If there is one common denominator in the Napa Valley, it is our mutual love and appreciation for this truly unique place in the world.
As growers and farmers, we share a responsibility for the mere 45,000 acres of which we are stewards. We share a sense of place due to a combination of distinct elements. For example, the many soil profiles that allow versatility in varietal selection. Our climate is certainly the envy of many. And when channeled by the geographic features of the hillsides bordering our valley floor, the viticultural benefits are further enhanced.
We now have a new element that distinguishes the Napa Valley. In 2011, the Farmworker Foundation was established to support and promote Napa Valley’s vineyard workers through education and professional development.
Since its inception, the Farmworker Foundation has served farmworkers and their family members with high-level programs focusing on leadership and professional development, quality in the vineyard, health and safety, financial advice, English language opportunities, scholarship and internship programs, navigating the American school system, as well as providing information on local community services.
The reception of this effort over the last six years has been remarkable. In 2011, we had 1,757 Napa County farmworkers attend the various courses offered. Last year, that number had risen by more than 65 percent. Even more exciting was the fact that the educational hours had grown 1,325 percent.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the passion and commitment of our grower community, as well as the many generous friends who raise a paddle at our annual fundraiser, Harvest STOMP to celebrate the most visible contributors to the industry. Revenue generated to support workforce development has grown from our initial year of $40,000 to an astonishing $688,000 in 2016 – a 1,620 percent jump!
Perhaps what makes me most proud of our success in formalizing a culture of achievement is that it sends a message to our valued workforce. The days of the migrant laborer paradigm are now a decade of the past. Housing can no longer afford to be “barracks” style, and accommodate men only. We now have a full-time, year-round workforce often dedicated to individual vineyards. While we all acknowledge the need for expanded housing options, it remains important that we all view farmworker housing as workforce housing. To build a strong and inclusive community, that housing should be spread throughout the community and not be aggregated in separate enclaves.
Another event introduced by the Farmworker Foundation that has been wildly successful is Día de la Familia. This summer gathering, usually held in late July, brings thousands of farmworkers and their families together to enjoy musical performances, artistic entertainment and to learn about a wide range of local community organizations and services. The celebratory nature of the day includes a taco lunch for all and many family activities. Our goal is to make sure our workforce families are completely included in the social fabric of our community.
Let me close by reiterating my profound appreciation to the many donors, volunteers and employees who embrace the vision of advancement and inclusivity for our workforce.
In sum, much more is being done around us than we might realize. While we have much to celebrate, we have lots left to do.