Leading Employers from the Wine and Agriculture Industry Come Together with Educators and Students to Announce Partnership in a Long-Term Effort to Provide New Pathways to Jobs

[Lodi, CA]  – On Wednesday May 24th, 2023, the Lodi Winegrowers, the Lodi Appellation Inclusion Collective (LAIC), and leading employers from the agriculture industry in San Joaquin County convened to announce the launch of the Growing Futures Initiative focused on providing more inclusive pathways to agriculture jobs in the region long-term. Specifically, the group announced the formation of an Agricultural Partnership Board in San Joaquin County that will support a Career Connected Learning Initiative pilot program where students intern at the Lodi Winegrape Commission, Holt of California, and Acquiesce Winery this summer.

“We formed LAIC with a primary goal of increasing diversity and inclusion in the wine industry in our appellation and beyond,” shared Rodney Tipton, LAIC Founder and co-owner of Acquiesce Winery. “We know that the most effective and sustainable way to do this is to begin by providing the proper education and exposure to young people from diverse backgrounds who are interested in our industry. The formation of the Ag Partnership Board and the launch of the Career Connected Learning Initiative can be the engine for bringing more and more diverse talents into our industry and help provide good jobs to local youth who want to stay in our region.”

The Lodi Appellation Inclusion Collective is a group of Lodi wineries and professionals with a mission of increasing diversity in the San Joaquin County region and the industry at large. Back in August of 2020, Rodney & Sue Tipton of Acquiesce Winery reached out in search of creating new inclusive spaces in the wine industry. Over the course of a few months, LAIC was born featuring 10 winery businesses in Lodi committed to change. The formation of a partnership board and creation of a career connected learning pathway for students to work at local wineries and agricultural employers around the region was identified as a next step to move toward these goals.

“We are so grateful for the leadership and partnership of the LAIC community and others on the Ag. Partnership Board,” added Don Shalvey, CEO of San Joaquin A+. “The Growing Futures Initiative is so important to us because, as an organization focused on preparing the youth of our region to do what they love and earn what they need to in adulthood, we believe partnerships and programs like this one are essential to achieving that goal. This career connected learning program will give students exposure to and experience with some of our region’s largest industries, and provide a realistic pathway for them to pursue careers in viticulture and agriculture if they are interested.”

The career connected learning pilot program at Valley Robotics Academy (VRA) is created through a partnership with Lodi Unified, Delta College, and the Lodi Winegrape Commission. The pilot will provide students and employers with an opportunity to experience an internship program, with a goal of both expanding these experiences and a broader career connected learning program across grades as a part of a commitment to dual-enrollment for high school students who will earn college credits while they are in high school.

“Our students are really enjoying their engagement with employers and their exposure to these opportunities so far,” shared Dr. Stacy Kahn, principal of Valley Robotics Academy. “This program is so exciting because not only will it expose students to career opportunities that allow them to learn and earn at the same time, but they will also be taking college courses at Delta College in their career pathway of interest, earning them important credits for free,” she continued, “All of this is centered around a goal to put students on a pathway to success in a career they are passionate about that will provide them the means for earning and advancement in adulthood.”

Lodi Unified School District and VRA has worked in collaboration with San Joaquin A+ to plan this program, and has committed to expand on the program in the 2023-24 school year with lessons from this pilot. The vision is for Lodi to grow and sustain a thriving intergenerational community that includes excellent educational and career opportunities for young people, a competitive and inclusive labor market, and an innovative and profitable agriculture industry that is deeply invested in future generations.

“Lodi USD and our industry partners have been working on the Growing Futures program for the past several years in order to provide opportunities for students to explore viticulture and hospitality innovations and careers and gain valuable work experience through internships,” added Dr. Cathy Nichols-Washer, Superintendent of Lodi USD. “We greatly appreciate the local businesses that serve as consultants and internship sites. We are thrilled that this first year at Valley Robotics Academy has been successful and we are excited to expand the program. We know that Growing Futures meets a need for both students and communities and can serve as a model for the state.”

To support this specific pilot program with VRA, and with a goal to grow others like it across the region, leaders in the industry are announcing the formation of the San Joaquin Agricultural Partnership Board. The role of the Partnership Board is to support Agriculture-Focused Early College High Schools in achieving their objectives and serve as a resource to the Work-Based Learning Coordinator and school-based teams. The board includes a combination of employers and educators from across the region (see end of release for full list).

“Our organization is thrilled to be a part of this initiative, because it provides us with access to a local and diverse group of talented students and future leaders,” added Ken Monroe, President, Holt of California. “We are a company where we believe you can be a successful staff member and leader regardless of your academic background – in fact, a number of our Vice Presidents do not have traditional college degrees. We hope exposure to our workplace might help some young people find a pathway to a successful career where they might not have otherwise.”

Lodi and the greater San Joaquin County is one of the largest wine industries in the United States. An economic impact report done for the California wine industry estimated that the SJ County wine and grape industry has an Economic Impact of $2.4 billion and there are around 14,000 jobs directly and indirectly involved.

“The Lodi winegrowing community is very excited to launch this innovative career-connected learning program that creates pathways for our local youth into our industry,” concluded Stuart Spencer, Executive Director, Lodi Winegrape Commission. “Our success and our community’s success depend on growing local talent. Lodi growers and vintners are committed to mentoring, interning, and investing in future generations to sustain our winegrowing community for the long-term health and benefit of the entire region.”

To learn more about Ag. Partnership Board and CCL Vision you can view a webinar here.

Agriculture Industry Partnership Board



Stuart Spencer

Lodi Winegrape Commission

Ken Monroe

Holt of CA

Paul Burkner

Ag Industrial Mfg

Stephen Machado


Matt Frank

Trinchero Family Estates

Rodney Tipton

Acquiesce Winery

Trudy Salmon

Kaiser Permanente

Sue Tipton

Acquiesce Winery

Stephanie Bolton

Lodi Winegrape Commission

Carrie Wright

City of Stockton

Ikimi duBose

The Roots Fund

Michelle Lopez

Trinchero Family Estates

Katie Wipfli

Agriculture & Environmental Technology @ SJCOE

Don Shalvey

San Joaquin A+