cooperative effort helps AVF move research forward
BY Tina Vierra
Todays American Vineyard Foundation (AVF) faces challenges
of fundraising, information gathering, funds disbursement, and research-oversight
that can only be solved by cooperative means, according to executive
director Patrick Gleeson.
The AVF was originally created in 1978 to be a fundraising arm for
the American Society for Enology & Viticulture, which by its
non-profit charter could not actively raise funds. As a non-profit
501(c)(3) organization, AVF can actively raise funds for viticulture
and enology research.
However, the AVF has since become far more than a fundraising organization.
Working in tandem with groups that have a similar purpose, AVF raises
research funds; compiles information on top industry concerns through
surveys and other means; solicits, reviews, and funds research grants;
coordinates research efforts with industry needs; and helps researchers
deliver results to the industry.
Keeping track of money and research
Gleeson became executive director in 1995, and he enjoys a unique
role as the man-in-the-middle of all these efforts. Hes head
coach, committee chair, guest speaker, surveyor, fundraising cheerleader,
and the king of spreadsheets.
How much funding went to Pierces disease and glassy-winged
sharpshooter research in the last several years? Want a summary
of all funds disbursed to which research projects
in 2002/2003? Gleeson has a spreadsheet for everything.
Visit the AVF website
it has many spreadsheet-based charts detailing where the
grape and wine industry believes research money should be spent,
where its gone in the past, and where its going in the
AVF runs on voluntary contributions from the wine and wine grape
industry, and its board of directors has lofty goals. The
AVF board is targeting $2million in annual contributions,
says Gleeson. If we break $2million, we will set our sights
Ideally, we would like to build up our endowment balance,
so the interest will support the industrys annual research
needs. The account balance is $380,000, and we have a goal of $10million
for the endowment fund. We have our work cut out for us. Primary
fundraising time for AVF is the spring of each year, between January
and April, but contributions are welcome anytime.
Contributions are raised mainly by direct mail, primarily targeting
growers and vintners who work cooperatively to raise funds for research.
Growers can authorize vintners to deduct $1 per $1,000 in crop value
from grower payments and grower deductions are matched by the vintners.
Since donations are voluntary, support can fluctuate from year to
year, making it difficult for AVF to anticipate the next years
resources. In 2002, approximately 29% of growers (1,172 out of an
estimated 4,000) and 13% of vintners (104 out of 800 in California)
contributed funds to AVF.
The bulk of the largest wine/grape companies support the AVF, but
the AVF would like to increase the percentage of contributors from
all sources. Building of the endowment fund is vital to stretching
AVF resources in the future.
A template for the annual survey of industry concerns was one of
the first things Gleeson developed. Ive been with AVF
for eight years, and in the early years, I was getting lambasted
by researchers who said, Youre not telling us what the
industrys top priorities are. They were getting turned
down for research proposals on which they spent a lot of time and
effort. They wanted to know, How can we find the target? How
can we submit proposals for research grants that will be viable
and accepted? At the same time, vintners and growers appreciated
the opportunity to voice their concerns. So the survey process was
As a result, researchers proposals more accurately address
grower/vintner needs and concerns. Gleeson can show researchers
proposing projects rated near the bottom of the surveys industry
priorities that their topic doesnt appear to meet industry
needs. He can then offer guidance on an alternate proposal or on
revising the current one. A project may be good science, and
we appreciate that, but its got to be aimed at an industry
Each of these concerns is being addressed by at least one, and often
more, research projects currently in progress and funded by the
AVF. (See Table II for top regional concerns.) In 2002, however,
only 33 of 102 proposed research projects received funding, divided
between 20 for viticulture and 13 for winemaking.
With the survey tool in hand, Gleeson next addressed the best uses
of the money AVF would raise. He looked to other programs and sources
within California, and began building partnerships with related
organizations to combine funds and conjoin similar research for
the benefit of all.
As a result, Gleeson is co-director of the California Competitive
Grant program with UC Daviss Dr. Robert Webster and is an
ex-officio member of the Viticulture Consortium Program. Working
cooperatively with these state and federal funding agencies, such
as the Rootstock Improvement Commission, the CA Raisin Board, the
Table Grape Commission, and others, the AVF has been able to pool
resources for common high-priority programs.
Stretching research dollars
Thanks to these partnerships, AVFs accessible funds rose from
$1.4 million to $2.4 million in 2002. Were focusing
on the common, high-priority concerns for the wine and grape industry
making sure we are maximizing our investment, reports
Current research on Pierces disease and GWSS is a prime example.
AVF is managing the research evaluation process for the California
Department of Food and Agricultures (CDFA) Pierces disease/glassy-winged
In addition, the AVF works closely with the CDFA, Animal and Plant
Health Inspection Service, California Competitive Grant Program
for Research in Viticulture and Enology, University of California
(UC), U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Viticulture Consortium.
