Labor Supply: A West Coast Perspective

This session will focus on trends and the future of labor availability as it relates to the West Coast grape and wine industry. Carlos Castañeda from La Alianza in California will present on the history, Washington DC politics and current West Coast labor situation. Tony Viramontes of Jackson Family Wines will discuss best practices, economics of quality employment surrounding the H2A visa and developments of piece­rate pay. Jeff Stone of Oregon Association of Nurseries will provide insights into the local nursery and agriculture employee availability and landscape in Oregon.

Speaker Bios

Carlos Castañeda owns and operates La Alianza on the Central Coast of California, a company that employs farm workers for maintenance and harvest in the vegetable, nursery, vineyard and tree crop industries. Carlos served as president of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau and is a past chair of the California Farm Bureau Federation Labor Committee. He also chaired the Agricultural Labor Working Group and was appointed by Congresswoman Lois Capps (D- Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo) to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee, and is current chair of the Labor Subcommittee, a 25-member committee advising the Secretary of Agriculture on issues affecting the fruit and vegetable industry. Carlos lives on the same property where he was raised in South San Luis Obispo County.
Jeff Stone is the executive director and CEO of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, where he has overall supervisory responsibility for staff, budget and serves as lead spokesperson for the association’s 900 members. Prior to this role, he served as the association’s director of government relations where he was responsible for the association’s state and federal affairs program. Jeff’s public sector experience includes serving eight years as the Chief of Staff to the Metro Council and eight years working for Senator Bob Packwood (R-Oregon). A graduate of University of Oregon, he serves as a President of the Board of Directors of the Nursery and Landscape Association Executives (NLAE). He also serves as President of the Board of Directors of the Oregon Society of Association Management (OSAM) and was nominated and confirmed to the Board of Directors of the State Accident Insurance Fund (SAIF) and serves as its Vice Chair.
Tony Viramontes has long been a caretaker of the land, growing up on his family’s farm in Zacatecas in north central Mexico, where he helped his father plant peanuts, corn, tomatoes and beans. Armed with his first vineyard job in 1989, he moved to Sonoma County and began working for Gallo. In 1998, he joined Jackson Family Wines and was quickly promoted to vineyard manager. He became vineyard director for Alexander Mountain Estate in 2005, and was named director of operations, North Coast, in 2010 where he is now VP of Vineyard Operations. Always seeking innovative techniques in the vineyard, Tony created the Viramontes Triple Curtain trellis system, which resulted in a strong yield that maintained good quality, excellent Brix, pH and TA.
Ken Kupperman joined Jackson Family Wines Oregon team as Director of Vineyard Operations in December of 2013. He made the move to the Willamette Valley in 2007 to farm the Oregon properties developed by Premier Pacific Vineyards, some which are now owned by the Jackson Family. Before venturing to Oregon, Ken was Director of Viticulture for Wente Family Estates overseeing 3,000 acres of Vineyards in the Livermore Valley, Arroyo Seco, Monterey and Napa Valley appellations. Earlier in his farming career, he worked for AgriNorthwest in Eastern Washington where he developed and brought into production 1,600 acres of apple orchards. He started his career studying drip irrigation in Israel where he gained hands on experience in the production of apples, pears and kiwifruit.