President’s Year-End Wrap-Up: Top Five for 2017

If it’s New Year’s, it’s time for lists celebrating the highlights of the year. For NGWI, 2017 was big, so listing our top accomplishments is a bit daunting. Of course, coming aboard as president in April was the highlight of the year for me. (Many thanks to Wine Business Monthly for including me as one of the “Top People Moves of 2017” in the December issue!) But the year brought many major milestones. Here are my top five (in no particular order):

●   The USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Grape Research Workshop: Planned with support from NGWI, the ARS Workshop (shown at right) in Portland, OR, November 29-30, was the first in seven years. It gathered nearly 100 attendees, including ARS Administrator Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, who is currently Acting Deputy Under Secretary, Research, Education and Economics, and the nation’s Chief Scientist. Her welcome remarks kicked off the event, where ARS scientists shared their work, and grape and wine industry representatives gave their input on research needs going forward. The theme of “precision viticulture to improve productivity and quality” echoed across all four breakout groups held there, becoming the winning concept for the inaugural NGWI-ARS Cooperative Planning Grant Challenge, announced at the workshop. More on that in 2018.
●   Community-building: An NGWI core value is fostering a strong community of grape growers, processors, wineries, and representatives of government and academic institutions and cooperative extension organizations committed to improving the wine and grape industry through research. Accordingly, a big part of the year was spent on the road, participating in 14 industry events across the nation, meeting and talking with scientists and industry folks about the research that unites us.
●   Research priorities refresh: My last column focused on our new research priorities. Our top five big ideas plus specific priorities within our four research themes will be ratified at our Board meeting in January then communicated in detail. Research was front and center this year and will be brought to life in the year to come.

●   National Viticulture & Enology Leadership Conference 2017: NGWI believes strongly in the role of extension and outreach, so proudly supports this important annual event. NVEELC 2017 was held April 2-5 in Napa at UC Davis’ Oakville Station, hosted by Dr. Kaan Kurtural and planned with help from NGWI Board member Keith Striegler (E&J Gallo) and Vicky Scharlau (Washington Winegrowers), who had stepped off the NGWI Board to serve as our interim president at the beginning 2017.

 The event gathered nearly 50 extension and outreach specialists for professional development, information-sharing and networking. If you work in an extension role, don’t miss NVEELC 2018, to be held in Prosser, WA, May 20-22, 2018!
●   Branding and communications: It may not seem that critical, but upping our branding-and-communications game was a big focus this year. 2017 brought a crisp new logo, a redesigned website and renewed commitment to a monthly newsletter. These changes help build community, extend research results and broadcast our message to the industry at large.
Many more momentous changes are in store for 2018. Want a hint of what’s to come? A new Board Chair will be elected at our January meeting. Our Research Theme Committees will begin work, forming new projects to address research priorities and advising on others that align with our themes as they receive SCRI and other grant funding. And what better way to celebrate our 15th anniversary than with a new name? Approved by the NGWI Board of Directors this month, with adoption to come in the year ahead, the name is currently under wraps. Stay tuned for this and other developments in 2018!
It’s been a privilege to lead the organization in this productive time, and I look forward to all that we’ll achieve together in the months ahead. Till then, best wishes to all for a happy, healthy new year!
Donnell Brown