The Dutton Family, one of the Sonoma County’s premier farming families and longtime agricultural leaders and community benefactors, was honored with the Santa Rosa Junior College President’s Medallion for their contributions and leadership.
The honor, presented by SRJC president Dr. Frank Chong, recognizes the Dutton Family’s decades of enthusiastic involvement and support of SRJC and their many contributions to the college’s agricultural programs and Shone Farm, a 365 acre working ranch near Forestville. The award was presented on May 31 at the annual President’s Address to the Community, in which Dr. Chong was officially welcomed as SRJC’s fifth president. Dr. Chong succeeded Dr. Robert Agrella who retired earlier this year.
“Thank you for this great honor on behalf of my family, my children and grandchildren,” said Gail Dutton Peterson, who was a student at Santa Rosa Junior College.
For more than a century, the Duttons have been conscientious stewards of the land and have been at the forefront of introducing innovative and sustainable farming methods. They have demonstrated an enduring commitment to empowering their employees to participate in the farming business.
Gail Dutton Peterson and her two sons, Steve and Joe Dutton, are carrying on the Dutton Family’s farming legacy. That legacy started in the 1840’s when Joe and Steve Dutton’s great grandfather Warren Dutton moved from Boston to Tomales in Marin County. In 1881 Warren moved to Santa Rosa and purchased 200 acres, planting prunes, which would launch the Dutton’s family farming operations in Sonoma County.
It was Joe and Steve’s father, the late Warren Dutton Jr., a born farmer and beloved agricultural leader, who expanded the family’s farming business by planting wine grapes and apples in western Sonoma County. Warren Dutton Jr. died of a heart attack at the age of 57 in 2001, leaving a void in the agricultural community where he was an iconic figure respected for his dedication to Sonoma County and agriculture.
The Dutton family, spanning six generations in Sonoma County, produce wine grapes on more than 1,000 acres of vineyards and grow 200 acres of organic apples. Steve and Joe Dutton inherited their father’s passion for farming and learned the agricultural basics from him. They have expanded the family’s agricultural holdings and have stepped into leadership roles in the agricultural community.
John Balletto of Balletto Vineyards, a longtime friend of the Dutton Family, introduced the Dutton Family as part of the presentation of the President’s Medallion. Balletto said the Duttons are not only great farmers but great people blessed with integrity, honesty and an abiding community spirit.
“My mother always taught me that character is inherited, that is something you just can`t change.
Both Joe and Steve Dutton have inherited this great gift from their parents Gail and the late Warren Dutton,” Balletto said. “Joe with the attitude of never say never by saying ‘we can always get it done.’ And Steve with his smart business management style of looking to the future and keeping ahead of the curve.”
Balletto said Steve and Joe Dutton have continued the family tradition of farming while continuing their “everlasting involvement in local and statewide agriculture groups such as Farm Bureau, the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, soil conservation, SRJC viticulture, ag advisory boards and also their support for local charity causes such as Rotary, local schools, hospitals and others too numerous to mention.”
Balletto, who served as president of the Santa Rosa Junior College Ag Trust for many years, said community support is essential to the growth and well-being of the Santa Rosa Junior College and its agricultural programs. The Duttons have always been there to provide that support.
“The Dutton family, Gail and Ed, Steve and Theresa, Joe and Tracy and their children are a very important part of that group. Their continued support and giving secures that the college is alive and well and will be here for many generations to follow,” said Balletto.