Sonoma County’s Farm of the Future Seeking Input from County’s Vineyard Employees
SANTA ROSA, Calif. (February 23, 2024) – More than 1,000 local vineyard employees will be participating in a major survey in the coming weeks to identify key areas of need for workforce development, skills training, sustainability and more. This is a larger follow-up survey to one taken in 2021 by the Fundación de la Voz de los Viñedos which was the largest survey ever conducted of full-time vineyard employees in Sonoma County.
The purpose of the survey is to identify and understand the challenges and needs of the vineyard employees today and in the future including better understanding the impacts of climate change on our workforce such as wildfires, floods and freezes; agricultural technology; precision ag training; and more.
“We want to learn from our vineyard employees what their work needs are as well as any other challenges they face,” said Karissa Kruse, executive director of the Fundación de la Voz de los Viñedos and president and chief executive officer of the Sonoma County Winegrowers. She added, “Using the survey findings, we can work together to develop meaningful solutions which is exactly why the Farm of the Future was established – to develop real, solution-based collaboration to ensure the future of agriculture.”
The survey will be conducted by Christopher Thornberg, PhD, a renowned economist and partner at Beacon Economics, an independent economic research and consulting firm. The survey findings will also serve as a benchmark against other full-time agricultural employees throughout California and around the nation, as well as other jobs with similar education and experience to learn how to improve career opportunities for agricultural employees. The survey will be fielded in the coming weeks and target 1,000 full-time vineyard employees from throughout Sonoma County.
“Sonoma County, like much of California and the nation, is facing a critical shortage of labor in many key industries with agriculture being one of the hardest hit,” noted Christopher Thornberg, PhD Founding Partner at Beacon. “This data will play an enormous role in helping Sonoma County’s wine community attract, retain and train this critical labor force, both for the benefit of the vineyard employees and for the good of the local economy as well.”
The Farm of the Future was established by the Sonoma County Winegrowers to recognize the threats facing it including climate impacts and marketplace dynamics and establish collaborations and pilot projects throughout Sonoma County’s certified sustainable vineyards to identify solutions. Labor is and will continue to be a major challenge facing agriculture around the globe and this survey is intended to help identify specific challenges and begin working on solutions here in Sonoma County.
The Sonoma County Fundación de la Voz de Los Viñedos collaborates with various community-based organizations and 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 resiliency, recognition, empowerment, and workforce development.
About the Sonoma County Fundación de la Voz de Los Viñedos:
Originally called the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation (SCGGF), Sonoma County Fundación de la Voz de Los Viñedos 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, the Fundación 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. In 2022, the first class of the Leadership Academy met to brainstorm names for the Foundation which would best represent them and the work they do. They selected Sonoma County Fundación de la Voz de Los Viñedos. Since its relaunch in 2016, the Sonoma County Fundación de la Voz de Los Viñedos has continuously proven it has a unique model of outreach and support, recognizing and relying on the trusted relationship that farmers have with their employees. The Sonoma County Fundación de la Voz de Los Viñedos collaborates with various community-based organizations and 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, education, recovery and resiliency, and workforce development. The Fundación is managed by the Sonoma County Winegrowers with a 16-member board of directors comprised of agricultural leaders, vineyard and winery owners, and Sonoma County community leaders.