For the second year, WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) at Prosser hosted an educational program helping Hispanic and Latinx employees in Washington specialty crop industries build their professional skills.
Through the Hispanic Orchard Employee Education Program (HOEEP), organized by the Wenatchee Valley College (WVC) Agriculture program, attendees from a range of ages and backgrounds explored the basics of grape growing in the heart of Washington wine country, supported by a partnership with IAREC and the Washington Winegrowers Association.
The hands-on Introduction to Viticulture course tackles the science and the business of growing grapes, from site selection and vineyard establishment to pruning and irrigation and overall vineyard management, helping employees build career skills for advancing their professional growth.
WVC students celebrated the completion of the five-month program on March 25 at the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center at Prosser.
“Our aim is to narrow the gap between employer and employee, in knowledge, communication, and information,” said Francisco Sarmiento, a WVC faculty member and a WSU Horticulture alumnus who leads the program, assisted by his colleague Frank Sarmiento-Torres, a 2018 WSU Viticulture and Enology graduate.
HOEPP was launched more than two decades ago to meet the need for education supporting the Washington tree fruit, and later viticulture industry. Students come from a wide range of ages and backgrounds, from young people starting their careers to older employees.
“We’re working together with agricultural industries, local community colleges, and WSU, to serve the industry and help it be more inclusive,” Sarmiento said.
“Providing a venue for this program is a small but vital contribution that we at IAREC can make toward skill development for employees from this important but underserved community,” said Naidu Rayapati, professor and director of IAREC.
Advised by growers, educators, and industry experts, HOEEP has helped more than 1,300 people gain increased knowledge, self-confidence, and management skills.
Learn more about the Hispanic Orchard Employee Education Program here.