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The Late Wine Grape Industry Pioneer, Rich Smith, to be Honored as 2017 Distinguished California Agriculturalist

Posted on March 22, 2017

The late Richard R. Smith will be honored at the Outlook 2017 Agribusiness Conference in Fresno on March 30th as the Distinguished California Agriculturalist of the year. The award, annually recognizing an individual who has, through accomplishment, contributed in a significant and highly visible way to the betterment of California agriculture, is presented by the California Chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA). Rich’s wife Claudia, son, Jason and daughter, Kacy will be accepting the award on his behalf during the conference luncheon at the DoubleTree Hotel.

Rich Smith was a pioneer in the wine grape industry in Monterey County and the Central Coast. He arrived in Monterey County in 1973 after graduating from U.C. Davis with a degree in Ag Science and Management. He and another individual were tasked with developing 855 acres of vineyard. In 1976, he took over as the general manager and formed Valley Farm Management, (VFI), which he incorporated in 1981. VFI provided vineyard management services on the 855 acre development and to other area landowners and growers. In 1987 he purchased the family Home Ranch near Soledad in the Santa Lucia Highlands and was amongst the first to plant modern wine grape vineyards there. The operation now farms over 3,200 acres of vineyard in Monterey County in addition to the state of the art winery facility on the Home Ranch and a tasting room in Carmel-By-The-Sea.

Rich was a founding member of the Central Coast Vineyard Team, a non-profit organization of growers and vineyard managers dedicated to the cultivation of high-quality grapes on the Central Coast. The Team was instrumental in developing the Sustainability in Practice, (SIP), program which certifies Central Coast vineyards which follow a comprehensive set of environmental, employee safety and conservation standards.

The family founded the Paraiso Winery in 1988 which is now part of the Smith Family Wines. Rich and Nicky Hahn were instrumental in the creation and approval of the Santa Lucia Highlands American Viticultural Area in 1991, now a renowned area for producing high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Rich was also active in the California Ag Leadership program and Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association. He was a gifted scientist and teacher, able to discuss and disseminate information in an effective manner. As one colleague said, “I never came away from a conversation not having learned something about growing grapes or making wine.” Rich Smith passed away unexpectedly in December of 2015 from pancreatic cancer at the age of 69.

The Outlook 2017 Conference is open to the public and preregistration is requested. Fees to attend are $227 for ASFMRA members and $277 for non-members. The conference will feature a full day of programming under the theme, ‘California Agriculture: The State of the Industry’ along with the release of the highly renowned Trendsä in Agricultural Land and Lease Values publication for 2017. Questions may be directed to the California Chapter, ASFMRA Office at (209) 368-3672 or to

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