Australia is a country we know is there, but for most of us in North America it’s rarely in our daily thoughts. That has not been the case for me lately. This month I will lead a small group on a trip ‘down under.’ We are a Vocational Technical Team sponsored by Rotary International District 5060, which stretches 550 miles from Prosser, WA to Clearwater B.C. The two-nation district has 59 Rotary clubs and 2,800 members.
A Rotary sponsored Vocational Technical Team is a group of professionals who travel abroad to share their knowledge and to learn more about their industries from other professionals. Our team will travel to Rotary District 9500, a large area that covers the state of South Australia and part of the Northern Territory. From the coastal city of Adelaide to the remote outback town of Alice Springs it’s a span of 1,531 kilometers or 951 miles. That’s about the driving distance from Yakima WA to Los Angeles.
On the trip we’ll focus our studies in winemaking and marketing, agri-tourism, viticulture and agriculture practices. We’ll tour vineyards, wineries, orchards, croplands and production facilities plus local attractions. We’ll share best practices with colleagues while also learning from them. In addition, we’ll speak to Rotary clubs about our professions and our communities. Then in May, a team with similar professional interests from Rotary District 9500 will come to our region to learn about our wine and agricultural industries.
Here’s a short bio on the team (pictured above, from left to right)
Lynn Bremmer has been involved in the B.C. Wine industry for many years. She was a technician and assistant winemaker at Andres Wines for 7 years and winemaker at Brights Wines for 12 years. Lynn is the current chair of the B.C. Wine Grape Council. She owns and operates a 2 hectare vineyard in Oliver and is a partner with her husband John in Mount Kobau Wine Services supplying field sampling, analysis and wine making/viticulture services to the B.C. wine industry. Lynn is interested in presenting on the history of the B.C. wine industry and the movement from hybrid grapes to a non-grape/wine industry to a complete re-vamping of the industry to a premium grape/wine industry, as well as grape research at Summerland Research Centre and University of British Columbia.
Jim Blonde owns a U-Pick orchard and intends to deliver training in growing blueberries, apples, raspberries, plums and pretty much all stone fruit, as well as vegetables and hops. He is keen to learn about water conservation using drip irrigation, crop placement, and tourism promotion using social media and web-based advertising. A native of upstate New York, Jim worked in the Department of Defense and has had a multifaceted career in technology and other fields.
Reto Gebert is a viticulturist from Kelowna, B.C. and has had a passion for grapes since he has been able to pluck the berries off the clusters. He currently is the assistant vineyard manager at the family winery, St. Hubertus Estate Winery. After graduating from high school in 2009 he traveled to Ontario to study in the Winery and Viticulture Technician Program at Niagara College. Working part-time at different vineyards, volunteering at winery events and taking part in the Royal Visit at the college, Reto was able to gain a more hands-on approach to the wine industry and how other regions grow grapes. Reto received his diploma in 2011. Over the past few years he has been hopping around to work in different wine regions from Switzerland to New Zealand.
And then there is me, John Cooper of Yakima, WA. I’m a member of the Yakima Rotary Club and have been President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism since June 2007. In my position I’ve developed brand strategies and programs to position the Yakima Valley as a wine, craft beverage and agri-tourism destination. My goal for the trip is to learn new ideas to market wine and agricultural based destinations, community development ideas plus share best practices from our region. As team leader I will assist the group with a planning and coordination efforts on site.
Watch for updates and pictures from the trip. G’Day mate!