Higher Education Option for Oklahoma Vineyard Owners

Press Release
April 15, 2005 from Rinda Skaggs , Education Chair
Oklahoma Grape Growers and Wine Makers Association


The cornerstone for higher education curriculum for Oklahoma vineyard owners and their employees has been laid by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education through a recent Economic Development grant to Redlands Community College in El Reno, Oklahoma. According to the official grant announcement by William Baker, Vice President of Instruction and Student Services for Redlands Community College:

Redlands Community College will receive approximately $170,000 for its collaborative project with VESTA (Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance) and the grape industry.

The purpose of the project is to provide a sound education and training curriculum for the grape-growing and wine-making industries, particularly in the economically depressed areas of Lincoln County and adjacent areas. The project also provides undergraduate education and research opportunities that benefit the students and the grape industry, while bringing lab services to small- and medium-sized operations.

Rinda Skaggs, Education Chairman for the Oklahoma Grape Growers and Wine Makers Association said Friday that she would make the promotion of the programs at Redlands Community College and future developments at other universities, the top priority of the OGGWMA Education Committee. "We must prepare the emerging generation of grape growers for the responsibilities of continuing the work started across Oklahoma. Already there are jobs waiting in Oklahoma wineries for workers in vineyard management, marketing, and in all business functions of the value added processing facilities at the wineries and juice company."

Until now, there has been no source of educated workers inside Oklahoma. "All of our certified professionals have been trained out of state." Skaggs and her husband, James, own Rock Creek Vineyard in Norman. They travel 310 miles each month for course work at Grayson County Community College in Dennison, Texas. Other Oklahomans drive to Dennison from Northwestern and Northeastern corners of the state.

Skaggs applauds the State Regents for the foresight and vision to recognize the value of the grape and wine industry to Oklahoma’s future economic wealth. "We’ve had an incredible amount of support from the state Secretaries of Agriculture and Commerce and their staff. They have gone out of their way to help us spread the message of our vision for Oklahoma’s future. We are delighted that our Regents recognize the potential growth of our industry in rural economic development."

The OGGWMA membership is a mix of professionals with backgrounds in medicine, business, agriculture, engineering, education and government. Most have returned to Oklahoma to invest retirement nest eggs to establish the vineyards and wineries of Oklahoma. Many hold advanced degrees. "We value higher education and have been working to establish training for Oklahoma students." Skaggs said.

Above all, Skaggs congratulates the Lincoln County Grape Growers Association for partnering with Redland Community College in applying for the grant. “Their president, Don Neal, has been responsible for coordinating the delivery of 21,000 new vines to be planted in the area this spring. These new growers will need the support offered by Redlands Community College as soon as it can be extended.”.

Quoting JL Gilbert, co owner of Sparks Vineyard and Winery in Lincoln County," ‘What took decades to establish in Napa Valley is happening at the speed of light in Oklahoma’", Skaggs concluded.

Information about salaried positions in the wine and grape industry can be found at winejobs.com which is the online jobsite for Wine Business Monthly magazine.The Oklahoma Grape Growers and Wine Makers Association can be contacted at their website:


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