General education is about to get a facelift followed by a hangover. This summer, Butte College, where learning is central and alcohol consumption is not allowed, a vineyard was planted. In the near future, Butte College hopes to add classes in viticulture—growing grapes for the purpose of winemaking—to their course offerings.
Pat Blythe, executive director for institutional advancement, explained the decision. “Butte County has a burgeoning wine industry. We have to pay attention to the trends in our local economy.”
Although the details about specific classes to be offered in the viticulture program are sketchy at this point, plans are in the works to use the vineyard as a classroom. This program will be an “option to local horticulture students so they don’t have to travel to Napa or Mendocino,” explained Lisa DeLaby, public relations manager for the school.
“At this time Butte College has no intention to bottle wine,” DeLaby said, because it lacks the equipment to do so. However, Blythe did leave the door open to that possibility, saying that in the future the school “may go into the wine-making process.”
That would most likely be some time from now as the grapes, which are planted near the football field, will take about a year to grow. Students in viticulture classes will mainly focus on planting and growing the grapes as just another crop. The grapes were the donation of Trustee Lou Cecchi, who gave about 6,000 cuttings to Butte from his recent venture into the wine industry on his property near Oroville.
If the program ever does advance to wine-making, Blythe made it very clear that the college would never endorse student drinking and would hold the program to high standards.
Blythe assures that "we don’t allow alcohol consumption on campus unless it’s a foundation-sponsored event when students are off campus."