Yamhill Carlton High School
Photo credit: www.ci.carlton.or.us
We have been fortunate to have an active and engaged FFA/Ag program at Yamhill Carlton High School. I have been very impressed with the young men and women who are involved in this program. They look you in the eye, have a firm handshake and are polite and respectful. The program is far more than the usual image of kids with animals they have raised at the county fair. I’ve had the pleasure of judging speech contests and employment interview contests. Ivory Duyn, who has worked with us since the age of 14, went to the nationals with her Ag Marketing Development project as a senior.
The Ag classes taught at the high school have been based on the traditional farming that has been done in the region. The curriculum included nursery work, animal sciences, greenhouse production, soil science, Ag mechanics and natural resources.
Photo credit: Yamhill-Carlton AVA
Grape farming (viticulture) is relatively new to the region. David Lett and Charles Coury were the first to plant vines in the area in 1965. The industry has grown significantly since that humble start. Yamhill County now boasts over 300 vineyards (three times that of any other Oregon county) and 6,500 acres planted (twice that of any other Oregon county). We are real now and it looks like we are here to stay.
This last year I began to formulate a way that our industry could provide a significant giveback to the local Ag/FFA kids in our community. It began with a meeting of the Yamhill Carlton Winegrowers board which includes yours truly. I spoke with the board members about our growing economic impact in Yamhill County and of opportunities for the youth in our community to potentially benefit from that. I 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.
Next up was a call to my friend Cheryl Roberts, president of Chemeketa Community College. Chemeketa has an existing wine and grape program that I hoped to tie in neatly with the high school. Cheryl generously provided the help of her curriculum writers Trish Conlon and Johnny Mack to help make sure any high school program developed would seamlessly transition to theirs including earning community college credits for participation in the FFA program while in high school.
With the Chemeketa support I contacted the school principal, Jim Orth,and the FFA coordinator, Nichole Eskelson and laid out our plans for establishment of the curriculum and “land lab”. They were more than excited. They both immediately grasped the new opportunities available to their students. It was a new path previously unavailable to these students and it might mean the difference in keeping our youth in the area.
The entire group met several times and I had terrific support from fellow growers Carla Chambers, John Hirschy and Joel Kiff in moving the process forward. Once curriculum was developed we approached the school board and asked for their approval. The support from the school board was unanimous and heartening.
Fundraising efforts for the first vineyard acre are underway. The FFA program expects to plant its first acre of vineyard in 2013. The Yamhill Carlton AVA raised the first $1980 of the $20,000 budget for the first acre 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. All contributions are deeply appreciated. Yamhill Carlton will be the first high school to have a viticulture curriculum and accompanying vineyard in the State of Oregon. Pretty awesome.