CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Virginia Vineyards Association has announced that Ruth Saunders of Silver Creek Orchards in Nelson County is the organization’s 2017 Grower of the Year. The award was presented to Ms. Saunders by Megan Seibel, Assistant Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, at the VVA’s annual winter technical meeting Friday.
Ms. Saunders and her husband, John, have deep roots in Virginia’s agriculture industry. Their families have operated several hundred acres of farmland in Nelson County for generations. They raise cattle and are involved in the growing of apples and a variety of other crops, including wine grapes.
Having planted their first grapes in 1999, the Saunders are among the largest independent growers in Virginia with more than 75 acres of grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Viognier, Petit Verdot, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Traminette and Chambourcin. Their grapes produce award-winning wines for many wineries throughout the state.
Ms. Saunders has been involved with the VVA since she became a part of the industry. She served on the original Research and Education Committee, reviewing research grant proposals prior to their submission to the Virginia Wine Board for funding. She was also the VVA grower representative on the Wine Board for eight years and served as Director of the Virginia State Horticulture Society.
Since 2005, the Virginia Vineyards Association has been pleased to honor one of its members with the Grower of the Year Award. The criteria are: the nominee must be an active member of the VVA with at least seven years of experience managing or operating a commercial vineyard of at least five acres. The nominee must be an active participant in the Virginia viticulture community with a track record of service to our industry, and the nominee must have the respect of his or her peers.