This effort has been very rewarding and productive. Eighty-three
Pierces disease and GWSS studies (totaling $14.8 million),
large and small, have been realized by this huge cooperative effort
over the past several years.
Does Gleeson ever feel bogged down in committees? Yes, but
the payoff has been incredible. Between all of the agencies, we
get to that needed budget amount. It allows us to go further down
the project list with a bigger pot of money, and as long as we all
agree that a project is good science, and that its meeting
the needs of all those agencies, then well work together on
Working with top scientists
AVF has also looked outside California for more research partners.
In 1996, a group called AVERN (American Viticulture and Enology
Research Network) was formed to evaluate national grower/vintner
research needs and concerns. The group brought together academics,
cooperative extension personnel, and grape/wine industry members
to gather data. Gleeson became technical committee chairman and
was put in charge of the survey process to determine top industry
From contacts established during AVERN work and elsewhere, Gleeson
has built ties between AVF and researchers in Washington State,
Oregon, Nevada, New York, and Florida. He wont stop there.
AVF looks for partners in all major winegrowing regions. Well
get to the northwest, and east coast, states Gleeson.
There are winegrapes grown in every state now. Will we look
to fund a trellising research trial in the midwest? No, not yet
anyway. That project would have an impact on too narrow an area
that would most likely not be applicable to California growers.
But if the scientists are studying powdery mildew or Eutypa
a common, high-priority concern across the U.S., and it is a well-designed
project and is the best science yes.
The key to identifying research expertise and funding partnerships
outside of California is communication. There will always be regional
differences for research, and we will not be able to agree on all
issues. That said, as long as we agree and identify the common high
priorities related to regional specific issues (across the U.S.
and internationally), we can move forward with the matching funds
process and discussion. The driving force in this process is working
with the top scientists who provide California vintners and growers
with answers to pressing questions. Research needs to be effective,
efficient, and relevant.
Various committees currently field about 125 research proposals.
Gleeson expects the numbers to grow. AVF wants to review project
proposals from Cornell, Washington state, Oregon, and anywhere else
top enology and viticulture researchers and interested funding agencies
In order for other states to determine what the enology and viticulture
concerns were in their backyards, Gleeson provided his survey template,
and told them to revise it for their own needs with input from researchers,
industry members, and local media.
I told the states, When you submit a survey and you
get the feedback, researchers wont be confused. Theyre
in the loop then, theyre not surprised by the concerns that
growers and vintners want research on. Its a communication
tool, a two-way street."
Going beyond the U.S.
In 2003, AVF announced its intention to build partnerships even
farther a field in Australia. We looked at some of
the exciting stuff theyre doing and approached them about
research partnerships, reports Gleeson. Theyre
progressive and aggressive in how they address their research.
Australians have a different view of intellectual property. Fiercely
national, they want research to benefit their industry specifically,
if not exclusively.
Gleeson swapped Top Concerns lists with the Australians,
and they compared notes. Then both sides signed non-disclosure agreements
and cautiously passed over some of their research proposals to each
other. Anonymity is key no one knows who the research teams
are, and both sides review the proposals with no politics, but with
an eye to good science, matching funds, and coordinating research
programs. Not surprisingly, they found some matches.
Look, Objective A in your proposal links nicely with Objective
B in our proposal. Lets get those two groups to talk and work
together on this objective. Gleeson says this was very much
what exchanges with the Australians were like. At that point,
AVF and the Australian funding agencies would step back and let
researchers take over, cooperate, collaborate. From my perspective,
our job is to initiate conversation between research groups. The
science discussion and approach are the responsibility of scientists,
An example of this cooperative effort is research on Eutypa. There
is one cooperative research effort ongoing through the process described
above with Dr. Russell Molyneux, U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Agricultural Research Service, and Dr. Eileen Scott, Cooperative
Research Center for Viticulture and University of Adelaide (Waite
Campus). The cooperative effort is focused on: Eutypa Dieback
development of early diagnostic techniques.
In the future, we are hopeful that a cultural trial on Eutypa
looking at control through wound applications can be developed,
explains Gleeson. Ideally, both groups would use identical
protocols in California and Australia. The result would be a continual
study on a lead-follow basis, because the Australian growing season
will follow the Californian season. Then there are two data
sets every 12 months intead of just one.
In addition to coordinating research efforts, we need to coordinate
funding efforts. This has to be a funding partnership with the Australians
it cannot be a one-way street, adds Gleeson.
Whatever it takes to meet industry needs
Current AVF funding is 99% from California, so board members are
careful to ensure that the research it funds meets the needs of
California vintners and growers first and is the best science.
We have some of the top scientists in the world here in California,
and we need to continue to fund those programs, states Gleeson.
At the same time we are charged with looking at all funding
options. If the science exists at Cornell, and its the best
science, we should fund that project. If it meets our needs, and
its in British Columbia or Washington or Australia
AVF does not care where a problem gets solved. We just want it solved.
Thats a change in mindset.