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Home News Latest Middletown High School wins state grant to support new vineyard educational program

Middletown High School wins state grant to support new vineyard educational program

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From left, Justin Skinner, a junior who serves as the school farm manager for Middletown High School in Middletown, Calif.; Karen Jones, teacher and overseer for the new Middletown High School vineyard program; and Middletown High School Principal Bill Roderick, who wrote a successful proposal that won his school a $50,000 grant from the California Department of Education. The three are seen with grapevines at the school farm. Photo by John Lindblom/Lake County News.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – The planting of grapevines on a five-acre property near Butts Canyon Road is close at hand for Middletown High School, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the California Department of Education.

Attendant with that will be the birth of a new course of study for Middletown High students encompassing the science and business of growing grapes, according to Principal Bill Roderick.

Middletown Unified School District was among 67 California school districts that received a total of $3.3 million in Specialized Secondary Programs grants, according to the California Department of Education’s award announcement.

The California Department of Education said the grant has a long history of supporting the development of innovative, cutting edge programs that offer high school students the opportunity to learn real-world skills.

"What the kids will learn is there is a whole batch of math and science before grapes are ever turned into wine," said Roderick. "We can show kids that there's an industry coming from our high school that they can 100 percent go into at any different level and from many different angles – from being a mechanic, a scientist, an accountant and an advertising executive. That's what's cool.

"I wouldn't expect anything to go into the ground until fall or spring. We still have planting to do, but the course will start," Roderick added. "It will actually be a two-course sequence. The first course is viticulture modeled after what they teach at Santa Rosa Junior College."

Middletown High’s plan is to divide the course into two segments. The vineyard segment will be in the fall; the vineyard management course will be conducted in the spring.

The grant, written by Roderick, himself, actually set off what is expected to become a chain reaction that may eventually involve several of the area's vineyards and wineries. For that, teacher Karen Jones can be thanked.

In anticipation of the grant, Jones, who will oversee the new course, was more than ready to mobilize a network of experts and resources in the viticulture industry that will get the Middletown High School course off the ground and the roots of the vines into the ground.

"Karen will be in charge and she has a great knowledge of (vineyards)," said Roderick. "But more than that, she knows everybody. Once I told her we got the grant she said, 'OK, I've got to call this person, this person and this person.

"And once this thing starts going forward we've got community members who are going to say 'we can help you,’” Roderick said.

"Our community loves this high school," Roderick added. "A big chunk of the money from the grant is going to go toward getting some of the things we need to operate. Then we're going to look to get some community support and support from some of the vineyards around here."

So far James Creek Vineyards owner Scott Brown and A Cut Above vineyard manager Jim Munk have volunteered support for the course and Shannon Ridge Vineyards and Winery has endorsed it, said Jones.

"It's just a matter of contacting them," Jones said.

Justin Skinner, a junior at Middletown High School and a third-generation dairy farmer, will serve as a student manager. He has been involved in the Middletown High ag program since his freshman year.

A big break in the project came when Roderick got Middletown Unified School District Superintendent Korby Olson to OK creating a vineyard on the five-acre plot where a new elementary school was once being considered. So an environmental study was already completed.

"Part of the property is a flood plain, so there wasn't enough ground," Roderick said of the elementary school plan.

The size of the vineyard is expected to be about four acres, he said.

 "What I would like to see when this thing starts going is to figure out where the water is coming to come from, but there is a well there," said Jones. "We need to get a lot of things figured out with our resources."

The course will come online at a time when Lake County has only begun to carve out its niche in the vineyard and winery industry.

Middletown, said Jones, has the type of rocky soil conducive to growing grapes.

"We don't have the soil around here to grow crops," she said. "Our soil isn't like Kelseyville's. We don't have the higher quality soil so we have to be smart in what we're doing and what fits in our climate.

"You look this direction and that direction you're seeing grapes,” she said.

Email John Lindblom at jlwordsmith@mchsi.com . 

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Comments (3)Add Comment
AP
...
written by AP, March 05, 2014
I'd encourage you to take your ideology away from curriculum which could spawn careers and well-paying jobs, into fighting for what you believe, on the proper stage.

These kids might get a chance to learn something about our legal crop and make a career. To me, there's nothing better than having home-grown local jobs, vs. importing them from Sonoma/Napa counties.

I'm all for legalization too. But in this setting and topic, I don't believe that voice has a place.

Is alcohol still a drug? Oh, yeah - it's the socially accepted drug we're all supposed to love. Still, I'm not convinced we should be spending tax money to teach kids how to grow juice for booze. Sure, there's a lot to learn there, but we all know the end goal. Will there be extra credit offered for growing that other drug that keeps the local economy afloat? Nah. MJ cultivation is probably still extra-curricular (for now).
whitemagic
...
written by a guest, March 05, 2014
Well this is an example how we need to support our schools. We do not know yet if the grapes will be for the table. I love concord for juice..Jellies will work . Happy planting . I do believe this is right up to the minute harvest. No horrid smells good antioxidants.. No crime. Its all good . No industry like the present. Some grant. The monies were there to be had. Schools need to be part of the community and learn. There are infinet possiblies for the mighty grape. Good Luck and thanks to the wise principle smilies/cheesy.gif
Lake County Local
Table grapes, right?
written by a guest, March 05, 2014
Is alcohol still a drug? Oh, yeah - it's the socially accepted drug we're all supposed to love. Still, I'm not convinced we should be spending tax money to teach kids how to grow juice for booze. Sure, there's a lot to learn there, but we all know the end goal. Will there be extra credit offered for growing that other drug that keeps the local economy afloat? Nah. MJ cultivation is probably still extra-curricular (for now).

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 March 2014 12:21 )