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Napa Valley farmworkers thanked for work at recognition luncheon

Napa Valley farmworkers thanked for work at recognition luncheon

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Arnulfo Solorio believes that learning English helped advance his farmworker career, and his dream of seeing fellow farmworkers achieve the same is being realized through the Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation, which held its first farmworker recognition and donor appreciation luncheon Tuesday.

“My dream is that farmworkers can speak, read and write English. That they have basic math skills. That they acquire leadership skills. That they acquire general viticulture skills, and have access to professional development,” Solorio told attendees at the luncheon held at Solage Calistoga.

The Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation honored English Literacy Program graduates, recognized the 2016 Napa County Pruning Contest champions, and thanked the donors whose funding provides educational and professional development opportunities to Napa Valley vineyard workers and their families.

“Through your contributions throughout the year and at (Harvest) Stomp, we thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Jennifer Putnam, executive director of the foundation. “You have helped us educate over 10,000 people in five short years. We’ve raised almost $3 million and have a really exciting future.”

Harvest Stomp is the foundation’s annual fundraiser and harvest party that includes dinner, dancing and live auction.

The foundation was created by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers in 2011 to support and promote vineyard workers in personal and professional development. It offers programs in English literacy, vineyard safety, pest management and control, leadership skills and more.

“For years the Napa Valley Grapegrowers had been investing in farmworker education programs in an effort to improve our ability to control quality and the quality of life within in our vineyards here in Napa County,” said Paul Goldberg, vice president of the foundation and director of operations at Bettinelli Vineyards.

“As far as we know, we don’t know of any other organization in the world that has focused so much energy and time and resources to educate farmworkers as we have,” Goldberg said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) thanked the donors, employers and farmworkers for their work.

“I don’t know if you know how important you are,” said Thompson, who is also a grapegrower, to the farmworkers in attendance. “You’re the make it or break it in our profession.”

He also recounted how Rene di Rosa would read the newspaper to his vineyard workers every day to make sure his employees knew what was going on in the world and were educated. Di Rosa, who died in 2010 at the age of 91, was a vineyardist who helped put the Carneros region on the map, and was also a newspaperman and whose passion for art turned into di Rosa art collection in Napa.

“I want you all to know that your job is greatly appreciated. You the farmworkers are in large part responsible for all of the success that we, the collective we, in Napa Valley are able to enjoy,” Thompson said.

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