A new survey of more than 295 winegrape growers in Sonoma County confirms that the local winegrape industry provides a number of valuable contributions to the community. As one of the largest employers, winegrape growers pay top wages to their workers and serve as generous philanthropists contributing to non-profit organizations and groups in every corner of Sonoma County.
The survey results were released during the Sonoma County Winegrowers’ Annual Grower Seminar and Tradeshow held in Santa Rosa. The 295-plus respondents represented more than 82% of the total vineyard acreage in Sonoma County or some 47,975 acres planted to winegrapes. In addition, the respondents farm another 36,170 acres in diversified agriculture including vegetables, apples, row crops and dairy. The survey participants also own more than 53,000 additional acres that is either pasture land or open space.
“These results are so impressive as they show the valuable contributions provided by our local winegrape farmers and their families,” said Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers. She added, “We all know that our wines are recognized as some of the world’s best and we are global leaders in sustainability but it is the actions and efforts of our local winegrape growers each and every day which truly makes Sonoma County unique.”
Among the survey’s findings:
- Sonoma County grape growers employ 5,186 full-time workers
- An additional 2,644 seasonal workers are employed by grape growers;
- Vineyard employees in Sonoma County earn on average $16.34 per hour which is 60% above California’s current minimum wage of $10.50 per hour;
- More than 29% of local winegrape growers offer housing to their employees providing more than 950 total bed units in Sonoma County;
- More than 93% of the winegrape growers surveyed personally donate money to charitable causes on an annual basis and more than 74% of the winegrape farming businesses donate money to charitable causes;
- Some 63% of those surveyed personally volunteer for community organizations that serve Sonoma County; and,
- Local grape growers and their businesses contribute more than $26,959,000 annually to local charities through financial and in-kind contributions.
“Santa Rosa Junior College could not fulfil our mission of providing a quality education for Sonoma County residents were it not for the support of our local grape growers!” said Frank Chong, President of Santa Rosa Junior College. He added, “The grape growers understand the power and importance of education. While Sonoma County Grape growers harvest world class grapes, SRJC harvests world class students thanks to their support for affordable quality higher education.”
According to the survey, the top causes supported by Sonoma County’s winegrape growers either through financial contributions or volunteer services include education both general education issues and ag education (40.4%), healthcare (18.6%) and the environment (17.6%). Of those surveyed 29% of the winegrape growers serve as a board of director for an organization that supports Sonoma County residents. In fact, Sonoma County’s winegrape growers volunteer approximately 12,830 hours annually to local organizations and causes.
“These survey results demonstrate what we have always known and that is Sonoma County has an amazing collection of farmers who have always been leaders in agriculture and the community,” said Kruse. She added, “Though local residents may not know a winegrape grower or work in the wine industry, they should know that the entire region benefits from a successful wine community and the efforts of Sonoma County winegrowers.”