Bolstering Wine and Vineyard Education

Several schools in the midwest and east hire new staff, while other searches continue

by Linda Jones McKee
Annie Klodd is a new assistant extension professor at the University of Minnesota and one of several recent staff hires to support the growing wine industries of the Midwest and East Coast.

Dobson, N.C.—As the number of wineries and the acreage of grapes across the country have increased, so too has the demand for trained professionals to teach vineyard and winery workers at all skill levels.

In recent months, Surry Community College (SCC) in Dobson, N.C. hired a new viticulture instructor; the University of Minnesota Extension added an assistant extension professor for fruit and vegetable production; and Highland Community College in Wamego, Kan. filled a position for horticulture instructor. Two other Midwestern universities are actively looking for qualified instructors, one in Iowa and the other in Missouri.

Surry Community College, Dobson, N.C.
The viticulture and enology program at SCC provides workforce training and industry support not just for North Carolina but for the entire Southeast. The Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology at SCC opened in 2009 and houses a state-of-the-art commercially bonded winery. The college also has a five-acre vineyard.

This winter SCC hired Sarah Bowman as its new viticulture instructor. Bowman first became interested in viticulture when she took a university wine appreciation course at Southern Illinois University. After receiving her bachelor’s in journalism in 2010, she started graduate work in viticulture at the same university and earned a master’s in horticulture in 2013. Bowman told Wines & Vines that she worked at Dry Hill Vineyard in Ava, Ill. while studying for her masters and was hired as Illinois state viticulturist on July 1, 2017. The funding promised by the state did not materialize, and after finishing the 2017 harvest in Illinois, she accepted the position at SCC.

While working full time at SCC, Bowman will also be completing her doctorate at Southern Illinois University. Her thesis will be an analysis of different cover crop systems in vineyards and will look at measurements of parameters such as vine growth, yield, soil response and the ability of cover crops to compete with weeds. “At Surry I am primarily teaching, but also make management decisions for the five-acre Surry vineyard,” she said. “I’m fortunate to have good helpers–a full-time tech and two work-based learning students who work ten hours per week. They are finishing the final pruning and will be fertilizing next.”

The University of Minnesota Extension, Minneapolis, Minn.
Annie Klodd became the new assistant extension professor for fruit and vegetable production at the University of Minnesota Extension in January. A graduate of Grinnell College, Klodd grew up in Indianola, Iowa where her family owns Annelise Winery that has 10 acres of vineyards and produces 2,000 cases of wine, according to Wines Vines Analytics.

Klodd received her master’s in plant biology from The Pennsylvania State University in 2015. Her thesis, titled “The influence of cover crop competition on soil resource dynamics and root foraging strategies of Cabernet Sauvignon,” was a study on how perennial cover crops can be used to manage excess vine vigor. After graduation, she continued to work for Penn State Extension as a weed management specialist and also led a national outreach program on integrated weed management.

In a conversation with Wines & Vines about her new position, Klodd said she was pleased that 55 people showed up for a pruning workshop she taught on April 21. “We need to increase the supply of high quality Minnesota grapes,” she said, and attracting growers to her workshops is an important part of that process.

Highland Community College, Wamego, Kan.
Candice Fitch-Dietz recently joined the enology-viticulture program at the Highland Community College (HCC) in Wamego. As viticulture instructor and vineyard manager, Fitch-Dietz will be responsible for teaching three to nine credits per semester, will develop and lead workshops and maintain the four HCC vineyards, including the research vineyard that was planted in 2013 with 44 different varieties. "My goals are to get the new vineyards up and going, and to grow the viticulture program at Highland,” Fitch-Dietz said.

She added she hopes to “work with my fellow HCC viticulture and enology staff to complete an exciting project that has been in development here at HCC for a couple of years. The college winery will be changing names to Highland Vineyards and Winery and moving into a new winery space called 456 Wineries. 456 Wineries will also serve as an incubator space for up to five Kansas entrepreneurs that are wanting to start their own winery.”

Her final goal is to provide support and educational opportunities for the Kansas wine and grape industry.

In the Fall of 2013, the HCC viticulture program was awarded a National Science Foundation-Advanced Technology Education project grant that funded an expansion of HCC's vineyards as well as equipment purchases to teach students about commercial and mechanized scale vineyard management. HCC now has just over 5,200 vines in its four vineyards.

Fitch-Dietz most recently was a horticulture extension in the three-county Golden Prairie extension district in western Kansas. She was a classmate of Bowman at Southern Illinois University, and graduated with a bachelor's in horticultural science, and was the Illiinois VESTA (Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance) state coordinator. She will work closely with Matthew Kahl, who joined the HCC program in March 2017 to teach enology classes and manage HCC’s winery, and Scott Kohl, the administrator and director of the HCC Viticulture and Enology program since its inception in 2008.

Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
The Midwest Grape and Wine Institute at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, is seeking to hire an assistant or associate professor of enology who will also be the director of the Institute. This position is a tenure-track faculty position with emphasis on extension and outreach, as well as research, for Iowa and other Midwest states growing and making wine from cold-hardy grapes. The Institute is supported by Iowa State University, Iowa State University Extension, and the State of Iowa.

Dr. Murli R. Dharmadhikari served as extension enologist and director of the institute until he retired in January 2017. During his time as enologist and director, Dharmadhikari conducted research on resveratrol, developed courses in enology, offered outreach enology classes and developed a wine quality certification program for the Iowa wine industry. He also served as chair of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture-Eastern Section.

According to Mike White, extension and outreach viticulture specialist at Iowa State University, two candidates were offered the position, and in both cases, they declined the job after the universities where they were still employed increased their salaries and benefits to encourage them to stay. More information about the position is available from White at mlwhite@iastate.edu, or by calling 515-681-7286.

University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo.
The Grape and Wine Institute (GWI) at the University of Missouri-Columbia is currently recruiting for a full-time vineyard manager and research specialist. The person filling this position will be a member of the viticulture program team and will collaborate with all GWI faculty members to advance the program. Primary responsibilities of the position will be executing field duties as needed to maintain the health of research plots and assisting with field data collection.

In addition, the vineyard manager will provide effective and efficient management of viticulture program projects including establishing and maintaining research plots; conducting viticulture experiments; collecting, managing and statistically analyzing data; preparing reports and assisting with manuscripts; providing assistance for workshops, conferences, field days and short courses; and maintaining research files and records.

A Bachelor’s degree (or preferably a Master’s degree) in viticulture, plant sciences, soil sciences, or agronomy, or an equivalent combination of education and relevant experience, and at least one year of experience from which comparable knowledge and skills can be acquired, is necessary. For more details, go to missouri.edu and refer to Job ID 26145.

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