Working in Extension in Missouri and Wisconsin, Dean Volenberg has always focused on building relationships with individuals and organizations.
As the new Director of the Grape and Wine Institute (GWI) at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Volenberg will have ample opportunity to build and cultivate relationships with grape growers and wineries.
“These relationships happen over time and are built on trust,” Volenberg said. “There is nothing better than when a client or stakeholder has developed this relationship with you where they will call, text or email you for information.
“Although I may be assigned a title of director and have some added responsibilities, my foremost responsibility is to make the Missouri wine and grape industries successful by addressing their research and educational needs.”
Volenberg joined the MU Grape and Wine Institute on Feb. 1, 2015, as a viticulture and winery operations Extension specialist. He will continue to work as an Extension specialist, along with his new director responsibilities.
His role of director was effective Jan. 1.
“I view the director position more as a liaison position,” Volenberg said. “In this respect I work as a conduit between the GWI faculty and staff, the Division of Plant Sciences, and the Wine and Grape Board. The current faculty of GWI are all fairly new employees and are in the process of establishing their research or Extension programs. My main focus is to make these faculty successful by providing them the resources to elevate the GWI.
“Additionally, my focus will be to initiate collaborative research and Extension partnerships with others on the MU campus, the MU system, the region and nationally.”
Volenberg said the staff at the GWI will also help new growers with any questions they may have.
“The grape industry outside of the west coast is fairly young, even though there is a long historical story behind Missouri’s and Wisconsin’s wine and grape industries,” he said. “This has resulted in many new growers entering the grape-growing industry. In the past, these new growers were brought online quickly by the establishment of a one-day beginner grape school that later morphed into the Midwest Beginner Grape School – a three-day course.”
Volenberg believes a similar school could be successful for beginning Missouri grape growers.
Volenberg worked for the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service before joining the GWI. Among numerous research, Volenberg implemented grape cultivar trials in three different geographical locations in Wisconsin. He began working with grapes in 2006, when Wisconsin had only 40 wineries. When Volenberg left for Mizzou, Wisconsin had 120.
“Part of this upswing was the result of finding grape cultivars that could survive in different climates of Wisconsin,” he said. “Another aspect of the industry growth was helping growers manage the grape pest complex. I initiated a weekly grape integrated pest report during the growing season that informed grape growers of current pest pressures.
“I have continued this report for Missouri grape growers this past growing season.”