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Lodi grape growers prepare for annual dinner

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Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014 12:00 am

Eight young men and women from the Lodi area with an interest in agricultural studies will be awarded scholarships in February.

The Lodi District Grape Growers Association is gearing up for its 61st annual meeting and dinner, taking place Feb. 20 in Kirst Hall at Hutchins Street Square. As many as 325 residents and local and county dignitaries attend the event each year, which raises funds for the Jim Kissler Memorial Scholarship.

The LDGGA awarded $10,000 in scholarships to eight students in 2013.

The evening will include a social wine tasting hour, dinner and a raffle with prizes from a variety of local businesses and nonprofits. Wineries that will be featured during the event’s social hour include Jessie’s Grove, Woodbridge, Klinker Brick, Lucas, Weibel Family Vineyards and Viaggio, among others.

Raffle prizes include a tractor rental from Garton Tractor, a Michael~David snowboard, a John Deere children’s tractor, dinner for eight at a local winery, a collection of Lodi wines and passes to Lodi’s annual ZinFest.

Amy Blagg, the association’s executive director, said the dinner and meeting will consist of a discussion of topics facing members today, including water regulations and the current drought.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and San Joaquin County Supervisors Ken Vogel and Bob Elliott will attend the event. Vogel will say a few words at the meeting, Blagg said.

However, the focus will be on the scholarship winners, she said.

Seven of the recipients will be attending California Polytechnic Institute, San Luis Obispo: Jason Colombini, who plans to study agricultural business; Kevin den Hartog, who will study wine and viticulture; Madison Albiani, who will study animal science; Jana Colombini, who plans to study agricultural science; Clayton Lauchland, who will study agricultural systems management; Robert Olagaray, who plans to study agricultural and environmental plant science; and Katherine Rice, who will study agricultural communications.

Riley Quinn will attend California State University, Chico to study agricultural business.

The Kissler Memorial Scholarship is available to those pursing a career in agriculture, with an emphasis on viticulture, enology, agribusiness, agricultural engineering or agricultural education. Applicants must be attending or have graduated from a Lodi-area high school, or have a relationship with a local farming operation.

The association will award up to three scholarships worth $2,000 and some additional $1,000 scholarships in 2014.

Recipients who have won scholarships in the past are encouraged to apply each year.

Blagg was a recipient of a Kissler Memorial Scholarship in 2002, and said it is a vital tool for area youths who want to pursue careers in agriculture.

“I’ve seen first-hand how supporting kids in the area with this scholarship can be beneficial,” she said. “A lot of these recipients will go on to attend California schools with an emphasis in agriculture, and it’s great we still have students who want to start a career in the farming community.”

Blagg said many attendees at the annual dinner are longtime Lodi-area farmers. Some are even thirdand fourth-generation farmers, she said.

“This is a really good event, and just a great time for the entire farming community to come together,” Blagg said.

Those interested in this year’s scholarships can download applications at www.ldgga.org/education.php. Completed applications and supporting documents must be mailed by April 1 to LDGGA, P.O. Box 2004, Lodi, CA 95241.

Contact reporter Wes Bowers at lodinews.com.

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