The late Richard Smith, former Monterey County grape grower, will be named the 2017 Distinguished California Agriculturalist of the Year by the California chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA).
The award will be posthumously presented March 30 to Smith’s wife Claudia and their children Jason and Kacy during Cal ASFMRA’s Outlook 2017 Agribusiness Conference at Fresno.
The annual award honors an individual who has significantly contributed to the betterment of California agriculture.
Rich Smith was a pioneer in the Monterey County and Central Coast wine grape industries. He graduated from the University of California, Davis in 1973 with an ag science and management degree. He then helped develop 855 acres of vineyards and formed Valley Farm Management.
In 1987, Smith purchased the family home ranch near Soledad in the Santa Lucia Highlands. He was among the first growers to plant modern-day wine grape vineyards in the area.
Today, the operation now farms over 3,200 acres of vineyard in Monterey County, plus has a state-of-the-art winery facility at the home ranch and a tasting room at Carmel-By-The-Sea.
Smith 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 helped develop the Sustainability in Practice program, or SIP, which SIP certifies Central Coast vineyards which follow a comprehensive set of environmental, conservation, and employee safety standards.
The Smith family founded Paraiso Winery in 1988 which is now part of Smith Family Wines. Smith helped create and gain approval of the Santa Lucia Highlands American Viticultural Area in 1991, an area renowned for its high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Rich was active in the California Ag Leadership Program, and the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association. He was a gifted scientist and teacher.
Smith passed away in December 2015 from pancreatic cancer at age 69.