Three of eight young men and women were on hand at Hutchins Street Square on Thursday night to receive the Jim Kissler Memorial Scholarship.
The Lodi District Grape Growers Association held its 61st annual meeting and dinner on Thursday night to recognize the honorees, as well as update members on pressing issues affecting the wine and agricultural industries.
Amy Blagg, LDGGA executive director, said this year’s attendance was among the largest seen in years.
“We’re pretty much at maximum capacity tonight,” Blagg said. “It’s so great to see so many people here, and it’s always nice to see elected officials in attendance and support(ing) our local growers.”
Among the elected officials in attendance were San Joaquin County Supervisors Ken Vogel, Bob Elliott and Carlos Villapudua; Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore; and Lodi Mayor Phil Katzakian and Councilman Alan Nakanishi.
Tobbie Wells, LDGGA director at large, said this year the association was able to give out $12,000 in Jim Kissler Memorial Scholarships.
Wells presented awards to Jason Colombini, who plans on studying agricultural business; Kevin den Hartog, who will study wine and viticulture; and Jana Colombini, who plans to study agricultural science. All three either are or will be attending California State Polytechnic Institute, San Luis Obispo this year.
Other students from the university who received scholarships were not present Thursday night. They are Madison Albiani, who will study animal 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.
California State University, Chico student Riley Quinn, who plans to study agricultural business, was also not present.
Wells said the students had conflicting schedules that prevented them from attending.
Jason Colombini talked about his student life at the university, describing his recent campaign and election as SLO’s student body president. He said his new life at the university and path to a career in agricultural business would not have been possible without the scholarship.
“Thank you for your continued support of programs like these,” he told the crowd of 350 at Kirst Hall in Hutchins Street Square. “The impact it has on students is greater than you can possibly imagine.”
Vogel also addressed those in attendance, stating grapes were San Joaquin County’s No. 1 commodity in 2012, and may be declared the same for 2013. The Board of Supervisors has not yet seen the final sales numbers.
He also addressed a major concern among grape growers and other area farmers: the dwindling water supply. Vogel said he planned to head to Washington, D.C. in the near future to urge legislators there to find ways to bring more water not only to San Joaquin County, but all of California.
“We can’t afford to wait many more years before we develop more water sources. It’s really that simple,” he said. “It’s important to help those who will suffer from this drought, and we have to find ways to get water where it’s needed.”
Vogel received a round of applause when he said he opposed the Bay Delta Conservation Plan that Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to push through the state Legislature. He told those in attendance to learn as much as they could about the plan and stay informed.
“Agriculture is strong in this county,” he said. “You’ve got to keep on farming and doing things right, but anytime you get a chance, please help us find some sources of water.”
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org.