1. Viticulture Program Started at Yamhill Carlton High School

    OWB Blog (Nov 8 2012)

    1. Viticulture Program Started at Yamhill Carlton High School

      Ken Wright, legendary Oregon winemaker, has a long track record of civic involvement in Carlton, home of Ken Wright Cellars. Most of his efforts go unrecognized and that’s the way he mostly wants it.

      But his most recent effort has special significance for the future of the Oregon wine industry. Wright worked with a number of educational and industry organizations to start a first-in-the-state viticulture program as part of the Future Farmers of America/Agriculture curriculum at Yamhill-Carlton High School. The idea grew out of how impressed Wright has been with the students who have been involved in FFA. “They look you in the eye, have a firm handshake and are polite and respectful,” he said.

      The Ag curriculum at Yamhill Carlton High School has been based on the traditional farming that has been done in the region, including nursery work, animal sciences, greenhouse production, soil science, Ag mechanics and natural resources.

      Wright broached his idea with members of the Yamhill Carlton Winegrowers board, an entity he had a hand in establishing. He asked for their blessing to pursue the creation of a viticulture curriculum at the high school and the establishment of a working vineyard on the school property historically farmed for grain.

      He then contacted a friend, Cheryl Roberts, president of Chemeketa Community College. Chemeketa has an existing wine and grape program that Wright hoped to tie in with the high school program. Roberts provided the help of her curriculum writers to make sure the program would transition to earning community college credits.

      With the Chemeketa’s support Wright contacted the high school principal, Jim Orth, and the FFA coordinator, Nichole Eskelson, and laid out plans for establishing the curriculum and a “land lab”. “They were more than excited. They both immediately grasped the new opportunities available to their students. It is a new path previously unavailable to these students and it might mean the difference in keeping our youth in the area.” Wright said

      Wright gained support from fellow growers Carla Chambers, John Hirschy and Joel Kiff in moving the process forward. “Once the curriculum was developed we approached the school board and asked for their approval,” Wright noted. The support from the school board was unanimous and heartening.

      Fundraising for the first vineyard acre is underway. The FFA program expects to plant its first acre of vineyard in 2013. The Yamhill Carlton AVA raised the first $2,000 of the $20,000 budget via a raffle at its spring consumer tasting. AVA members have made cash contributions and committed to making additional contributions in cash and in kind. “Pretty awesome,” Wright exclaimed.

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