Federation’s Director of Federal Policy, David Weiss of Bella Vista Farming Co., and Bonnie Sears of Beckstoffer Vineyards Red Hills discussed the history of immigration legislation, independent labor contractors and the H-2A Program, as well as the advantages, challenges, and disadvantages of present-day regulations and programs, both to employers and farmworkers.

The session ended with a candid, interactive discussion by three farmworkers, Octavio Jimenez, supervisor at Scully Packing Company; Lupe Perez, supervisor at Beckstoffer Vineyards Red Hills; and Jaime Rosas, an independent farmer.

Each of them described how they came to this country with nothing and their individual life experiences, both personal and professional, leading to the responsible positions they now hold.

It takes the cooperation of the entire agricultural community to produce an award-winning program, and the AgVenture Committee wishes to thank our partners who treated this year’s class to an insider’s view of their ranches and facilities: Gregory Panella of Panella Orchards, Scully Packing Co., Kendall-Jackson Winery, Beckstoffer Vineyards Red Hills, Seely Orchards, Upper Lake High School FFA and AgVocational Faculty and Chacewater Olive Mill.

The committee also extends a big thank you to Bella Vista Farming Co. for providing transportation for all four sessions, and to the venue sponsors, who put a sparkle into each session with their warm atmosphere and delicious lunches: Jeff and Beth Havrilla of Lake Event Design, Beckstoffer Vineyards’ panoramic deck with meal catered by Rosey Cooks, Bernie Butcher of the Blue Wing Saloon and Cafe, and Tammy and Mark Lipps of The Ripe Choice Farm and Catering.

AgVenture, presented by Lake County CWA, has now completed 12 seasons. The program, designed for non-farming community leaders and others who wish to understand the vital role that agriculture plays in Lake County’s economy, comprises four monthly sessions from August to November. Its dedicated steering committee includes Colleen Rentsch, Bonnie Sears, Sharron Zoller, Katherine VanDerWall, Rebecca Harper, Toni Scully, and Debra Sommerfield.

Invitations to apply for the 2024 class will be extended in the spring. Contact any committee member to suggest potential nominees.

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