2015 Ag Award Honorees

Each year the Sonoma County Harvest Fair selects five outstanding members of the Sonoma County agricultural community to be honored for their contributions to the preservation and enhancement of farming in Sonoma County. The Ag-Recognition selection committee is comprised of past recipients and a chairman which, for 2015, is Steve Dutton, owner of Dutton Ranch and Dutton-Goldfield Winery. 

This year the Sonoma County Harvest Fair Board of Directors is proud to honor the following people for the 2015 Agricultural Recognition Awards:

Brian Hunt - Excellence In Craft Beer Industry

With ingredients such as Redwood twigs taken from the tree in his brewery’s front yard, Brain Hunt and his Moonlight Brewing Company make crafted beer that’s at once uniquely Sonoma County and World-class. These notable qualities have earned Brian Hunt the Sonoma County Harvest Fair second-annual award for Excellence in the Craft Beer Industry.

Hunt started Moonlight Brewery in rural Santa Rosa in 1992. Small by most comparisons, the brewery produces about 2500 barrels per year. Whereas the original brewery was in a converted tractor barn, today the Abbey de St. Humulus in Santa Rosa is home to the Moonlight Brewery. Some of Hunt’s craft brews contain ingredients not found in a beer mug since The Middle Ages, while others are entirely new. Classically trained at UC Davis, the wine country brewer loves the richness and diversity of Sonoma County flora, which explains why he uses some of it as ingredients in his beers.

For me, this endeavor has always been about making great beers that people love. When it comes to quantity and distribution, I don’t have the ambition to take on the World. But producing quality beers, “World-class” quality you could say, that are uniquely mine and uniquely Sonoma County, that matters to me,” adds Hunt. From his flagship beer “Death and Taxes” to his Redwood twig inspired “Working for Tips,” Hunt innovatively creates beer in harmony with his locale; and he has played a vital role in establishing Sonoma County among the World’s premiere craft beer regions.



Kozlowski Farms, Excellence in Local Food Production

A steadfast commitment to quality ingredients that are fresh, natural and local; family food making traditions that date back decades in Sonoma County; and the uncanny ability to incorporate their rich history and love of farm-fresh cooking into every product they make; these are just a few of the reasons why the Sonoma County Harvest Fair is pleased to honor Kozlowski Farms with the second-annual award for Excellence in Food Production.

The family's affinity for Sonoma and its agricultural bounty began with Carmen's parents, who farmed apples, berries and cherries in Sebastopol. Carmen married Tony Kozlowski and the couple purchased their first apple farm 1949 next to where the 21-acre family homestead sits today. Carol Kozlowski-Every credits her dad, who died in 1982, for the family’s success in farming, saying “he was always ahead of his time in agriculture, trying new and exciting things.” In 1997, Carmen received the Sonoma County Lifetime Achievement in Agriculture Award. The main farm now bears four acres of organic apples and 17 acres of Pinot Noir grapes. Carol Kozlowski-Every and her brother, Perry Kozlowski and sister, Cindy Kozlowski-Hayworth, own and operate Kozlowski Farms today, producing over 100 specialty, natural and gourmet foods—all made on the family farm in Forestville. The retail store offers daily samples of old fashioned jams, preserves, jelly, no sugar added fruit spreads, fruit butters, gourmet mustard, berry vinegars, marmalade, salad dressings—made with canola oil or with no oil added, barbecue sauce, steak sauce, Cioppino seafood sauce and chipotle grilling sauces.

In honoring Kozlowski Farms for Excellence in Food Production, the Harvest Fair recognizes the Kozlowski Family for their outstanding role in promoting local food, farming and sustainable practices; for their strong advocacy for Sonoma County agriculture; for their commitment to increasing the availability of local fresh farm products; for raising the standard of farming and ranching through innovative techniques and practices; and for their dedication to educating consumers and supporting other industry members.



Stephanie Larson, Friend of Sonoma County Agriculture

This year’s Friend of Sonoma County Agriculture is awarded to Stephanie Larson, director of the University of California's Cooperative Extension in Sonoma County and a farm advisor for over 20 years. The award recognizes Larson for her work in providing high level livestock and range management expertise to local farmers and ranchers and developing economic opportunities to encourage young farmers towards success. From working to increase “agritourism” in Sonoma County to training young “agropreneurs” in ways to increase food production, Dr. Stephanie Larson stands out as a steadfast champion and promoter of Sonoma County’s $3 Billion dollar agriculture industry.

