Grape growing latest addition to OC programs

Viticulture diploma builds on 20-year collaboration with the wine industry.

By Judie Steeves I

t’s a collaboration that’s been underway for a couple of decades now, but it entered a next phase this year with the pilot of a new two-year Viticulture Diploma Program at Okanagan College, created by industry and the college, with financial support from senior governments.

Jonathan Rouse is director of the multi-campus college’s Food, Wine and Tourism programs, as well as associate dean of the Okanagan School of Business at the college, and says the new program builds on certificate programs in wine sales, cellar assistant and viticulture. The seeds for wine and grape- growing education were sown at the college more than 20 years ago with the first courses offered for the wine industry and offerings have been growing ever since.

Efforts to create the current pilot project, the two-year Viticulture Diploma Program, got started in 2010 at the request of the B.C. Wine Grape Council, which was grappling with the need for educated viticulturists.

“The wine industry knew it needed to produce quality grapes, so that meant it needed qualified viticulturists, in addition to the more-romantic positions in the cellar and the tasting room,” recalls Rouse. Great wine begins in the vineyard, he adds.

The wine grape council formed a B.C. Viticulture Human Resource Committee to produce a Labour Market Information Research

Report as well as a report on

training options for the B.C. viticulture industry. Following

delivery of these reports, in 2013 the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills

Training, through the Sector Labour Market

Partnerships Program,

supported the BCWGC to develop the program.

“We were asked to build a

curriculum for a Viticulture Technician

Diploma and then asked to deliver the program. It ties in very well with our existing programs in Culinary Arts, Tourism and our Business School,” Rouse explained. The pilot began


Jonathan Rouse, director of Okanagan College’s Food, Wine and Tourism programs and associate dean of the college’s Okanagan School of Business.

last fall and the first students will enter the co-op phase of their training this summer, with postings throughout the Okanagan Valley in the industry, in preparation for beginning the second year of the diploma program in September. The program is designed to provide hands-on, theoretical and practical knowledge for work as part of the vineyard management team to plan, develop, plant and maintain a vineyard for the production of quality wine. Students are exposed to a

dynamic vineyard environment and develop a range of skills and knowledge, reads the course description.

Key components of the program include courses in biology of the grape vine, geography of viticulture, vineyard health and nutrition, irrigation and trellis systems, vineyard operations, soil and water management in vineyards, grape harvest sensory principles, vineyard management, and such topics as pest control and canopy management.

Part of the pilot project includes British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2018 15

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