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Davis, California

Saturday, July 20, 2024

Local winery raises money for ag community families

Founded by Chip and Lynne Sundstrom in 2007, the Esperanza Rising Foundation has given hope to families of farmworkers living in subpar conditions by donating all of its profits to the agriculture community in the Delano School District outside Bakersfield.
“My dad has always loved agriculture,” said Marketing Director Molly Sundstrom. “He got his bachelors degree [in plant science] from UC Davis back in the ‘70s, and went on to get a Ph.D. and was a professor.”
After teaching at Louisiana State University for a period of time, Chip relocated to Davis in the ‘90s, working at the state seed certification center at UC Davis.
“He ended up leaving Davis and started his own consulting firm, doing a lot of work in the Central Valley,” Molly said. “That’s when he basically began to realize a lot of the agriculture workers weren’t receiving any benefits.”

Molly said it bothered Chip to see the living conditions that some of the migrant agriculture workers were in.

“So we thought it’d be really nice to give back to the ag community because he felt that’s why our family is secure,” she said. “He felt like if it weren’t for the agriculture community, he wouldn’t have a job or be financially stable.”

Molly explained the foundation’s name took inspiration from a book her mother and Birch Lane Elementary librarian Lynne had read called “Esperanza Rising.” The children’s book details the migrant farm communities and their living conditions.

“Now every year before the holidays in December, my family has partnered with a school district down in Delano, and we go down and give away money,” Molly said. “It can be used for anything; the only qualification to get the money is you have to have a family member working in the ag community.”

Molly said the Delano School District has been supportive of the process. She said members help pick and collect applications and verify the students that have family members working in agriculture.

“A lot of kids will write thank-you letters and it’s absolutely heartbreaking,” Molly said. “They will write back and say that they were able to get Christmas presents, and they’ve never had that before.”

Esperanza Rising Foundation has raised a total of $40,000 — $10,000 a year for the past four years. Sundstrom said they normally take the total number of kids who ask for money and divide that into $10,000 to give each child an equal amount.

So far, the foundation has promoted itself by word of mouth, through Facebook and through its Sundstrom Hill Winery located in Davis.

Sundstrom Hill Winery was founded by Chip and Lynne in 2008. Sundstrom said after her father took an extension course through UC Davis on winemaking, he gained a knack for making wine, with family and friends encouraging him to sell it.

“My parents run the winery and 10 percent of what they make goes back to the foundation,” Molly said.

Recently, Nugget Markets and Downtown Davis restaurant Seasons have decided to sell Sundstrom Hill’s wine.

“We haven’t really hit the streets in terms of fundraising efforts,” Molly said. “But we try to go to any community event that we can partner with.”

Regarding expansion, Molly said it could happen; however it is all contingent on how much money is raised.

“We value our partnership down in Delano very much, and would love to create a similar partnership with an organization in Yolo County,” Chip said in an e-mail. “Our goal is to raise enough funds to support both communities, and the agriculture community as a whole.”

In another attempt to raise awareness about the Esperanza Rising Foundation, Sundstrom Hill Winery will host an event on Sept. 1 that will kick off the new school year in an effort to get the community to donate school supplies to the Davis School District. Any teacher or school staff member can receive a 15 percent discount off every bottle of wine purchased and the community will receive the same discount if they donate school supplies.
“Teachers don’t want to see any child go without the tools they need to be successful in school and they often will purchase supplies out of their own pocket,” Lynne said in an e-mail. “Our back-to-school supplies drive hopes to gather many supplies as possible and help teachers make sure that students in our community start the school year out on the right foot.”
Molly said they would love to partner with anyone who’d work with them as well as with similar charities.
“We’re not really aware of charities that operate the exact same way as we do, but if there are, we’d love to work with them because obviously you can’t do too much charity work,” Molly said.
CLAIRE TAN can be reached at city@theaggie.org.


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