Larson is working closely with Sonoma County Tourism, and her efforts are bringing more economic opportunities to local agriculture producers, making their operations more sustainable and economically viable. Her program integrates ecosystem services provided by rangelands and highlights the benefits of using grazing animals as tools to manage local landscapes. As a certified rangeland manager, she works with land managers to help them to make sound ecologic decisions about managing working landscapes for the benefit of all users. Larson is also the current principle investigator for the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher program, which is training “agropreneurs” to increase food production throughout a five county region. Larson is working to develop an incubator farm that will provide opportunities for these beginners to learn their skills and increase local food access. “Programs like this are important to combat the shrinking acreage available for growing crops and the climbing prices of farmland, particularly in Sonoma County,” says Larson.


Trione Family of Trione Vineyards & Winery, Lifetime Contribution to Sonoma County Wine Industry
“Methuselah Award”

The 2015 Harvest Fair is pleased to honor the Trione Family, founders and owners of Trione Family Vineyards and Winery, for their Lifetime Contribution to the Sonoma County Wine Industry “Methuselah” Award. Initiated in 2011, the award recognizes a person, family, or company within the wine industry with outstanding contributions to the industry and Sonoma County. For 45 years, the Trione family has carefully farmed and managed some of the finest grapes in Sonoma County. With painstaking devotion to the land, three generations—Henry Trione, sons Mark and Vic, and Mark’s daughter Denise—have developed a reputation for producing premium grapes and outstanding wine that represents and promotes the very best Sonoma County.

The Trione family is deeply rooted in Sonoma County and its wine industry. The family owns five ranches and cultivates close to 700 vineyard acres in three prime Sonoma County appellations: Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Sonoma Coast. The Trione vision is to bring in quality fruit to produce small production, high quality wines. Just three percent of the Trione estate grapes are used to craft small lots of Trione wine.

Strong advocates for Sonoma County agriculture and tourism, Vic Trione says his family is committed not only to giving their customers the ultimate wine country experience, but to also leaving a rich legacy for Sonoma County’s future farmers and wine makers. With an eye toward the future, Trione says it’s important for the wine industry of Sonoma County to maintain a cooperative relationship between growers, wineries and county government and to promote Sonoma County’s many diverse appellations and winery experiences through a vibrant tourism industry.


Bob & Shirley Dempel of Dempel Farming, Lifetime Contribution to Sonoma County Agriculture

Two farm kids, one from Sonoma County and the other from Mendocino County, who met at 4H camp, married, had children, succeeded in business and personal endeavors, and dedicated the whole of their lives to furthering the heritage and community they love. This in short describes the 2015 Harvest Fair honorees for Lifetime Contribution to Sonoma County Agriculture, Bob and Shirely Dempel of Santa Rosa’s Dempel Farming, gratefully honored for their decades of outstanding dedication to the County’s agricultural industry and community.

From their livelihood to their social life to their political involvement to their community contributions, Bob and Shirley Dempel have spent half-a-century at the heart of Sonoma County’s wine grape growing industry and as champions of agricultural education for youth. They’ve served a leading role—at the State Capitol and in the board room and the classroom—as stanch protectors of California’s agricultural way of life, paving a path of Ag innovation and leadership for generations to come. “We just did what we loved and had a passion for doing,” said Shirley upon hearing of the award.

Today, Dempel Farming is among only a few growers certified under the Protected Harvest program, which uses an exceptionally high degree of sustainability criteria. Shirley is a leader in local and state 4-H education programs and established the 4-H Foundation of Sonoma County during the 1990s, with California’s only 4-H Center now located in Rohnert Park. Bob is a graduate of the California Agricultural Leadership program and over the years has played an important role to shape statewide policy affecting the Ag industry and Ag education programs. Ever passionate about the next generation of Ag leaders, he served 12 years on the Agricultural Education Advisory Committee carving out support for programs serving tens-of-thousands of students across California. He and Shirley are contributors to the building fund for Saralee and Richard’s Barn and are beyond excited to see a year-round home for Ag education at the Sonoma County Events Center at the Fairgrounds.



