Building Blocks

On June 26, 2023, NGRA held our Midyear Board Meeting in Napa, CA. We had a packed research agenda, hearing about priority research we support and ratifying new research priorities for the industry at large. (See more here.) But the headline for my column this month is about the new members, new Board directors, and new membership structure we ushered in.

At our June meeting, we welcomed Wonderful Nurseries as a new member-organization. Together with Sunridge Nurseries (which joined NGRA in January) and longtime member Martinez Orchards, Wonderful helps to expand our representation of the critically important nursery sector and its research needs.

Another new member, Vermilion Valley Vineyards, is our first from Ohio, deepening our understanding of the science needed to support growers in the Midwest Region. Vermilion’s Joe Juniper was elected to our Board of Directors as an At-Large Representative. Chad Hendrickson of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation also was elected as an At-Large Representative, succeeding the Foundation’s Executive Director, Sam Filler, on our Board.

This exciting growth in membership reflects the development of a new membership structure, which we began piloting with select member prospects earlier this year. It isn’t quite right to call it new, though—technically, it’s our first-ever membership structure!

NGRA always has and continues to invite membership on an altruistic basis. That is, since we represent four distinct industry sectors—raisins, table grapes, juice and wine—and a mix of for-profit companies, trade associations, state and regional commissions, grower cooperatives and more, there is no objective metric (like acreage, tonnage, boxes or gallons produced) on which to base giving. So, prospective members give at the level that feels right for their size and budget, or passion for grape research.

What’s new is that we’ve defined those levels to help organizations interested in joining NGRA find the level of giving that’s right for them. The new structure, ratified at the June meeting, is:

Founders Circle: $25,000 and above
Capstone: $10,000 – $24,999
Builders: $2,500 – $9,999
Groundbreakers: $1,000 – $2,499

The NGRA membership list now reflects all members’ level of giving so it’s easier to relate giving to peer organizations’ contributions.

Our four membership levels are named in construction themes to signify the importance of members to the strength and stability of NGRA. While that may imply financial health, there’s more to it than that. Members are the engine of our industry-led organization. They define our research priorities, ensuring that they reflect the needs of their region or sector. They identify the large-scale research projects that NGRA pursues, pushing for game-changing solutions to critical industry issues. And they comprise a community of people who care about and believe in science as a means to advance our industry. Members truly are the building blocks of NGRA.

We are excited about our new membership structure and our intrepid new members. And we look forward to seeing how they help grow and shape NGRA!

Donnell Brown