Article and Photo by Rachel LaFranchi
Published February 1, 2016
|Carolyn Wasem and Katie Jackson at Kendall-Jackson Wine Center in Santa Rosa.|
Katie Jackson is a second generation winegrower and the Vice President of External Affairs and Sustainability for Jackson Family Wines (JFW). Her father and mother, Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke, founded the family wine business in 1982.
With three generations now working for Jackson Family Wines, Katie Jackson said she grew up around the family business. She began working with her family’s company over her summer breaks in high school. She worked her first harvest at Stonestreet in Alexander Valley, followed by a stint in JFW’s Communication department before moving into her current role within External Affairs and Sustainability.
Jackson met her husband Shaun Kajiwara during a harvest. Jackson and Kajiwara married in 2012 and had their first child, Ethan who will be a 3rd generation, last September. Kajiwara continues to work at Jackson Family Wines as a Vineyard Manager.
Jackson works alongside Carolyn Wasem, Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Sustainability. Together, the pair works on government, regulation and community-based issues throughout Sonoma County and beyond.
Wasem has a background in politics and knew the Jackson family before joining the company. Since 2000, she had worked with JFW as a consultant, but officially began working for their External Affairs and Sustainability department six years ago.
“My philosophy is that it’s important to build relationships across the board with people who are not always natural allies with agriculture such as regulators, politicians and policy makers,” said Wasem.
Wasem sits on the board of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, and she remembers that when they first became involved, there were not many wineries actively participating. Today, Farm Bureau is fortunate to have the support of the growing wine industry in Sonoma County.
“Farm Bureau is the leading voice for agriculture in at the national, state and local level,” said Wasem. “They want to protect agriculture and make sure it thrives here, and that’s everyone’s goal. They take a very active role in our community to accomplish this.”
Jackson describes Farm Bureau membership as a natural fit for the company. “My dad believed very strongly that it was important to protect agriculture. We’re happy to have an advocate in the Farm Bureau that’s there for us.”
Wasem said Jackson Family Wines chose Premium Membership because they understand the value Farm Bureau brings to the agricultural community. She said Farm Bureau aligns with their perspective that all agriculture, even the smallest producers, should have a voice in the industry.
In addition the supporting Farm Bureau with Premium Membership, JFW also sponsors a $5,000 Farm Bureau Foundation scholarship in memory of Jess Stonestreet Jackson every year to promote agricultural education for the next generation.
Jackson said her father was a big believer in supporting agriculture, especially young people. She said it’s helpful to have great ag producers protecting Sonoma County’s identity and creating a great place to live.
Jackson Family Wines is a big supporter of many community organizations, including local 4-H programs as well as the Family Justice Center of Sonoma County. Jackson said their commitment to give back is rooted in her parents’ strong feelings responsibility towards their community, especially causes supporting children and education.
Jackson Family Wines continues to take a leadership role as an innovator in their community. As a result, the company has undertaken a number of technological initiatives to reduce their overall energy consumption. This includes implementation of renewable generation sources and stationary energy storage systems to create an integrated energy solution. By early 2016, they expect to be the largest solar energy generator of U.S. wineries.
In addition to investing in innovative programs towards energy efficiency, JFW’s next important step is water conservation.
Last summer, Jackson spearheaded a collaboration with three regulatory agencies and other grape growers to develop a series of voluntary drought initiative designed to save water and protect local fish species in the Russian River watershed. This voluntary agreement resulted in the water release from the Jackson family’s vineyard in the Green Valley watershed and provided juvenile Coho salmon a chance for survival resulting from increased water flow. Jackson said it was amazing to see what a difference a small project could make.
For the future, Jackson Family Wines has a five year plan to reduce water use by 33% companywide. In the last five years, the initiatives they have allowed the company to reduce overall water intensity by 50% since 2008.
JFW continues to support their community and innovate with cutting edge technologies. Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s Premium Membership is one of the ways they aim to support their community.
For more information visit jacksonfamilywines.com.