Marcus Benedetti, Outstanding Young Person in Agribusiness

Building on a history of hard work and innovative thinking, Marcus Benedetti is at the helm of Petaluma’s Clover-Stornetta Farms—protecting and preserving generations of family traditions while moving ever forward to maintain the health of his modern-day dairy business. A proven business leader with a wealth of consumer product experience, the 39-year-old is leading the family charge to reconnect the American milk consumer with the dairy farmer in a powerful way. Through his leadership, Sonoma County is now known across the country as the place where happy cows producing healthy milk live. The Sonoma County Harvest Fair is pleased to name third generation Sonoma County dairyman Marcus Benedetti as the 2015 Outstanding Young Person in Agribusiness.

Listening to consumers, taking care of local family farms, and caring about the well-being of hard working dairy cows; those are the hallmarks of Clover-Stornetta Farms, and CEO Marcus Benedetti has taken it upon himself to engrain them in the minds of moms, dads, and milk lovers of all kinds. “We only work with the most select group of small family-owned, multigenerational dairies. They understand that, in order to produce exceptional milk, you must take excellent care of your cows and your land,” says Benedetti. Clover-Stornetta was the first dairy in the U.S. to be American Humane Certified and the first dairy west of the Mississippi to offer milk that was certified free of the growth hormone rBST. Clover even developed their own set of quality standards, creating the North Coast Excellence Certification.

A strong family man and outdoor enthusiast, Benedetti is also an active community leader serving with such organizations as the Association of Independent Dairies of America, the Dairy Institute of California, the UC Davis Agriculture Sustainability Institute, Community Foundation of Sonoma County and Social Advocates for Youth. The Sonoma County Harvest Fair is proud to honor Marcus Benedetti as 2015’s Outstanding Young Person in Agribusiness.



Dan Rotlisberger of Redwood Empire Vineyard Management, Inc., Outstanding Young Farmer

From the moment Dan Rotlisberger could reach the clutch on a tractor, he was put to work in his family’s vineyards in Alexander Valley. Fast-forward a few years and today you’ll find him growing wine grapes with his wife Jacqueline, working with Sonoma County’s largest vineyard management group, leading the charge to implement 100% sustainable farming practices in the County, nabbing a prestigious North Bay media award, and raising two young children. A mover and a shaker, Rotlisberger is charting a course for Sonoma County’s winegrowing future with youthful drive and vision beyond his years. The Sonoma County Harvest Fair is pleased to name fifth generation farmer and third generation grape grower Dan Rotlisberger as the 2015 Outstanding Young Farmer.

Rotlisberger’s roots in farming date back to the early 20th century. His childhood experiences and family history shaped his passion for growing grapes of distinction. He then continued his studies in Switzerland, Italy, and France, further confirming his drive for growing the best grapes possible. Dan received his Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Sonoma State University School of Business and Economics and is now working as a Viticulturist for Redwood Empire Vineyard Management, providing his expertise to growers throughout the region. He’s also on the Board of Directors for Sonoma County Winegrape Commission and Chair of the Sustainability Committee. Rotlisberger is among those leading the charge for Sonoma County to become the nation’s first 100% sustainable winegrowing region by 2019.

Like many farmers in Sonoma County, my dedication to sustainable practices began at home on the family farm. I learned early on that wine is made first in the vineyard,” says Rotlisberger. The Sonoma County Harvest Fair is proud to honor Dan Rotlisberger as 2015’s Outstanding Young Farmer under the age of 40. He is recognized for the exemplary nature of his agricultural program, management, efficiency and leadership—all leading to excellence in the Sonoma County wine industry.



