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Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation Honors 44 Individuals with its 2018 Vineyard Employee Sustainability Recognition Award

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Gabino Ramirez Recognized as the Vineyard Employee of the Year

SANTA ROSA, Calif.  (January 14, 2019) – Winegrape growers, vineyard employees, families, community leaders and Congressman Mike Thompson gathered at Saralee and Richard’s Barn at the Sonoma County Fairground on Saturday to recognize and celebrate 44 individuals who were recipients of the 2018 Vineyard Employee Sustainability Recognition program.

The recognition award program was launched in 2018 to honor the men and women who excel in grape growing in Sonoma County.  A specific theme is designated for each month of the year to showcase the various skills and contributions made by vineyard employees.  Themes include leadership, innovation, safety, conservation, as well as specific vineyard skills such as pruning, canopy management and harvest.  Employees are nominated by their employers for individual achievement and exceptional performance. Full-time, part-time and seasonal employees working in agriculture for a vineyard owner, vineyard management company or winery are eligible for the award.  Throughout the year, monthly winners receive gift cards and clothing as well as being recognized in local newspaper advertisements.

“Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation is very proud to recognize our talented ag employees who are critical to the growth of the region’s premier grapes that make some of the world’s best wines,” said Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers and the executive director of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation.  She added, “These are some of the most talented individuals in the world’s wine industry and valuable members of our community.  Sonoma County winegrowers have a proud history of working collectively to positively impact the lives of our employees and their families and we are committed to making this program one of the most prestigious awards in our county and our industry.”

In 2016, as part of their quest to become the first 100% sustainable winegrowing region, Sonoma County Winegrowers relaunched the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation to provide support for agricultural employees and their families as part of the socially-responsible component of sustainability.

Immediately following the devastating fires in 2017, the Foundation established a housing recovery fund for ag workers and their families who were displaced from their homes by the fires.  More than $1 million was raised from contributors in Sonoma County, throughout California and around the world.  The funds were used to pay rent support and purchase RV’s for employees who lost their homes.  Additional funds were distributed in the form of Visa gift cards to purchase new household items, food and supplies and to help pay utilities for other Ag employees impacted by lost wages and evacuations during the fires. Remaining funds are being used by the Foundation to address the long-term need for affordable housing for ag workers, especially given the total loss of homes from the fires in Sonoma County.

As part of Saturday’s festivities, Gabino Ramirez, who been working for Serres Ranch for over 30 years, was recognized as the 2018 Vineyard Employee of the Year. The Serres Ranch was established in 1924 in Sonoma and has been owned and operated by five generations of the Serres Family. The Serres family partakes in grape growing, cattle raising, blueberry farming, and ranching in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. The ranch is nestled in the Valley of the Moon, where surrounding mountains narrow down to the smallest part of the valley, creating its own unique micro climate suitable for growing world class red wines.

“It is my honor to recognize Gabino Ramirez as Vineyard Employee of the Year and laud his incredible service. He helps to ensure our district’s wine is world-class and boosts our entire community,” said Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-05) as he presented Ramirez with a Congressional Resolution commemorating his accomplishments during Saturday’s festivities.

This special recognition honors the exceptional contributions Ramirez made to preserve agriculture in Sonoma County.  All individuals who received an Employee Recognition Award during the year were eligible for the Vineyard Employee of the Year award.  The annual award recognizes the individual who best displays the 11 traits recognized throughout the year and possesses the exceptional skills highlighted through the Vineyard Employee Sustainability program.

“Gabino is the best of the best, and our vineyard is what it is today because of his love and devotion for the place. Serres Ranch would not be what it is today without the leadership of Gabino Ramirez,” said Taylor Serres, of Serres Ranch.  She added, “He is a wonderful team member and leader of his crew, his crewmen look up to him as a strong leader and his supervisors know that little supervising needs to be done because of his experience and expertise. All of us at Serres Ranch rest easy at night knowing Serres Ranch is in Gabino’s capable – hard working – hands.”

Juan Sanchez, vineyard supervisor and a 49-year-employee at Dutton Ranch, was the 2018 Vineyard Employee of the Year runner-up.  During his years at Dutton Ranch Juan has worked his way up from field worker to tractor driver, to crew leader, to foreman, to supervisor, to manager/supervisor to the current position he holds of Head Supervisor, the fourth-highest position in management in the company. 

As part of their recognition, Gabino Ramirez will be receiving gift cards for $1,250 and Juan Sanchez will receive gift cards for $750.

About the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation:

The Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation (SCGGF) was first established in 2002 as a 501(c)(3) organization to help fund educational workshops in Spanish for agricultural employees. Relaunched in January of 2016, SCGGF is focused on improving the lives of Sonoma County’s agricultural employees and their families, while ensuring Sonoma County remains a place where agricultural workers will continue to live, work and thrive. SCGGF collaborates with various community-based organizations and government agencies to identify existing resources, leverage available support and create new programs to assist local agricultural employees and their families. This includes a focus on healthcare, affordable housing, childcare, workforce development and education. The Foundation is managed by the Sonoma County Winegrowers with a 12-member board of directors comprised of agricultural leaders, vineyard owners, winery executives, and other Sonoma County community leaders.

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