What are your sentiments about the vineyard workers who work hard throughout the year and harvest?
We have worked with the same family since 1989. The children went to school with mine. What might happen, though, is that the next generation may not want to take on what the parents started. Currently, our family is in that situation. A couple workers left us to work in the marijuana industry, which is much better pay — one of those was a son who was interested in taking over his father’s business.
Our labor manager says he uses the nursery workers to pick grapes since it is their off time. The most recent problem appears to be getting labor to maintain vines during the growing season. This is the first time this has happened [at Kramer].
When I visit other regions, it amazes me what they have to do to get their vineyards maintained and picked. In Europe, people come from other countries to help pick the grapes. New Zealand and Australia have stringent guidelines for entering and exiting their countries. Sometimes, grapes are picked on weekends only because the pickers have full-time jobs midweek. This can lead to a lot of fruit sitting on the crush pad for hours in the sun waiting to get processed. One owner in Tasmania had a great idea of using Rotary Club members to pick and then making a nice donation to them.
I think it would be a big help to relax some of the immigration laws. I have one very good willing worker who does not have a green card, so I can’t hire her as a regular. From my understanding, green cards cost a minimum of $2,000 each to acquire or renew. The workers go through an attorney who is raking it in. This isn’t right. These are hard-working people, and there are some other people who take advantage of their inability to know how things work here.
We appreciate the fact that we have a dependable crew but wonder what the future will bring.
Trudy Kramer, Kramer Vineyards
The men and women of Hispanic descent working in our vineyards are very hardworking, reliable, dependable and well-trained individuals. They are a fabric of our community, whose children go to school with our children, pay taxes, do jury duty and most have gained citizenship or are in the process of doing so. They are not a burden to the community but an asset.
Wayne Bailey, Youngberg Hill
Efren Loeza has been working in our vineyard longer than winery founder Jim Bernau. He came by this unique distinction through Willamette Valley Vineyards’ merger with Tualatin Estate Vineyards in 1997. Efren began at Tualatin in 1979, at 17 years of age, and has worked in the vineyard and cellar ever since.
Even more surprising is that the person who taught Efren his first lessons in vine care is still working at Tualatin Estate; José Ortiz learned his skills from the late David Foster, a pioneering viticulturalist. José and his brother, Roberto Ortiz, José Espinosa and Efren’s brothers, Miguel and Marcos Loeza, form a core vineyard staff with as much combined experience as exists in this young growing region.
Efren and his family now live on the estate in the farmhouse built by the pioneering owners who first grew strawberries on its slopes. As vineyard manager for all of the vines at Willamette Valley Vineyards, Efren has nearly 300 acres under his supervision. Most recently, he was instrumental in planting 80-acres at the Ingram Estate Vineyard adjacent to Elton Vineyard.
In 2015, Willamette Valley Vineyards purchased 62 acres to plant Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris near Gaston. This new site, named Loeza Vineyard, is dedicated to Efren and his family as a way to honor his outstanding service and contribution to Oregon’s wine industry.
Though Efren takes time for his family at the Oregon coast or playing basketball and soccer with his four children, he is devoted to the Oregon wine industry. His careful vineyard practices and stewardship of the land have earned LIVE and Salmon Safe Certification for all the acreage he farms.
Brooke Gries, Willamette Valley Vineyards