This website began in 2008 as Jake & I were taking the Intro to Winemaking course through UC Davis and were looking to get a little hands-on winery experience. Our friends Tammi & Rob of Van Westen Vineyards were very hospitable in having us to their home and winery, Rob showing us every step of the winemaking progress along the way. Some photos of our antics are here.
Rob and Tammi are wonderful folks who are also cherry farmers, which ended up being quite the rough go this year.
The story of what has happened to them over the last few weeks is pretty tragic and important to me, so I shared it in this week’s Westender:
After his annual hiring of over a dozen farmhands to aid in the cherry harvest this year, the unexpected happened. A glut of American cherries flooded our market, resulting in the pendulum of supply and demand swinging the other way. Prices plummeted and the local co-op was unable to fairly compensate farmers for their fruit, leaving Rob and many colleagues in a tough spot.
The price they began to receive from the co-op wouldn’t even cover their labour, never mind other costs. The harvesting of this fruit had already put them in debt, being paid a mere five per cent of what they’d spent in labour alone for one week’s harvest. With tears and hugs from Rob and his wife Tammi, the workers (many hired annually, almost extended family) had to be laid off, with acres of trees still full of fruit.