Previous Award Winners


Excellence in the Craft Beer Industry:



 2014     Bear Republic Brewing Company


Excellence in Food Production:



2014     Bloomfield Organics


Outstanding Young Farmer:


1976     Tom Crane

1989     Jim Young

2002     Mike Strunk

1977     Warren Dutton

1990     Craig Jacobsen

2003     John Bucher

1978     Lee Martinelli, Sr.

1991     Bill Kunde

2004     Lee Martinelli, Jr.

1979     Mel Sanchietti

1992     Bob Cannard

2005     Ned Hill

1980     Richard Dilworth

1993     Jim Murphy

2006     Tom Rued

1981     Dane Petersen

1994     Dennis Murphy

2007     Mike Sangiacomo

1982     Phil Marcuacci

1995     Steve & Dave Gatti

2008     George Martinelli

1983     Thom Mauritson

1996     Leonard Diggs

2009     Steve Sangiacomo

1984     Tom Dehlinger

1997     Keith Kunde

2010     Brett Munselle

1985     Marvin & Rita Cardoza

1998     Pat Stornetta/ Joe Leveroni

2011     Ryan Petersen

1986     Bev Wasson

1999     Steve Dutton

2012     Mark Sanchietti

1987     Norm Yenni

2000     Joe Dutton

2013      Tyler Klick

1988     John Balletto

2001     Kelly Parsons

2014      Cameron Mauritson

Outstanding Young Person in Agribusiness:





1980     Alex  Vyborny

1991     Doug Snyde

2003     Rex & Kerry Williams 

2014 Lise Asimont

1981     Paul Mononi

1992     Jim Pratt

2004     Armon Azevedo


1982     Marc Dahlgren

1993     Peter Opatz

2005     Chris & Dawn Lindelof


1983     Mike Lee

1994     Joe Votek

2006     Chris Bowland


1984     Dave Rafanelli

1995     Katie Wetzel Murphy

2007     Dana Grande


1985     Steve Hill

1996     David Drucker

2008     Jeff Carlton


1986     Brian Gebhart

1997     Kirk Lokka

2009     Ulises Valdez


1987     Steve & Candy Sommer

1998     Lorri Emmerich

2010     John Azevedo


1988     Dan Benedetti

1999     Jeff Lyon

2011     Brent Young


1989     Kevin  Barr

2000        Lee Ann Cameron-Reuter

2012     Clay Mauritson


1990     Perry Kozlowski

2001     John Bidia

2013      Tom Gore, Jr.


Friend of Sonoma County Agriculture:





1987     Tim Tesconi

1996     Mike Runyan

2005     Capt. Cliff Stewart

2014     Carlos Chavez

1988     Bill & Patsy Stratton

1997     Dan Desmond

2006     Nick Frey


1989     Steve Olson

1998     Gaye LeBaron

2007     Gail Davis


1990     Larry Bertolini

1999     Terry Lindley

2008     Rhonda Smith


1991     Rich & Saralee Kunde

2000     Bob Anderson

2009     Bo Simons


1992     Millie Howie

2001     Glenn Klein

2010     Paul Kelly


1993     Richard Thomas

2002     Michele Anna Jordan

2011     Oliver’s Markets


1994     John & Phebe Sorensen

2003     Ken Silveira

2012     Chef John Ash


1995     Paul Vossen

2004     Bill Traverso

2013      Lucia Varela


Lifetime Contribution to Sonoma County Agriculture:





1984     Mike Rossi

1994     Newton Petersen

2004     Ron & Ruth Waltenspeil

2014 Al Cadd

1985     Elmer Brown

1995     Darrel Hurst

2005     Cecilia Mello


1986     Sam Nisson

1996     Louis J. Foppiano

2006     Jim King


1987     J. Wesley Jamison

1997     Carmen Kozlowski

2007     Mitch Mulas


1988     Paul Mancini

1998     Joe Vercelli

2008     Lee Walker, Sr.


1989     Louis Ricci

1999     Dr. Fred Groverman

2009     Joe Rochioli, Sr.


1990     Gene Benedetti

2000     Louis Giacometti

2010     Rich Kunde


1991     Gus Sanchietti

2001     George Menini

2011     Dominic Carinalli


1992     Robert Young

2002     Warren & Gail Dutton

2012     Art Ibleto


1993     Joe DiGrazia

2003     Angelo Sangiacomo

2013      Bill King


Lifetime Contribution to the Sonoma County Wine Industry "Methuselah Award"


2011     Jess Jackson

2011     Joe Martin

2012     Louis M. Foppiano – Foppiano Vineyards

2013      Sangiacomo Family

2014     David Stare